“Electronic textbooks do offer substantial advantages over traditional printed text, such as the opportunity to make timely updates, adapt to learner preferences, and embed multimedia and learning activities—it’s one thing to read about the fall of the Berlin Wall, but it’s quite another to see a video of it. However, research shows that students likely do not interact with electronic textbooks as they do with traditional print, and the broader research base on multimedia learning indicates that considerable care must go into the design of special features to ensure that they augment learning rather than detract from it. There is no indication that publishers are investing the time and hard work required to leverage this information into a new generation of electronic textbooks. Rather, it seems that most are taking the pedagogical devices from print books and putting them in digital format, with little evidence that they positively affect learning.”
This article comes down hard on digital media for its tendency to shorten attention spans. The issue, however, of design, is critical. One can design digital pedagogical experiences to slow things down and to cultivate patience, attention to detail, and the habits of careful reading. But to do that, one needs to attend carefully to how pedagogical experiences are designed.
One should not simply imprint print culture onto digital culture. I talked a bit about this in this keynote address.