The Impact of Digital Bible Reading

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J. Remington Bowling | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 24 2019 8:42 AM

There are ways to take advantage of both worlds.

  • Use digital (Logos, in this case) as your find and recall tool. Digital can't be beat in terms of quickly finding new or past information. This doesn't meant that, having found resources relevant to your topic, you need to do the rest of your work (by which I mean reading what you've found) in that digital medium. The downside is that this might mean you need a physical copy and digital copy of the same book. Libraries help here.

 

  • Take your notes in digital or at least copy your physical notes to digital. Why? Again, because finding those notes in the future with search and tagging is a clear advantage to digital. Another advantage is that physical notes take up physical space and it can be hard to have longer physical notes quickly at hand with the source material in a physical medium. I have notes sitting around my desk that often get damaged through water (either spilt or condensation from a drink sitting next to it) or crumpled or fall off my desk and land behind some device or wires in the back. I have post-it notes in books that sometimes fall out of the book, so I then have to spend more time tagging the note and what sentence or paragraph it refers to in the book. Digital notes are simply easier made, kept, and found in the future. 

 

  • Regarding comprehension due to digital tex peculiaritiest.
  1. Turn off bells and whistles, both literally, in terms of notifications, and figuratively, in terms of meta-text markings. When reading Scripture in Logos I turn off all the virtual filters so that publisher footnote indicators, non-bible text, and my own notes and highlights are not visible. After I've read what I intended, I go back and turn those things on again and I read through notes I had made previously and see any highlights.
  2. Review what you've read to compensate for recall issues. This is another huge advantage to digital. Use a spaced-repitition flash card program, like Anki, to automate the schedule of when you will review information. Don't worry about filling out the "back" of the card, as though you need to have a question and answer card. Just insert an entire quote onto the front of the card and, with the simple act of repeated reading, you can keep helpful quotes or important points fresh or familiar without much effort. You can summarize the argument of an entire book in a few paragraphs on the front of an Anki card, leaving the back blank. Occasionally, Anki will show you this card and, thus, keep the main argument of a book fresh in your memory. I have done this and it works great. I did this with some books last year and not with others. For those I did it with, I can still remember the main points or important premises in the argument. With books I read last year that I didn't do this with, the details of the book's points are fuzzier in my mind.

The advantages to the digital medium are too significant for the market to ever completely reverse course on this, especially when it comes to research libraries, like Logos. My advice is do most of your reading with physical books but do most of your work in digital.

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Bohuslav Wojnar | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 24 2019 9:27 AM

Yes I also red the article and it made me think a lot. Thank you Bruce for opening this topic.
I read my Bible digitally almost all the time since time immemorial. Sometimes, out of sentiment, I grab a paper one. However recently I am thinking about renewing my devotional reading from the paper Bible - and do it in my mother tongue (which is Polish) although I preach in Czech and sometimes in English, so my reading has been mostly in these two languages. The article pushed me this direction even more.

The benefits of digital study, making notes as long as I want, highlighting etc. looks to me much bigger however than the risk of possible brain changes. I might be wrong. The only disadvantage is not being able to find some places in the Bible the way by knowing "the place" in the book (paper). That's true.

What I found really less fixated in my memory is when I listen to the book and not read it with my eyes. Some books I have to listen twice to remember at least some of the content. I haven't noticed the same difference between reading paper versus digital.

Just my thoughts to the subject.

Bohuslav

Posts 1720
Robert M. Warren | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 24 2019 9:29 AM

Perk:
The device I read the Bible on is the same device I use for reading the news, ,texting, checking email and FB. And somehow that feels less "sacred"

Hi Gerald:

What if the device is analogous to the paper Bible reading environment (desk, den chair, etc.) and the reading app itself analogous to the paper Bible? If you do family bookkeeping at the desk or read the newspaper in the den chair, would that change your perception?

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Perk | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 24 2019 3:29 PM

Robert,

I agree with your analogy. Maybe "sacred" is not the right word. I do like the ability to have a multi-translation, parallel text, large print study bible in my shirt pocket.

I was thinking about the different motions used in electronic vs paper media. With electronics we "jump" to a passage, skipping everything in between. With paper we "turn" to a passage. When turning we see other passages, other underlining and does learning  and remembering (however briefly) occur in that action?

