Offering Some Love For The World Of Print

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There is a new study out there that claims that students learn better by reading paperback books than e-books. It is about time for us to be talking about this undeniable fact.

I am for using technology in the classroom with reason, but if given the option to buy print versus e-books, I will always defend print because of what I have read, seen and tested in my career as a college professor.

Getting right to the point: Assuming that students will learn better by using e-books because they grew up with a computer is irresponsible.

All right, fasten your seat belts because what you are about  to read isn’t popular, and will probably leave some people very confused. Technology in the classroom is important and, to a degree, necessary. What we must avoid is believing that everything that is technologically advanced is, by default, better for you.

Students will always learn better from print because of the following factors:

First and foremost, books are printed at 300 dots per inch; images and text are displayed on screens at 72DPI. This, in itself, concerns me as our eyes get more eye strain when reading content at lower DPI. Have you noticed that you get headaches more frequently when reading that iPhone of yours, compared to a book?

Part of the reason why you feel that way is because the medium with the highest resolution today is paper, not the screen! The lower the media resolution, the higher the side effects. It’s no wonder Barnes & Noble has stacks and more stacks of print books for sale. Paper sells, or shall we say, “Screens give us headaches?”

Look, there is so much more to this discussion than DPI and resolution. Did you even know that your smartphone messes with your radio frequency exposure? What do you think higher RF exposure will do to your learning? Now I bet I  am scaring you! Let me get technical now for your benefit, and then we will tie this all back to education.

Electronic devices emit radio frequency waves. Specific absorption rate, or SAR, which is a fancy name for explaining the rate that your body absorbs radio frequency electromagnetic field waves, must be monitored closely in order for subjects to avoid getting deadly conditions, including cancer.

In the United States, the limit SAR value, set by the FCC, is 1.6 watts per kilogram of tissue, as I understand. That iPhone of yours transmits a lot of RF signals and that’s why the device offers many of us the option to talk hands free or using a headphone. Don’t believe me? OK. Go to your iPhone device, click “General,” then hit “About.” Scroll down the screen until you reach the option, “legal.” After that, click the option, “RF exposure.”

Now, relating this with education, as promised. Could it be that higher levels of SAR in the human body due to exposure and frequency of use of these devices affects the way we process information from our short-term memory to our long-term memory?

I don’t know the answer to that. What I do know is that higher RF exposure in your head results in higher electromagnetic radiation. Books don’t emit any RF waves.

Question, “Who do you think will learn best: The student who is reading a book in print or the one who reads that e-book emitting RF waves?” Sure, not all students will put that e-book reader against their heads, but will they put that device against their bodies? Uh-oh.

It is not over. When people are reading on a cellphone screen or another computerized device including the Kindle, people’s brains apparently only skim over the material. When people read a physical book, people’s brains connect both its hemispheres together. This  phenomenon does not occur when people read books on smartphones. No wonder people remember more content when reading from a book than when reading from an e-book.

As I always say, “Use technology, but in moderation.”

When it comes to education, print books are preferable for the reasons I just told you.

Responsible educators take into account the potential side effects that technology has on the development of their students. I certainly do. You should do the same.

——— (Column published previously in the Cleveland Daily Banner). 

(About the writer: Dr. Luis C. Almeida is an associate professor of communication at Lee University and a TEDx speaker. He is the author of the book “Becoming a Brand: The Rise of Technomoderation,” and a devoted Christian. He can be reached via his website at  luiscalmeida.info). 

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