Print vs Screen

In the last 20 years screens have taken over our lives. It is said that approximately 75% of people own a mobile phone, a large proportion of which own a smartphone. Most households have a computer and laptops can be seen everywhere. Many schools have substituted white and blackboards for smartscreens and the level of teacher-student comunication carried out online is skyrocketing.

In light of this overload of screen time, a big question that researchers are attempting to answer nowadays is whether screen learning is better than print learning. Is the overuse of screens detrimental to our learning capacities?

A variety of studies have been carried out across the world and most have come to the conclusion that basic comprehension scores are the same when a person reads the same passage on screen and on paper. However there is a clear tendency to skim read when using a screen, that is to search out the important information by looking for keywords or phrases. In general this lead to a less in-depth reading. Despite this, participants studying with screens spent more time reading, trying to comprehend the same concept, that others grasped quickly with printed textbooks.

Another study showed that when given the choice, most participants spent less time studying when attempting to study from a screen, than they did when they used standard print. This translated into lower scores when tested later on, as these participants had dedicated less time to learning.

This for me is the crucial difference: when on a screen it is too easy to get distracted. With the amount of online entertainment circulating in this day and age, whether it be music, film, games or social media, it doesn’t take much to be tempted by the idea of a more amusing activity.

That’s not to say that digital print doesn’t have it’s advantages: It’s cheaper, more convenient and better for the enviroment. Not to mention the wealth of knowledge that is available online for free to anyone with access to the internet.

When asked for their opinion, most students say that they prefer to read from a printed text, although financially this is not always an option. Answers were given like “There’s nothing like the smell of a book”, indicating that many enjoy standard print because it engages multiple senses.

The question still remains though … What do you prefer?