Is printing the mark of a digital immigrant?

I don’t totally agree with the idea that age is the key differentiation between those who are comfortable and active in the world of new media and those who are luddites.

But the JISC national e-books observatory project provides an interesting statistic that I think might be important. 

Initial observation of the behaviours and learning styles of students in 127 universities across the UK into their e-book habits shows 62% of the 22,000 respondents read online compared to 6% who print to read.

I confess to being a digital immigrant in this regard as I generally prefer to print rather than read online, particularly information that I need to think about, such as journal articles.  Of course, it isn’t feasible to print entire books, but I find that a limitation of the great resource available at Google books for example.  Given a choice, I’d rather take a real book out of the library, although the convenience of accessing more resources online is substantial.

Last month we offered our students taking the CIPR Advanced Certificate critique assignment the option to submit in pdf rather than print format.  This was intended as an experiment that we hoped would be more efficient.  It did save the time and cost of posting work to the centre, onto the markers and then the required sample for the external examiner.  However, I spent quite a lot of time receiving and checking the submissions – so some cons as well as pros there.

I decided I would undertake my role entirely electronically.  That involved moderating the work of four markers across 45 submissions (each of 2,500 words plus bibliography) and completing the marking assessment forms for each.

Although I still prefer to review printed submissions on which I can annotate comments using a pen, using the laptop meant I could read work away from my desk.

I’m gaining feedback from the tutors, but the initial student comment was positive.  So, I think we will continue for electronic submissions for the critique and possibly for the Diploma CRT submissions in January.

But, do you agree that there is a distinction between being comfortable enough to read online and preferring to print to read?  Is that the mark of a digital immigrant as opposed to a native?

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

4 thoughts on “Is printing the mark of a digital immigrant?”

  1. It’s an interesting notion– printing being correlated with the digital immigrant. As a digital native, I don’t mind reading right off the screen. Then again, I’m also admittedly green (then again, there’s no denying that the green movement is growing fastest in the under-30 crowd) and can’t justify printing a 50 page e book everytime I get the hankering to read an e-book or white paper (and I read at least 1 or 2 a week).
    I think an even better mark of the digital native vs the digital immigrant is the source through which the information is being filtered–do you use a feed burner? Do you post regular blog comments? Are you willing–excited even– to try new ways of retrieving information? The speed at which people adapt is a pretty good measure of how digitally adept they are.

  2. Like Serena, I think it’s more likely to the mark of dodgy eyesight. I’d like to do as well as Brandon but I confess if it’s a document of more than about 6 pages I’ll read it better on a piece of paper (printed on both sides naturally!)

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