Digital reading refers to a set of practices that can have very different purposes and forms.
There is no one single definition of digital reading; rather, digital reading should be considered in the plural. This observation reveals the impact that the appearance of new digital media and new types of texts has had on the very act of reading itself.
Our research aimed at documenting, from an epistemological, conceptual and didactic perspective, reading skills, processes and strategies across different digital text genres and media.
There is no one single definition of digital reading; rather, digital reading should be considered in the plural.
The literature review identified the need for empirical research on early readers and specific digital media and text genres in order to better understand the characteristics of digital reading and, in particular, the skills at play. For example, does reading an enhanced e-book require the same skills as reading a Web page of hypertext?
Digital reading processes mobilize cognitive operations that are specific to the processing, comprehension and interpretation of information in a digital environment (e.g. navigating through an interactive story). These must be distinguished from technical knowledge (e.g. knowing how software works) and from knowledge of the properties of digital texts (e.g. the characteristics of blogs).
Skills are linked to actions (e.g. choosing the hyperlink most relevant to the task) that require knowledge (e.g. understanding how hyperlinks work). Strategies help readers to be more skilled at efficiently mobilizing processes specific to digital reading. Thus, digital reading refers to different practices depending on the medium and the genre: for example, reading a novel on an e-reader, reading information on the Internet using a computer, reading a digital book on a tablet, or reading a blog post on a smartphone.
The research findings also demonstrated an urgent need to guide young people in the development of these skills, the acquisition of which is not as spontaneous as we are led to believe by studies on digital media usage among young people. Frequency of digital use is not directly related to digital reading performance, especially when it comes to reading complex digital genres. Young readers must be able to anticipate the form of the content based on knowledge of its characteristics. Thus, knowledge of the properties of digital genres is crucial for understanding how readers appropriate the meaning of digital content.
In our opinion, Québec programs need to identify digital genres and media, clarify their characteristics and define the skills and strategies necessary for producing proficient readers on a variety of digital media.
Nathalie Lacelle, Université du Québec à Montréal
Deposit of the research report: August 2017