Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Opinion
Education Opinion

Special E-Readers for People with Dyslexia

By Justin Reich — September 25, 2013 2 min read

Educators sometimes ask me about the virtues of print versus screen reading. Unfortunately, the basic summary of my position is “we don’t know enough and the technology changes too fast to learn.” Studies take a long time to put together and technology moves faster than the research. There are some great studies comparing print to CRT monitors; these may or may not be so useful anymore. Studies are often conducted in labs rather than in real-life conditions, limiting the usefulness of the findings. There certainly isn’t any clear consensus.

This week, a very interesting study caught my eye that highlights one important principle: different reading modalities will work differently for different people.

Some folks at the Science Education Department at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Graduate School of Education at Harvard, and the University of Massachusetts Boston computer science department put together a very interesting study looking at people with dyslexia and screen readers. The title says it all: E-Readers are More Effective Than Paper for Some with Dyslexia.

A number of recent studies suggest that dyslexia is more a function of vision issues than cognitive issues. For instance, people with dyslexia sometimes have stronger peripheral vision than frontal vision. So the authors built an e-reader for smartphones and other small devices that shows only a few words at a time:

The study examined 101 students with dyslexia, and depending upon the exact evaluation, about a third to one half of students read more effectively with the device rather than on paper. With fewer words to handle at any given instant, the authors hypothesize that the device limited inefficient eye movements and benefitted speed and comprehension for students with some of the most severe visual attention difficulties.

Two things are important here. First, in the print vs. screen debate, the answer will probably always be “it depends.” It depends on the person, the text, the task, and the context. A thoughtful approach to reading for the decades ahead probably encourages students to read widely on devices and on paper, and to reflect on their preferences for different tasks. Second, the study is also a useful reminder that even if we find certain patterns hold “on average,” average benefits can masks a wide variation in performance among very different people.

Kudos to the authors for a clever study.

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my publications, C.V., and online portfolio, visit EdTechResearcher.

The opinions expressed in EdTech Researcher are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools
Head of Lower School
San Diego, California
San Diego Jewish Academy

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read