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Understanding online reading through the eyes of first and second language readers: an exploratory study
Kang H. Computers & Education73 1-8,2014.Type:Article
Date Reviewed: May 2 2014

Learning challenges exist for students who receive education in their nonnative language. Kang examines the significant topic of first language (L1) and second language (L2) online reading patterns and comprehension, and suggests that online reading patterns could influence how learning occurs and could contribute to developing second language education. The author provides an excellent literature review on the literacy shift from traditional to new literacy activities that arises from online reading, and notes that there is little empirical evidence that compares L1 and L2 online readers. This exploratory study examines how online reading patterns and comprehension affect fluent reading, defined as “rapid, purposeful, interactive reading literacy.”

Kang strives to answer three research questions: (1) How fast do L1 and L2 online readers read? (2) How long do L1 and L2 online readers read, and what content do they read? (3) How do L1 and L2 online readers perform on reading comprehension exams?

The study used a combination of eye-tracking and a reading comprehension exam to gather the data. The study results suggest few significant differences between L1 and L2 online readers; however, the differences that were significant lead to interesting future research. For example, the test result for question 3 of the reading comprehension exam was reversed for L1 and L2 participants, and the unique characteristic of that question was that it asked for a numerical fact from the reading. Another significant difference was in reading speed, with L2 online readers spending 62 percent more time reading; this suggests that the relationship between reading comprehension and reading speed be examined. Kang concludes that helping readers use proper metacognitive strategies and skills helps develop fluent reading in both L1 and L2 online readers.

The topic is timely and important for educators, curriculum developers, and others interested in online reading patterns. The research exemplifies high-quality design and produces credible results.

Reviewer:  Susan Shepherd Ferebee Review #: CR142244 (1408-0695)
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