I’ve written before my thoughts on text highlighting in digital stories. I’m waiting for some good research before changing my mind.
Here’s one that came through my feed this morning, from Digital Book World:
And now I’d like to point out a few things about that article. First, the article does not link to the research. It links to some Eye Tracking software and to a company (MeeGenius) who make money (as we do) from selling book apps. Theirs happen to include word highlighting, I guess. Either way — even if they’re right about this — I acknowledge their bias.
And now I’d like to make a clear distinction between a finding and a conjecture.
Finding 1: Highlighting draws children’s eyes to words.
Their interpretation of this finding: The more time kids spend gazing at words while hearing them spoken, the more familiar they become with the idea that the sounds can be represented symbolically with writing.
Another possible interpretation of this finding: The more time kids spend gazing at words while hearing them spoken, the more time they’re gazing at words. And not the pictures. And not thinking. And not moving on through the story.
We simply don’t know from the article (and probably from the research) anything other than ‘Highlighting draws children’s eyes to words.
Finding 2: When listening the recorded storyteller, the pace of the reading activity slowed down. The recorded voice was found to be 37% slower than the tempo of actual caregivers reading aloud.
Their interpretatin of this finding: This unhurried pace can help provide children with an alternate to the fast pace sustained in many households.
Another possible interpretation of this finding: Word highlighting hinders reading fluency and comprehension.
In short, I’m still waiting for that Golden Egg of studies.