Living with Complexity: Reading in a Digital Age | Jeannette Lee Parikh | 6 Min Read

October 22, 2021

Should I let my students read on a device? Given recent concerns over the cognitive load of screen time, lower cognitive performance of excessive screen time, the addictive nature of technology, and continuous partial attention because screens offer so much distraction, we, teachers and parents, might be seduced into saying no. However, the research on print literacy versus digital literacy does not neatly offer that one is clearly better than the other. Rather, the difference between reading a paper book and a digital book comes down more to the quality of attention and our expectations of a specific tactile experience. Therefore, like all things in the 21st-century, the findings offer a more complex and nuanced way forward.

But before we get to the research, it is important to consider brain plasticity. Basically, neuroplasticity means that your brain adapts to your environment and activities: Anything you interact with (environment, activity, memory) will change the structure of your brain. It’s why a brain scan can reveal whether your child plays the piano or violin. Given neuroplasticity, David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, explains that technology is changing our children’s brains. Basically, our

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Jeannette Parikh

Jeannette M E Lee Parikh, Ph.D., is the assistant editor for Intrepid Ed News as well as the chair of the English department and head of community reading at The Cambridge School of Weston (CSW). Before CSW, where she has been since the fall of 2010, she taught at the college level for six years. She is an ISTE Certified Teacher and OER advocate. She is an experienced practitioner of integrating department-wide academic technology that serves pedagogical and curriculum goals. Her teaching philosophy exists at the intersection of the science of learning and cultivating creative thinking, joy, curiosity, playfulness, and self-awareness in all learners. She has presented at conferences on the importance of deep reading, critical listening, authentic discussion, and strategic writing in the 21st-century classroom.