BTW. I think a similar thing occurs when singing a song from a hymnal vs singing from a projection screen. With the hymnal I see the author, composer, other verses, musical notes, adjacent songs, etc. The screen provides more focus, but at the loss of visual information.

In the end the digital devices provide many benefits, but is anything lost? And are the things lost of any value, if so how do we get them back?

Gerald

Posts 153
Randy Lane | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Aug 25 2019 6:04 AM

For some brain activity research to back all this up check out the book she references.

https://www.amazon.com/Reader-Come-Home-Reading-Digital/dp/0062388789/

Very well written - you don't need a scientific education - a very down-to-earth treatise.

Digital definitely is "different" to our brains, and mostly to our detriment.

It changed my reading habits a year ago.

Highly recommended. And arrives in lower priced paperback this week.

I now want to see similar research concerning how we process words when they are in verse vs. narrative, and especially when accompanied by music. I attribute a lot of the decline of cognitive abilities to the use of far too much music as reading accompaniment in the lower elementary and preschool grades.

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JRS | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Aug 25 2019 6:02 PM

How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee(Psa 65:4a)

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Roy | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Aug 25 2019 8:57 PM

Perk:
The device I read the Bible on is the same device I use for reading the news, ,texting, checking email and FB. And somehow that feels less "sacred" (Hope that makes sense).

I remember reading somewhere where Catholic Priests are, I would say "forbidden", but I think a better word would be "discouraged" from using a digital device like an iPad for services like Mass as it (the tablet) is a device that can be used for other purposes other than the sacred (e.g. Mass). Watching movies or reading the newspaper etc.

I confess that my first response was "That's silly. It's just a computer." but in retrospect I think that I find some logic in that position. While I may not do that myself, I can respect the position.

Posts 451
Liam & Abi Maguire | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Aug 25 2019 11:46 PM

This is a really interesting discussion and one thing I keep coming back to in my thinking is this: How might the headlines have read when affordable, physical bibles arrived on the scene? As a thought experiment, I tried to think up some new headlines and a 'key quote'. 

"Studies show that personal bible reading is having a detrimental effect on scripture memorisation."

or

"Individual bible ownership reduces the value of the church community, experts say."

Maybe the key quote would read something like...

Hypothetical News Article:
"Studies have shown that those who own a personal, physical copy of the bible noted an increase in engagement with the bible whilst showing a marked decline in bible memory. Experts suspect that being able to read the bible for themselves has meant that memorisation is no longer a necessity for them. This is a marked changed from even a generation ago. Moreover, other participants indicated that they began to give more weight to their own personal interpretations against the community consensus. One respondent said, 'I often find myself thinking, why do I even need to attend church anymore? I can have church at home now, just me, my bible and my God.' Several experts are concerned about how this new technology will impact our brains, our memories, and most of all, our church communities.  

"Concerns, however, go beyond our minds. Rev. Green explains, 'Don't get me wrong, I am thankful that people have access to the Word of God in a way that we would not have imagined possible 50 years ago. But now that mass-printed bibles are cheaply available it seems as if peoples respect for the scriptures has decreased not increased, the bible has become a just another household object, less sacred perhaps?. Not to mention the many distractions that get in the way of bible reading in the home. Distractions such as family interruptions, housework, or an unexpected neighbour dropping by.'

The above is not supposed to be historically accurate; I had to play fast and loose with the history to make it 'work'. I do intend it to be tongue in cheek, and to that end, I've purposely written it to include several of the points made in this discussion. I did this not to mock those views (they're all very insightful) but I did want to raise the point that the emergence of the mass-produced printed bible dramatically changed how many people engaged with God's word since (once they could read) people no longer needed to pass it oral-community setting as they had before. Suddenly, people could interact with God's word without A. having to memorise it, B. Listening to someone who had memorised it, C. Attending a corporate worship service.

I suspect that were we to have performed the same modern scientific tests in the past as we can today, we would have found that over time, this development in modern technology also affected memory and neural-pathways, not to mention the social and religious implications. 

Personally, I find it is easy to think of humans as fixed and unchanging and technology as malleable, so changes to technology are (all things being equal) good but changes to humans are concerning. However, I wonder if the relationship is more dialogical: As we shape technology it, in turn (and to varying degrees) shapes us back. However, I suspect that this has always been the case as newer and more powerful technological advances have effected how we engage with the world and information. Perhaps, it is simply that for the first time we have the technology to observably measure it, and so are being forced to integrate this into our grid of what it means to be creative human agents. 

