How Paper and Digital Children's Books Support Student Understanding

How Paper and Digital Children's Books Support Student Understanding

Laura B. Liu, Kayla Pride, Payten Ewing, Maycie Benedict
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1461-0.ch007
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This study builds on previous research regarding digital texts and learner engagement to provide insights on the impact of digital and paper texts on first-grade student learning. Three formats of the same STEM children's book included (1) a paper version read by the teacher; (2) a digital version read as a class and facilitated by the teacher; and (3) a digital version read independently by individual students, without the teacher. Mixed methods analysis involved a pre- and post-reading worksheet assessing student comprehension and concept retention, followed by teacher interviews. Quantitative and qualitative findings demonstrated the value of paper texts read with teacher guidance to highlight key concepts and sustain student focus. Teacher interviews also noted the value of digital texts to engage student interest, suggesting there is a pedagogical place for paper and digital texts in the classroom. Findings highlight the complexity of learner engagement and need for thoughtful pedagogies.
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Background On Digital Literacy

Digital vs. Paper Texts

This study is initiated in the context of recent research on the significance of and trends within the digital literacy movement. For instance, recent development of a conceptual framework for emergent digital literacy (Neumann, Finger, & Neumann, 2017) highlights progress made in the 21st century in child literacy for both digital and non-digital texts. The author discusses the importance of sociocultural interaction in emergent literacy development, and describes a debate regarding whether emergent literacy should or should not include electronic texts. In explaining the framework for emergent digital literacy, the authors describe similarities and differences between digital and non-digital texts. Another recent study on digital literacy by Sezgin and Ulus (2017) also highlights distinctions in using paper and digital books, specifically with preschool students. The authors focus on preschool as a critical stage for emergent literacy and discuss the benefit of using digital books in this stage, to mirror the prevalence of digital technology in society today. The authors explain the benefits and drawbacks of paper and e-books, and discuss the interactive value of e-books for preschool children of diverse learning styles (Sezgin & Ulus, 2017). Similarly, Yokota and Teale (2014) discuss the variety and quality of features in paper and e-books and ideal curricular moments for teachers to incorporate each format into their classrooms. Yokota and Teale (2014) provide teachers with a guide for selecting the format of book most appropriate for a given class and lesson, based on a selected list of attributes.

This study also considers research asserting the common belief that digital literacy results in greater student comprehension, engagement, and literacy results than that produced by paper literacy. Knobel and Lankshear (2006) describe common misunderstandings regarding digital literacy, and explain that digital literacy should not be considered something “unitary, and certainly not as some finite «competency» or «skill»,” but as “shorthand for the myriad social practices and conceptions of engaging in meaning making mediated by texts that are produced, received, distributed, exchanged etc., via digital codification” (para. 24). The authors contend that digital literacy may be more accurately termed, digital literacies. The authors further explain that digital literacy does not foster better comprehension simply by being online. Rather, digital literacy enhances literacy development by delivering text to readers in new, more advanced and relevant ways (Knobel & Lankshear, 2006). These digital texts explored in this study present the same texts, pictures, and story as the paper copy, to enable a controlled study examining the impact of digital and paper formats to support student comprehension and concept retention.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Paper Text: In this study, “paper text” refers to a story or book in physical form as written text printed on paper. The reader may physically open the book and turn the pages of the story by hand. Audio and visual recording of the story are not available.

Teacher Guidance: In this study, “teacher guidance” refers to direct direction and instruction from the teacher to help students understand, navigate, and complete tasks in the classroom.

Ecological Diversity: The biodiversity and ecosystem variations within a region, and the broader impact this biodiversity has on its larger regions and, ultimately, the planet. An education-purposed digital tool that supports production of HD screen or webcam videos that may be narrated, annotated, and edited. may be downloaded onto a browser as a Chrome extension. A digital tool primarily for teachers and students to use in creating or teaching how to create online, interactive, narrated books. provides tools to scaffold the book creation process. Readers can view pictures and read text, but are not able to physically feel or flip the pages of the online book. Readers click a screen to turn the page.

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