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eBooks in your Classroom: PD Flipped

What we know...

"’s important to incorporate digital reading (or e-reading) practices...even as we do so with a critical eye. It may well be irresponsible to do otherwise. Even if some of us continue to require our students to read mostly in print ... the pressures of the digital on the practice of reading will continue to bear, and likely increase, in ways that everyone will have to deal with. As Hayles notes, students are immersed in the digital already... we need to help them to read in these environments." ~What We "Know" About Reading Digitally by Michael Larkin and Donnett Flash  


Online Reading Toolbox

BeeLine Reader  
Modifies the color of text to allow for easier eye tracking.
Allows readers to collaboratively annotation of web pages. This works on ebooks that are text based (as opposed to PDF). 

Pros of eBooks

  • Anytime.
    Titles can be ordered quickly and students can access 24/7/365. 

  • Portable.
    Transfer between devices allows for student to access reading on their phones.

  • Discoverable
    Online keyword searches and bookmarking provide focused access to information. Built in dictionary tools allow students to clarify new vocabulary as needed.

  • Adaptable.
    Narration, text-to-speech, build in dictionaries, and adjustable font-sizes meet individual student needs.

  • Ecological / Economical
    Reduces paper waste, as books never wear out and never get lost.

Cons of eBooks

  • Fatigue
    Reading on a back lit screen can lead to eyestrain. Reading on a computer rather than a dedicated reading device can lead to other physical strain.

  • Non-Tactile
    Lack of tactile cues (book size, where you are on a page or in the book) can impact reader's comprehension of chronology. Readers cannot easily flip back and forth between passages.

  • Distractions
    Other functions of a device (non-dedicated e-readers, computers, phones) increases distractions from reading.

A Battle Between E-Books & Printed Books: Who Will Survive in the End?


eBooks in the Classroom
Teaching Students to Really Read Online


What if I primarily use print texts in my classroom?

The most recent research suggests that print reading is a better deep reading experience for most people.  Still, our students will encounter the expectation that they read online texts more and more as society seeks ways to economize.  Many publications, including trade manuals, are offered exclusively online.  And many colleges require digital textbooks and other readings.  Below are some ways you can help students practice online reading alongside their print reading.

Keep in mind that many researchers now hypothesize that mindset is an import factor in effective digital reading. We need to check how we might inadvertently transfer our own mindset about print vs. online reading to our students.  Students who approach the task with apprehension will struggle to effectively engage in deep reading online.  You can help. 


  • model reading strategies by projecting a passage from an eBook (think overhead projector).
  • walk through the process of annotating a passage with digital tools that mimic paper annotation.
  • have your class analyze illustrations, maps, or other graphics found in e-texts.
  • demonstrate and practice "how to read a graphic novel" with your whole class.
  • ask students to share out their ideas with whole class while referencing the text on the screen.


  • provide students with a e-text version of a print book to facilitate searching of the text for ideas and passages.
  • allow students to read along to an audio version of the text to support fluency.


  • use online texts to front load information or enhance understanding of a book (pre-reading)
  • have students use the built-in dictionary features when encountering new vocabulary
  • have student collaboratively annotate a passage in an ebook (social reading) using online tools.

What if I primarily use web based digital readings? 

Reading web pages and reading longer texts that have been previously published in print are different skills.  Resources designed for the web are generally assist readers with the tasks of navigation and skimming.  Resources designed for print but only available to a student online may present challenges to students that make them likely to avoid those "long articles."

Most recently, researchers hypothesize that mindset is an import factor in effective digital reading. Students who approach the task with apprehension will struggle to effectively engage in deep reading online.  You can help. 

Talk to your students about what we know about reading.

  • Share current research about the benefits of deep reading vs. reading for information.
  • Discuss different types of reading (and annotation) and help them identify strategies for tackling the various purposes of reading and mediums of access: skimming for information, evaluating author credibility, deep analysis, navigating ideas, etc.
  • Reading online is a modern skill. And while they may already be proficient at skimming online texts (because writers who develop for the web often force navigational flow), they must be prepared to examine online texts that may not have navigational aids, such as online users manuals and documents presented in PDF format.

