Paper or...electronic? Which is best for student reading?

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Like a lot of folks who work at Penn State, I've spent much of this past week reading various articles and books. I always jot notes when I read, either on a separate piece of paper, or on a series of sticky notes. If I'm reading an article, I like to print it out and jot in the margins.

I was having lunch with the Liberal Arts teaching group at University Park campus, and the conversation turned briefly to how students don't seem to read much these days, but when they do, they seem to prefer paper copies of things to electronic versions. (In fact, many of us in the group had printed out paper copies of an article the group was discussing that day). I said I wondered if students prefer a format they can physically annotate.

We talked about NB, a software package developed at MIT that students can use to annotate electronic text. None of us have used it, but we are wondering if anyone at Penn State has.

I took a brief turn in the "sandbox" (NB's demo) and noticed the software has ways to annotate text and share with a group, or jot notes to oneself. Check it out:

http://nb.mit.edu/welcome

 

Reading text and marking it up with notes and questions seems to be an important part of how we learn, but it's not something students are able to do naturally or easily. See this article from this morning's Chronicle of Higher Education:

http://chronicle.com/article/Mark-It-Up/135166/

 

How much more would our students read if we modeled how to interact with a text through annotation? And what if we had an effective way of doing so electronically?

 

 

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