READABILITY REVISITED: EDUCATIONAL WEBSITES IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
University of Houston (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Conference name: 4th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-10 March, 2010
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Teachers in K-12 classrooms in the United States are often directed by administration to use technology. The justification for this requirement is often the promise of more efficient learning, as well as teaching students twenty-first century skills. Schools also spend millions of dollars each year to equip schools with technological equipment to make this mandate possible. The rampant use of the Internet as a source of educational multimedia is taken for granted. Teachers direct students to websites full of flash and explosive graphics in hope that they will learn. Little consideration is given to whether or not the website is at their students’ instructional or independent reading levels.
Scholars must proceed in the evaluation of both text and images on educational websites, because one of the most important tools for communication, the Internet, is rapidly becoming more image- than text-oriented. These scholars must have good visual memory and strong intuitive-associative thinking skills (Eshet-Alkali & Amichai-Hamburger, 2004). New and different digital tools are urgently needed to help students read information via the Internet because they must be able to comprehend what they are reading (Walker, Schloss, Fletcher, Vogel & Walker, 2005). Few studies exist evaluating how readable educational websites are. Chen, Wong and Hsu (2003) recommend criterion that need to be considered when educators make decisions on whether or not an instructional activity is to be conducted on the Internet. Information readability is listed as one criterion, but little evidence exists to suggest it is placed very high in the website evaluation process.
Educational websites on the Internet are rapidly becoming more pictorial than verbal as society moves into the twenty-first century. Readability can no longer be analyzed as strictly a textual endeavor. Exploring how readability of educational websites for children on the Internet can be analyzed as rhetorical phenomenon, this paper begins to establish conventions for design of electronic media for improved use by both teachers and students.
Readability of text on educational websites is evaluated using the Fry (1977), Flesch Reading Ease (1975) and Flesch-Kinkaid (1975) grade level readability formulas. Typography used on these websites is evaluated through familiarity, font style, contrast, alignment, line-length, letterspacing, leading, point size, styles, color, value, and texture of type. Visual images found on educational websites are examined through their nature, function, evaluation, actions, major features, subject matter, medium, forms, colors, organization, craftsmanship, and context.
Creating readable websites for students is essential. This job goes far beyond simple cosmetics; planning and structuring, and production and evaluation of the communication in the website must be evaluated. The visual communication designer of websites must work on interpretation, organization and visual interpretation of messages. More attention must be given to the interaction of the public and the communication in the website, especially when considering teaching students how to read. Sanders (2006) explains that when the market-driven era of design gives way to the people-centered era, we must reevaluate the work and create new ways to empathize with the needs of people, especially children.
Keywords: Computer technology, readability, typography, visual rhetoric.