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Printing and screen reading in the medical school curriculum: Guttenberg vs. the cathode ray tube

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Integrating computer-based learning into the medical school curriculum is hampered by students' propensity to print all digitally available material. The research presented here examines print vs. on-screen consumption of information. In interviews with medical school students variables—Time/Convenience Issues; Habituated Learning Styles and Document Formatting—emerged as patterns repeated by five or more subjects when asked 'why do you print instead of reading material on the screen?' These variables suggest there may be both hardware and software applications that could enhance the utility of student laptops. For example, less cumbersome computers with software allowing simultaneous multi-document use and annotating might be valuable features for students. Several variables, however, are outside the control of academic computing; for example, habituated learning from print and student time constraints. These findings provide a foundation to develop hardware and software design that would encourage on-screen use of information.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2001

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