Monday, November 4, 2013

e-Books: Enhancing or Distracting?

 Until recently, there has not been too much research done on the efficacy of e-books in terms of comprehension and decoding skills, probably due to its quick rise in popularity. Because new technologies develop and change so quickly, it is difficult for researchers to keep track of its usefulness and its potential applications in the education world. This difficulty is a great reason teachers need to stay current and educate themselves on technologies that could dramatically increase their students' learning. In addition, teachers should learn from the eagerness with which students seek out and grasp new technologies. The engaging features of these new technologies can promote the kind of classroom that approaches change with a positive growth mindset. With knowledge of how effective new technologies are and a positive attitude about their integration, teachers can implement them into their classrooms knowing how to utilize them in a way that promotes the most student growth

Bridget Kapp, graduate student in my course "ED 6030: Technology in the Classroom" shares:

As a first grade teacher, realizing the importance of studying new technologies made me choose this article, "The Effects of Electronic Books on Pre-Kindergarten-to-Grade 5 Students' Literacy and Language Outcomes: A Research Synthesis," on the efficacy of e-books on literacy for elementary school students. Tricia Zucker, Amelia Moody and Michael McKenna, of various universities in the United States, attempted to synthesize the information already available to shed some light on how effective e-books are for students. The article identifies several potential benefits for early readers who use e-books in the classroom, including word recognition due to highlighting features, decoding skills from pronunciation help, comprehension skills due to on-demand vocabulary definition, and superior processing due to connections among visual and audio components ( Zucker, T. A., Moody, A. K., & McKenna, M. C., 2009).   

Essentially, the article concludes that e-books are more effective in supporting comprehension skills when 
  • they include hotspots and animations that enhance the story. 
  • e-books that include an overwhelming amount of animations and hotspots, can simply be distracting for students. 
  • Thinking Reader ,  lines up certain comprehension strategies with your students' profiles, particularly struggling or special needs students, so that their instruction is targeted.  
  • Careful planning and searching can ensure that the e-books children use are enhancing their reading experience instead of diminishing it.

As educators we have a responsibility to integrate technology into the curriculum in order to prepare our students for the future.  By integrating the use of iPads or other digital texts into the classroom, teachers can expand upon their teaching of literacy learning by supporting individual readers’ text comprehension and potentially engaging struggling readers. “iPads may help teachers meet traditional print-based literacy goals while also providing students with opportunities to respond to texts in individual and unique ways” (Hutchinson, Beschorner & Schmidt-Crawford,16). When properly implemented, the use of iPads in the classroom can aid and reinforce the teaching of such skills as independent reading, sequencing, visualization, retelling, cause and effect and the main idea.  

Kristen Baker, also a graduate student in my ED 6030 shares: 

Popplet is an iPad application that can be used to sequence events, retell facts, and brainstorm ideas (  I created an example of a Popplet that third grade students might create in order to recall facts after reading an article about oarfish.   Students could simply discuss out loud or write down the facts that they learned.  However, by allowing them to do the same task on the iPad and then sharing their creation with the class, the learning experience is enhanced, students likely will be more engaged, which will result in them retaining the information they have learned. I could take this activity a step further by having the students use Doddle Buddy, an iPad application that has a drawing and doodling tool, and ask them draw a picture of an oarfish using the information they have learned.  

 The possibilities of using the iPad in the literacy classroom are endless.  However, it is crucial for teachers to be sure that they are supporting learning and enhancing the learning experience and not just adding extra work.  As teachers, it is also paramount that we educate ourselves in the field of technology so that we continually acquire new knowledge and skills.  By promoting and demonstrating the use of technology in our classroom, we model lifelong learning to our students. 

Questions for Class Discussion:

  1. Think of a pre-reading or reading response activity that can be done with paper and pencil.  What is another way that activity could be done using an iPad?  How might this change how the students respond? 
  2. Can you think of any other potential benefits of e-books that the article did not mention?
  3. Find a free e-book on your iPad (using iBooks, search "interactive children's books"), and read through it. Pay attention to its animations and hotspots. Do these features support reader decoding and comprehension, or do they distract from the book's main idea and message?

Doodlebuddy. (2012) Pinger, Inc. (Version 1.1.2) (mobileapplicationsoftware). Retrieved from 

Hutchison, A., Beschorner, B. & Schmidt-Crawford, D.(2012). Exploring The Use of the iPad for Literacy Learning.   The Reading Teacher,  66, 15-23. doi:10.1002/TRTR.01090. 

Zucker, T. A., Moody, A. K., & McKenna, M. C. (2009). The Effects of Electronic Books on Pre-Kindergarten-to-Grade 5 Students' Literacy and Language Outcomes: A Research Synthesis.   Journal Of Educational Computing Research  ,   40  (1), 47-87.

SPECIAL THANKS to Kristen and Bridget for being guest writers on my blog!


  1. 2. Can you think of any other potential benefits of e-books that the article did not mention?

    The article did mention this briefly, but I wanted to expand upon the benefits of electronic texts with struggling readers. Whether due to special needs or a language barrier, the ability to integrate pictures and video into a text can help exponentially in terms of comprehension of unfamiliar words.

  2. In addition to the advantages mentioned in this post, we think e-books are more cost efficient than traditional textbooks. We think having online content will make the material more accessible to parents (if, for example, you can log on to read from any device and not just on the iPad).
    Jake & Rachel

  3. 1. On the Ipad students can use Google Drive to create a doc that could allow students to have a live, ongoing discussion regarding the reading. Students would be able to make comments about what they are reading, as well as comment on each other's comments. They could also pose questions about something they didn't understand or are intrigued about to learn more. Students may answer each other's questions before the teacher discusses them. This gives the teacher an opportunity to see where the students are at and what needs to be focused on.

  4. Another potential benefit of e-books I can think of is their ability to offer simple read-aloud capabilities to struggling readers. I have used e-books with early readers in that way, which gives them some autonomy while reading along and following the pictures. Although this is similar to older audiobooks, the e-book version on an iPad is much more portable and up-to-date.

  5. Think of a pre-reading or reading response activity that can be done with paper and pencil. What is another way that activity could be done using an iPad? How might this change how the students respond?
    Students could be required to write down the main ideas for a story as a reading response. Instead of students writing their response they could create an Educreations video with slides and a verbal explanation. Student's would be able to audibly and visually see their response while utilizing kinesthetic skills. This would create a response from learners that appeals to all types of learning styles.

  6. 2. Other benefits that may not be as academically based but are benefits to e-books are the excitement of elementary students reading on an electronic devices. Any some school districts, reading on an iPad can be very exciting. Also, accessibility. These books can be easy purchased or downloaded and kids can get familiar with words exercises.

    1. I totally agree. I substitute a lot in a school district that has a large supply of iPads. The kids get so excited when they are allowed to use them. It is an effective way to engage students who are reluctant to get involved.

  7. 3. I just went to my iBooks and downloaded "The Ugly Duckling" by Hans Christian Anderson. The first page reveals the mother duck sitting on a pile of eggs next to a basket. The text is at the top of the screen and below the nest is an interactive game- "Bring the smallest egg to the basket." My first inclination was to play the interactive game on every page and ignore the text. However, this could also be because I know the story.

  8. In response to question 1, a student could use pen and paper to write a response to a reading, but on an iPad, they could go out and search images and create a response using multiple images which gives the students an alternative way to respond.

  9. Another fun iPad app that I learned about in my research article is called Strip Designer to create a comic strip. Using Doodle Buddy, students draw the beginning, middle and end of a story and then place those pictures in Strip Designer to retell the story. Kids will love this.