There must be a reason why new surveys keeping finding that students prefer physical textbooks to digital formats. It could be that paper is just a better way for human beings to learn, according to technology writer Brandon Keim in an article in Wired.
A 2013 study showed that a group of Norwegian teens comprehended content better from books than from electronic devices. Other studies have suggested that’s because the feel of paper is important to learning, according to Keim.
“Reading experts say that sense of position is important,” he wrote. “It provides a sort of conceptual scaffold on which information and memory is automatically arranged, and the scaffold is strongest when built from both visual and tactile clues.”
An Israeli study showed that learning on screens was less effective than on paper and led to overconfidence in students. However, the same report also found that when students preferred using an electronic device, they learned less when required to read from paper, suggesting there’s room for both formats.
“Maybe it’s time to start thinking of paper and screens another way: not as an old technology and its inevitable replacement, but as different and complementary interfaces, each stimulating particular modes of thinking,” Keim wrote. “Maybe paper is a technology uniquely suited for imbibing novels and essays and complex narratives, just as screens are for browsing and scanning.”