As video consumes ever increasing amounts of students’ time and attention, along with texting limited to phrases and acronyms, the cumulative effects were bound to affect students’ abilities to read complex texts for extended periods of time. As we have attended various educational conferences over the last two (2) weeks, we have informally polled faculty as to the validity of the above headline. Much to our disappointment, we found many faculty who echoed the same sentiment. They related that even their brightest students complain about the volume and difficulty of the readings assigned. Unlike some in the class who just refuse to do the reading and related assignment, and willingly accept a zero (0), the brighter students grudgingly do most of the reading, faculty reported.

Here are some of the reasons that reading is losing badly to video (e.g. “Reading requires much more thinking than television”(1)) and the deleterious effect it has upon intellectual growth along with an excerpt from the article:

“Studies have shown that watching television induces low alpha waves in the human brain. Alpha waves are brainwaves between 8 to 12 HZ. and are commonly associated with relaxed meditative states as well as brain states associated with suggestibility.(2)

While Alpha waves achieved through meditation are beneficial (they promote relaxation and insight), too much time spent in the low Alpha wave state caused by TV can cause unfocussed daydreaming and inability to concentrate. Researchers have said that watching television is similar to staring at a blank wall for several hours.” (3)

“In an experiment in 1969, Herbert Krugman monitored a person through many trials and found that in less than one minute of television viewing, the person’s brainwaves switched from Beta waves– brainwaves associated with active, logical thought– to primarily Alpha waves. When the subject stopped watching television and began reading a magazine, the brainwaves reverted to Beta waves” (4)

“Videos are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text. Think about the heavy lifting your cognitive system has to do when reading an article vs. watching a video clip! Humans are hardwired to avoid demanding cognitive strain, so this tendency toward “laziness” will, more often than not, invite us to choose information that is easy to process over the form that makes us put out a lot of effort.

Reading articles and watching videos also require two different brain processes. When we read, the process requires us to be actively involved. The brain gets a much better workout when reading vs. watching, and the process requires a longer attention span and deeper cognitive efforts.

“Reading is active. When we read an article, we don’t just look at the words in front of us — we create thoughts about that content, activating our mental structures. Reading requires the production of “inner voice,” which dials up our attention span. That means that careful reading is not an automatic process, but rather occurs when we actively process what we are reading.” (5)

“When we read something, we are actively involved in processing the information in front us. Our cognitive processors are working hard. But while reading is all about thinking, video is better at getting us to feel.”‘ (6)

“University students are struggling to read whole books because they are too challenging, academics said yesterday.

Professors said that some students found the thought of reading books to the end daunting because of shorter attention spans and an inability to focus on nuanced arguments.

Undergraduates had to be encouraged to read beyond set texts, some university staff suggested.

Jenny Pickerill, professor in environmental geography at the University of Sheffield, told Times Higher Education magazine that when she recommended that books be read, “students struggle with them, saying the language or concepts are too hard”.