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 26 2019 4:29 AM

Liam Maguire:
I suspect that were we to have performed the same modern scientific tests in the past as we can today, we would have found that over time, this development in modern technology also affected memory and neural-pathways, not to mention the social and religious implications. 

Liam, what a great post. I think you may be on to something. Certainly with changes in technology the neural pathways of learning must change. Just has they had to change from oral learning to reading on paper, so adjustment is necessary from paper to digital. I will have to reflect more on this.

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Sean | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 26 2019 5:05 AM

Of course, there's also the flip side of contemporary literacy. I've done all my work on computers for a very long time, and while I can type like the wind, I can barely write by hand anymore. If I had to hand write an exam for longer than, say, 20 minutes, I would probably physically be unable to do it, and you certainly would be unable to read it. Big Smile

Posts 241
Anthony Dowden | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 26 2019 6:58 AM

I can go along with that. I’ve been using computers since the early 80s and hardly touched a pen  in the last twenty years. Now I struggle to even sign my signature. Anything else just looks like a spider trail across the paper.

Posts 176
Al Het | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 26 2019 4:37 PM

In a setting such as this forum, you are most likely to get answers based on preference, as few of us have been part of objective studies.  However, there have now been numerous studies done on retention with regards to paper vs plastic (electronic).  People in the field of learning/memory almost universally say the debate is over regarding which reading type leads to the best retention.  Whether a person "grew up" with electronic formats, or books, the empirical evidence supports better retention with paper resources.  Just how much better can depend on many variables, and can very greatly from person to person.  The reason people do better with print is likely due to spacial orientation.  The brain is good at keeping track where you are in a physical book, a chapter, or even a paragraph, and this seems to help retention or retrieval, often significantly.  This becomes obvious on the extreme scale.  Imagine reading something like War And Peace, if you could only get a few words at a time, reading on your phone or something.  It would be really hard to digest large amounts of information in this manner. 

Are there significant advantages to electronic media?  Of course.  You can carry thousands of books in one device, and search across all those materials.  Might you retain the information better if you had a massive staff who could search and look up all those resources in seconds while you are studying Scripture, regardless of where you are?  Maybe, but it's a moot argument. 

All this to say, the reality is, we tend to prefer that which we are used to, and whether it objectively produces the best results or not, we tend to feel like it does.  As technology moves forward, and we all embrace the numerous advantages of it, the disadvantages will be seen as less and less significant to us. 

By the way, similar results are found with students taking notes during lectures with physical pen and paper.  Regardless of what people are used to, studies are showing that students retain information better when using paper and pencil, not a computer.  However, as a guy who went to Seminary before laptops were common in the classroom, I would have LOVED to have all my sermon notes in digital format today.  I might have remembered the information better the way I did it, but in many classes, I can barely read my own handwriting, and I'm far less likely to go and search for notes on something when I have to take out physical notebooks to look stuff up.

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Veli Voipio | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 26 2019 11:31 PM

I still think that communal reading is the way to go, and the Internet facilitates that, by social media, webinars etc., allowing discussion and feedback in a group spread over the world.

The Western concept of reading quietly alone is ok when in living in a cave in the desert, but we should also be aware of other possibilities.

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Aug 27 2019 7:09 AM

Al Het:
In a setting such as this forum, you are most likely to get answers based on preference, as few of us have been part of objective studies.  However, there have now been numerous studies done on retention with regards to paper vs plastic (electronic).  People in the field of learning/memory almost universally say the debate is over regarding which reading type leads to the best retention.  Whether a person "grew up" with electronic formats, or books, the empirical evidence supports better retention with paper resources.  Just how much better can depend on many variables, and can very greatly from person to person.  The reason people do better with print is likely due to spacial orientation.  The brain is good at keeping track where you are in a physical book, a chapter, or even a paragraph, and this seems to help retention or retrieval, often significantly.  This becomes obvious on the extreme scale.  Imagine reading something like War And Peace, if you could only get a few words at a time, reading on your phone or something.  It would be really hard to digest large amounts of information in this manner. 

Well said Al. I like the balance with which you wrote this paragraph. It does make me wonder if, over time we can retrain our brains for better retention when reading.

