Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hot off the presses: E-book study results

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center released a "QuickStudy" looking at print books versus basic and enhanced e-books; enhanced e-books having more interactive features than basic e-books. This is a study/report I've been working with the JGCC for awhile now and I'm excited to finally be able to share it with you! The report is pretty short and at least in my opinion, worth the read! I'll leave the details to you and your reading of the report.

As you'll see, the results  - very generally - that the interactive features in the enhanced e-book was distracting and took away from the reading experience and comprehension - are very similar to the research on pop-up books (and even other platforms like computers) that I've mentioned. So while I was not surprised by the results, I was surprised by the level of similarity! I really do believe that this is an effect that is strong and here to stay. So drawing upon my observations from the study and past research, here are a couple a hunches:

1) The distraction of the interactive features is not a novelty effect. It is certainly a possibility that as kids get more familiar with e-books and iPads and whatever devices, the interactive features may become distracting - less novel and probably just something they expect. However, my hunch is that yes, they may be more used to it, but the distraction remains. Pop-up books have been around forever, and yet the findings were the same.  It will always be fun to discover what tapping on something does. What I would be interested to see is if the effect remains after many readings of the same book. However, it would be hard to isolate the effects as I would hope that after many readings of the book, kids will remember more of the story, regardless of the interactive features!

2) The distraction of the interactive features is not due to inexperience/comfort level with e-books. I think that we will see differences in how parents read e-books as the popularity of e-books continues to grow. Parents may become more comfortable with the format and elaborate more on the content. Parents and kids may become more used to the interactive features and parents may spend less time saying things like, "Don't touch that yet." Still, I think the effect on children's comprehension will remain. In this current study, we factored in parent's prior experience and comfort level with iPads and e-books to the analyses, and there was still a significant difference in story recall. Further, as I've discussed before, in one of the pop-up book studies, the parents actually elaborated more on the concepts with the pop-up book than the plain book. Yet, the children still learned more from the plain than pop-up book.

This all being said, I cannot stress enough that this is not evidence that we should not have just-for-fun interactive features. As I've discussed before, it's really all about balance. So I hope that the findings have convinced you of the importance of finding a balance of features within an e-book that will engage children, yet not distract them too much from the content.

Questions about the research? Let me know!

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