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Try the Settings - Find your Goldilocks Zone

This last semester I was teaching a graduate technology and literacy course. As part of that course all my students were to do some action research. We did get some great results, for example one student’s work on using refreshable braille display for elementary children which saw an improved fluency of 4-5 letters per minute over those just using embossed paper, and another student I was working with developed her project on guided writing, saw an overall writing increase of 50% in just a few weeks using Google Docs as a writing system tool. The one though that I wanted to talk about here though was one student who was doing his action research on himself, to try and get better at reading from an ebook. He does great with paper, but found that he had trouble focusing with reading with technology. In his final report he had a number of things that he found that are of interest:

"During this process I learned that I read materials online a lot more then I originally thought. I read the news online, emails at work, trainings at work, text messages from people, and post on social media."

"In fact, the only thing I was not using technology for was reading books. "

"I however believe that through this action research project I have learned ways to combat my problems of focusing in the reading. The biggest factor that helped me was changing the font size of what I was reading. "

"The thing that helped me the most was all the practice I put into reading materials online or on a tablet."

I do agree that most people don't realize how much of what they read now is digital, and they often seem to think that reading from their phone or tablet is so different from a printed book. But in the analysis of his findings I do think that the impact of practice and going beyond the "set" or "default" font was a big help. So many people think that just because they can be comfortable with one medium/tool that the other should just be the same, but it takes practice. I often tell people who are starting to use audiobooks, it it will take some practice to get used to reading through listening, that they should start with a book that they have already read and liked, and that they should limit themselves to something less than half and hour till they get better at it. The big thing though is the font, so many people I interact with when I see them reading and I ask if they have ever changed the font or font size, say no. Because of the practice that we have all had with printed material makes it so that we don't think about the print options we have with digital. So to anyone who is reading a book on a tablet or other ereader, take a moment to try some different font sizes and find one that is just right for you.


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