Obviously the people on this forum are committed to reading many of their resources digitally. Certainly there are a number of things that we can do to actually improve digital reading. I've been reflecting on what I can do. Here is the start of a list:

  1. Choose to read in an environment with as few distractions as possible. This applies not only to where you read but also to the discipline of turning off notifications from your phone/computer and having the discipline not to jump to other apps or web pages
  2. Engage with what you are reading
  3. Pause to understand the context of what you are reading e.g. Check back to the table of contents often; research words or concepts you don't understand etc.
  4. Take notes
  5. Summarize what you have read to a friend
  6. Read in community (see Veli's point in the post above)

Would anyone care to add to this list?

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David Thomas | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Aug 27 2019 8:58 AM

Sue McIntyre:
preferring a paper bible for devotional reading and electronic formats for digging deeper and academic study

I'm sorry I don't have access to the source material, But I read in the last 2 years an article about how some schools are recoiling from e-books even though school districts can put iPads or Chromebooks in the hands of each student at a comparable cost to buying dead-tree books. As I recall, the article stated that e-reading has similar retention for FACTS (Science and Math), but dead-tree promotes better retention for IDEAS (Arts and Humanities).  In my opinion, this supports Sue's affinity for paper when looking for inspiration, but electronic when searching for data.

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JT (alabama24) | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Aug 27 2019 9:10 AM

David Thomas:
I'm sorry I don't have access to the source material, But I read in the last 2 years an article about how some schools are recoiling from e-books even though school districts can put iPads or Chromebooks in the hands of each student at a comparable cost to buying dead-tree books.

If it pops up and if you remember, would you mind coming back and posting a link? 

My sons are perhaps the only two students without chrome books in their schools (elementary & middle school). 

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Aug 27 2019 9:31 AM

Bruce Dunning:

Here is the start of a list:

  1. Choose to read in an environment with as few distractions as possible. This applies not only to where you read but also to the discipline of turning off notifications from your phone/computer and having the discipline not to jump to other apps or web pages
  2. Engage with what you are reading
  3. Pause to understand the context of what you are reading e.g. Check back to the table of contents often; research words or concepts you don't understand etc.
  4. Take notes
  5. Summarize what you have read to a friend
  6. Read in community (see Veli's point in the post above)

As you mentioned earlier, each person seems different.  This will sound egoistic, but not intensionally. Using your list:

#1 My brain loves distractions. I work across 4 apps, a TV drama, and so forth. Per my brain books, it's the exciting of brain areas.

#2 Definitely. I need rabbit trails, and curious dissonances. The Egyptian army drowned, but the Sun god lived to see another day! Woo-hoo!

#4 Oh definitely. Not sure of Logos current note prowess, but my software allows automatically assigning a note to multiple locations. Then displays chronologically (by verse), showing my studies. Reminds me over and over.

#5-6 Probably works for many. I just don't have the patience. I notice other women are similar; work details alone, and summary devotional value in groups.


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David Thomas | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Aug 27 2019 9:59 AM

JT (alabama24):
posting a link? 

Here is one study I found quickly - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/figure/10.1080/00220973.2016.1143794?scroll=top&needAccess=true

 

Here is another source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/kindle-nook-e-reader-books-the-best-way-to-read/ 

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JT (alabama24) | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Aug 27 2019 11:33 AM

Yes

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David A Egolf | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Aug 28 2019 12:54 PM

Bruce Dunning:

Veli Voipio:
In Africa one person may read a book aloud and a group of people is sitting around listening and they comment the reading regularly (often together as a choir). That kind of process might be quite natural for humans and I just wonder how to apply it in our current digital environment.

I think you may be on to something here. Reading out loud definitely changes comprehension. For the last couple of years I've read my Greek NT out loud and this year I'm using the Logos voice of John Schwandt which I'm finding extremely helpful. When you think about it, in generations long ago most of Scripture was communicated orally as there were few copies and most did not read.

Right here Phoenix, my son and I meet on Monday's to study using Logos.  We take turns reading the assignments from our Mobile ED Biblical Theology course.  And we comment regularly.  We are reading off of a digital screen.  So I suppose this sub-thread has gone full circle!  Smile

Meanwhile, I am working with a small group of seminary students from our church in Phoenix to put together some curricula for a group of 30 Guatemalan pastors who have very little seminary training.  We are not sure how literate their congregations are.  The Guatemalan congregations may be aurally based and very similar to first century churches.  We have plans to find out more before we produce our training material.

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