Learning from Paper, Learning from Screens: Impact of Screen Reading and Multitasking Conditions on Reading and Writing Among College Students

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Electronic screens on laptop and tablet computers are being used for reading text, often while multitasking. Two experimental studies with college students explored the effect of medium and opportunities to multitask on reading Study 1 and report writing Study 2. In Study 1, participants N = 120 read an easy and difficult passage on paper, a laptop, or tablet, while either multitasking or not multitasking. Neither multitasking nor medium impacted reading comprehension, but those who multitasked took longer to read both passages, indicating loss of efficiency with multitasking. In Study 2, participants N = 67 were asked to synthesize source material in multiple texts to write a one-page evidence-based report. Participants read the source texts either on 1 paper, 2 computer screen without Internet or printer access, or 3 computer screen with Internet and printer access called the "real-world" condition. There were no differences in report quality or efficiency between those whose source materials were paper or computer. However, global report quality was significantly better when participants read source texts on a computer screen without Internet or printer access, compared with when they had Internet and printer access. Active use of paper for note-taking greatly reduced the negative impact of Internet and printer access in the real-world condition. Although participants expressed a preference for accessing information on paper, reading the texts on paper did not make a significant difference in report quality, compared with either of the two computer conditions. Implications for formal and informal learning are discussed.

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International Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning





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