Literacy - Writing's on the wall for printed books

Survey shows growing support for e-readers in English lessons

Encouraging students to read novels is going to require teachers to take a leaf out of teenagers' own books. Or, indeed, a pixel out of their e-reader screens.

Many teachers are beginning to accept that e-readers will soon replace the printed book for a generation more familiar with the beep of the "on" switch than the rustle of the page, according to Professor Andy Goodwyn, of the University of Reading's Institute of Education.

Professor Goodwyn conducted a snapshot survey of almost 140 English teachers that shows how attitudes to the use of e-readers in the classroom are changing. His findings were presented at the British Educational Research Association conference, held last week at the University of Sussex.

Two-thirds of teachers said they believed that e-readers would be a good tool to use in English lessons. Slightly fewer - 61 per cent - said that e-readers would help students to engage with reading more effectively than conventional paper books.

"Many students have told me that the stigma around books and reading being uncool is removed when they are reading on a gadget," one English teacher told Professor Goodwyn. "Reading on a screen is much more normal for them, as they spend a great deal of their time on the internet."

Another said: "I have always found that students enjoy the process of reading much more on an electronic device than they do with a traditional book. For me, personally, this notion is baffling."

According to the survey, half the teachers said that they were not sure what the impact of e-readers would be on their jobs. And half worried that e-readers might distract students from their work.

However, most felt that they would have no choice in the matter in future. They predicted a growing emphasis on such devices, with students expecting access to such technology at school.

More than three-quarters of teachers considered that e-readers would become a vital classroom tool in future and 64 per cent believed that the curriculum would be likely to change in future to include the use of e-readers. Fewer than one in five saw this as a bad thing.

In particular, teachers commented about the ease with which texts can be annotated and unfamiliar words looked up.

"It would be particularly useful for learners with disabilities, or just lazybones, who are too torpid and apathetic to even go and get a dictionary off a shelf," one teacher said.

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