Help your students minimize digital distractions.

  • Encourage students to install a Chrome extension manager such as EXTENSITY, that will allow them to turn other extensions on and off easily.
  • Require full screen mode when possible to diminish temptations to go off task.
  • Allow students to take paper notes when the text does not have an online annotation option.
  • Teach them that when reading texts with hyperlinks to "right-click > open in new tab" any hyperlinks they would like to explore. Require them to finish reading the entire text before viewing those new tabs and then encourage them to re-read the text after having learned more.

Model digital reading skills for your students.

  • Use EBSCOhost to find articles cited in class readings to reinforce the purpose of a bibliography in providing additional information.
  • Point out various formats available online (html or PDF) Discuss the advantages of print layout provided through PDF in comprehending articles (Both Gale and EBSCO provide students with access to both.)
  • Encourage students to read a levelled text at two different levels (easier first). Ask students to compare levelled reading options. Can they identify differences in vocabulary, tone, supplemental information. Did reading the easier level first help them in understanding the higher level of text better. This is why "pre-reading" or front loading information in before doing deep research and reading is so important.



Resources for Learning
10 Effective Ways of Improving Reading Comprehension in Your Learners. (2019) Wasisabi Learning.  
Baron, N. S. (2017) "Reading In a Digital Age." Phi Delta Kappan. 
Barrett, B. (2019) The Radical Transformation of the Textbook. Wired Magazine. 
Barshay, J. (2019)  Evidence increases for reading on paper instead of screens
DEEP DIVE: The Hechinger ReportThis article discusses a recent meta-analysis of research focused on the effects of online reading on performance.  
Boobyer, V. (2013) How English Teachers Can Use eBooks in the Classroom. British Council. Web. 
Carr. N. (2010) The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our BrainAvailable in audio through Overdrive.
Casselden B. and R. Pears. (2019) Higher Education Student Pathways to eBook Usage and Engagement, and Understanding: Highways and culde sacs
Dyson, M. C. (2004)  How Physical Text Layout Affects Reading from ScreenBehavior & Information Technology 23:6 Available through EBSCOHost.
Hayles, N. K. (2010)  How We Read: Close, Hyper, MachineADE Bulletin 150 : 62-79. Web.
Heid, M. (2018) Are Audiobooks As Good For You As Reading?  Here's What Experts Say. Time Magazine. 
Hillesund, T. (2010) Digital Reading Spaces:  How Expert Readers Handle Books, the Web and Electronic PaperFirst Monday [Online], 15.4 : n.p. Web.
Jabr, F. (2013). The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus ScreensScientific American.  
Jabr, F. (2013) Why the Brain Prefers PaperScientific American 309.5 : 48-53.  Available through Medline.
Korbey, H. (2018) Digital Text is Changing How Kids Read--Just Not in the Way That You Think. MindShift.  
La Farge, P. (2016) The Deep Space of Digital ReadingNautilus
Larkin, M. (2017) Digital Reading: To Read Well on Screens, Change Your Mindset. Berkeley Writing
Larkin, M. and Flash, D. (2016) Building Bridges to Critical Reading in a Digital ContextBerkeley Center for Teaching and Learning
Mangen, A., Olivier, G.  and Velay, J.  (2019) Comparing Comprehension of a Long Text Read in Print Book and on Kindle: Where in the Text and When in the Story. Front Psychol.  
Reid, C. (2016) eBooks versus Print Books: eBooks and Print Books Can Have Different Affects on Literacy Comprehension
Ross, C.S. (2018) Reading Sill Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Available in print in the MGHS library.
Shanahan, T. (2018) "Is Comprehension Better with Digital Texts? ShanahanOnLiteracy Blog.  
Wolf, M.(2017)  Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.  Available on Overdrive in eBook format. 
Wolf, M. (2018) Screen Time is Changing Our Brain ChemistryMedium | Neuroscience. 
INTERESTING: This article is offered on Medium, a site geared towards enhancing the online reading experience, with a "clean reading experience," sans the distraction of ads.
Wolf, M. (2018) Skim Reading is the New Normal. The Effect on Society is ProfoundThe Guardian

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