READING IN AN IPAD TRANSMEDIA UNIVERSE: Five Features Enhance Reading Experiences

The world of reading is changing in some ways and not in others. Text is text. Readers easily shifted from hardcover to paperback to e-books. In addition, there are now more options to enhance the reading experience such as read-aloud, bookmarks, definitions, audio, video.

Let's explore five features that can enhance the reading experience:

1 - Navigation: Clear vs Confusing

When reading a traditional book, navigation simply involves selecting and moving among pages. With electronic reading, additional navigation is needed to provide orientation and facilitate the reading experience.

Orientation. Whenever possible, interactive materials should be easy-to-use and intuitive. Rather than lengthy instructions, readers should be able to jump into the materials. For some readers, the use of forward and back arrows and page numbers are important to orientation. Replacing them with percent complete and other types of navigation are useful. However total elimination of navigation in favor of an exploration environment can be overwhelming for some students.

Some users may become lost in interactive texts. Schneider (2005) notes that this problem of coherence may be related to the uncertainty that comes from nonlinear texts. People are concerned that they might miss something or become distracted between screens. Notice the arrow options on books such as 1-2-3 The Ants Go Marching.

ZooSearch Tools. Search tools help readers easily find passages. Reference materials are popular apps. For instance, Zoo Who? An Animal Encyclopedia provides information including text, audio, and video related to 600 animals (see image on right). Users can access this information through an alphabetical list of animals.

Learner Control. Students may control the depth, pacing, and sequencing or their learning. Shamir and Korat (2006) identified five reading options learners might control including forward and backward buttons, interrupting, restarting, read text parts, and overview screen that students might control. In addition, dictionary access, print options, and illustration activation were other elements that could be controlled by the reader.

Reader control is an important advantage of interactive reading environments. According to Reinking and Schreiner (1985), this is particularly important with students who have special needs. Larson (2010) found that digital reading devices promote new literacy practices and provide readers control over how they engage the text.

However, Trushell, Burrell, and Maitland (2001) found that despite the availability of the arrows to move linear through the books, many children chose to go backwards or in a nonlinear way adversely affecting story recall. Underwood (2000) found that students had difficulty retelling the storyline when they used these nonlinear options.

Independence. A two-year old can operate an iPad independently. Many researchers (Pearman, 2008; Larson, 2010) have noted that struggling readers benefit by the support provided by interactive books with quality navigation.

2 - Audio: Integral vs Incidental

Many books provide three or more options such as read the book aloud, read the book individual, play with the book. These may be available in separate sections or overlap. McKenna, Cowart, and Watkins (1997) found that the use of talking electronic books with struggling first grade readers significantly increased sight word recognition and reading levels.

Automatic or Selected Reading. Reading aloud to children is an important part of literacy development. However the entire class doesn't always need to experience the same book. Books with automatic read features provide this experience without intervention by the teacher.Little Critter

Options for audio may include individual words, phrases, paragraphs, or pages. In some cases the reader controls all of these elements. In others, control may be limited to individual words or whole paragraphs. Readers are able to hear and see the word in context. Reinking (1997) found that these audio aids remove the burden of decoding and free cognitive energy to focus on story comprehension.

Little Critter is one of the many characters being shared by Oceanhouse media.

Over-reliance on Audio. Some students choose to use the audio support rather than develop their own decoding skills. Lefever-Davis and Pearman (2005) found that young readers may repeatedly use the pronunciation features and never acquire the ability to decode new words.

Audio Speed. Bergman (1999) found that learner control of narration rate helps students acquire reading skills. Lerner Interactive Books are subscription-based and provide audio, single-world repeat, highlighted text, glossary, and whiteboard tools. The also provide learners with control over the speed of narration.

Sound Elements. In addition to spoken word elements, narratives can also have other sound elements. Music, sounds, and other audio effects can "aid comprehension by signaling the mood of the story and by cueing readers when an important event is going to occur" (Lefever-Davis and Pearman, 2005, p. 53). For instance, scary or happy music help children anticipate the mood of the story.

Incidental Audio. Unnecessary sound elements can distract from the experience. End users should be able to control these elements without losing the important auditory elements such as listening to dialog or hearing pronunciations.

Lefever-Davis and Pearman (2005) found that even transitional elements such as sounds related to page-turning and transitional animations can be annoying for some students. In addition, interactive hotspots that encourage prolonged game playing can be a particular problem for poor readers (Lewis and Ashton, 1999).

Giant Atom is another publishing group introducing ebooks such as Icarus Swinebuckle by Michael Garland. These books will read aloud pages or individual words. There is also an option to record your voice.

3 - Graphics and Motion: Integral vs Incidental

Like audio support, graphic and animation elements can support the storyline. For instance, a visual might clarify a word's meaning or provide a deeper understanding of a character.

Visual Design. Multiple panel may convey movement and a sequence of actions. Detailed graphics may extend understanding of character, plot, and setting. Colors may convey emotions. Images in borders or hidden in larger panels may convey clues. Multiple perspectives may be conveyed through chunks of information within the page.

From classics to popular fiction, you'll find lots of graphic novels adapted for the mobile format. For instance Stephenie Meyer's Twilight is now a graphic novel. Some traditionally text-based books are being enhanced with graphics. For instance, an illustrated version of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells is available for the iPad.

