When I think about reading, I think about a book. I don't think about a Kindle, an iPad, or my computer. But that is what reading is turning into for the students we will be teaching. Is their concept of reading going to be completely digital? Is this necessarily a good thing?
The Common Core State Standards seem to think it is. The Smarter Balanced assessment, which aims to test standards designed by the common core, is presented to students in a digital form. All reading passages, math problems, and audio segments are presented on the computer. While most media and information we get these days is online, I can't help but think about how a different format makes you think differently. We recently read an article about the extra cognitive resources needed to process electronic material. With all test questions on the computer, how many cognitive resources are left for students to focus on the test?
One solution would be to prepare students for this format throughout the year by presenting information in a mainly digital format. As a future science teacher, I suggested having students learn to read material on a computer. But how can I really teach this if I haven't mastered this skill myself? While I enjoy reading some material on the computer, scientific articles are still the one thing I would rather print out and mark up with a traditional pen and highlighter. After four years of college, I still cannot get the same value from reading an article on the computer as I can from reading it on paper.
So why would I ask my students to read scientific material in digital form? Is it for the test? Is it really the future of all reading? Ultimately, I want my students to be prepared for tests that they will need to take throughout their K-12 career. But beyond that, I want my students to be prepared citizens for life outside of the classroom. Which method is better for personal preparation: digital or paper-based?