Visual Elements. Graphics play an integral part in comic stories. Classic Comics is producing Interactive Motion Comics (CD-ROM) that contain text, adio, and animation. Explore MacBeth as an example.

Incidental Graphics. Graphics and motion can distract from the experience. Trushell, Burrell, and Maitland (2001) found that the more intensive choice of "eye-candy" elements corresponded with poorer comprehension. For instance, if frogs jumping, grass swaying, and birds flying aren't integral to the story, they may be a distraction. When students are involved in lengthy exploration of elements not relating to the storyline, it's likely that they will loss focus on the important features

4 - Interactives: Integral vs Incidental

While some e-books provide a linear format, others allow for free reading and exploration. Shamir and Korat (2006) suggest selecting interactive storybooks that separate the reading aspects from the gaming elements. These elements may be used as springboard activities prior to the reading experience or as review following the story.

Spot Goes to School App separates exploration into reading and playing sections.

Activities that contribute to the story should reinforce key story elements. Games that involve retelling the story, exploring characters, or revisiting exciting story elements can contribute to reading comprehension and encourage a sense of discovery. Labbo and Kuhn (2000, p. 59) found that when audio, graphic, and activity elements are "integral to and supportive of the story" they contributed to student reading comprehension. Shamir and Korat (2006) also found that "activations" are effective as long as they are congruent with the story.

Lamont (1997) is concerned that interactive elements that repeatedly breaking off attention may reduce linear progression and negatively impact comprehension. The "bells and whistles" provided by some interactive books can distract participants and adversely impact comprehension. Trushell and Maitland (2005) found that access to "cued animations and sound effects" had adverse effects on student story recall.

The visual elements known as "eye-candy" can be a distraction. From interaction with hotspots to games, readers can easily lose focus on the story. Pearman and Chang (2010, p.54) stress that "the reader may never return to the story or, when they do, they may find the sequence of the story disrupted to the point where they can no longer follow the plot". Endless diversions can distract readers from the main line of the experience. While some readers may simply lose their way, others may have a difficult time identifying the important elements in the story line. These elements can hinder comprehension when they don't directly related to the story. Underwood (2000) reported that student recall of the story was poor when reading stories with interactive elements.

Trushell and Maitland (2005) found that students who read interactive storybooks containing elements such as audio or animation that distracted from the written text scored poorly on story recall and inferential items when compared to those who read without those distractions. However they concluded that these adverse effects could be eliminated with teacher supervision. They also suggest that reading the text prior to "playing" with the text could contribute to comprehension.

Ruckus Media Group has introduced a series of e-books beginning including A Present for Milo by Mike Austin with 125 animations and more than 50 interactive elements. When focusing on reading comprehension skills it's important for teachers to guide use of interactive elements.

5 - Tools: Seamless vs Distracting

While a traditional paper book only provides a physical way to locate information, e-books provide a variety of tools. For instance, virtual bookmarks provide an easy way to revisit a particular location in the book.

The DK Eyewitness Travel Guides provide background information on places around the world such as Paris. Users are provided with books for notetaking, sending messages, and other tools.

A growing number of books are connecting to movie components. For instance,Voyage of the Dawn Treader is part of the C.S. Lewis series. The iBook contains illustrated interactive quiz questions, a color map, ship blue prints, and character information. Readers can view embedded video, using bookmarking tools, and set font sizes.

The How to Train Your Dragon interactive book and game is a great companion to the movie by the same name. FrogDog Media's iStoryTime series includes many interactive children's books based on popular animated movies. These books include movies, games, narration, and interaction.

Visual Display. In many cases readers have control over screen resolution, text color and background, font-size, and other display aspects. Larson (2010) found that young people used new literacy skills to personalize devices to meet their individual needs and preferences. For instance, some students prefer smaller text while others like larger font sizes.

Highlighted Text. While some beginning readers find it useful to have words highlighted as they read aloud, Trushell, Burrell, and Maitland (2001) found that slightly older children found it to be a distraction.

Dictionary Tools. The option to hear words pronounced aloud, read definitions, explore glossaries, see labels on illustrations, and experience other types of support is useful for readers of all ages. However it's particularly important for beginning readers. McNabb (1997) found that interactive elements lessen the decoding burden for readers when they encounter unknown words. They also provide opportunities for small group or individual reading with little teacher intervention. Larson (2010) found that young people used the support of a built-in dictionary and text-to-speech feature when it was available.

This support is particularly important for English as a Second Language students. Higgins and Hess (1998) found that students who used these supplemental features performed significantly better in defining vocabulary words.

Note-taking Tools. Many systems facilitate notetaking with tools such as highlighters and annotation tools. Users may be able to insert or remove text, markup pages, add comments, insert notes, attach files, or record audio. When using e-book readers with children, Larson (2010) identified five categories of response notes made by children: understanding of story, personal meaning making, questioning, answering, response to text features/literary evaluation.

Larson (2010) also noted the seamless nature of notetaking on an e-book reader. She noted that it provided new opportunities for individual engagement with the text.

Learn about many of the tools and options by watching the video iPad iMagineering from YouTube.

What criteria will you use for selecting enhanced reading environments for students?

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Fluid | Reading Overview | History | Redefining | Environments | Fiction vs Nonfiction | Features| Issues