Technology has had a profound effect on all aspects of our lives. In the education sector, traditional methods are constantly being challenged and replaced with technology. A recent Pearson study found that a majority of Generation Z kids prefer learning from videos rather than printed books. Nearly 60 percent of people aged 14 to 23 prefer videos on YouTube as a learning medium, while 47 percent prefer printed books, according to the study. Students prefer video to boring textbooks, of course. However, should this be a question we ask students? Would a video-only approach be the best way forward? Read on to find out what our founder Diane Janknegt thinks about this trend.
Based on a survey conducted on Grade K-12 teachers’ use of digital learning tools , the most common way teachers in the United States make use of digital learning tools is to allow students to practice what they have learned. Approximately 85 percent of teachers reported using digital learning tools in this way. The least common usage was for reading textbooks, with 33 percent. This is just one such survey among many that show technology and digital learning medium are slowly replacing the traditional method of students reading through books. With every child being introduced to various digital devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets at early ages, we are slowly seeing the rise of usage of videos as a preferred instructional medium, by both schools as well as teachers, over reading. But would a video-only approach be the best learning option?
Why is literacy a critical skill?
Teaching literacy to students means that they are given the ability to communicate clearly and effectively and form the foundation of modern life. Students that can’t read effectively fail to grasp important concepts, score poorly on tests, and ultimately, fail to meet educational milestones. Literacy skills allow students to seek out information, explore subjects in-depth and gain a deeper understanding of the world around them. By teaching students to communicate effectively, you help create engaged students who learn to love the act of learning. 
The activity of learning through literature has been described as an active one while watching videos have been described as a passive activity. Our brain cells are more engaged in reading, actively employing our eyes and imagination to also increase our cognitive ability in the sensory-motor region of the brain. Reading also presents more objective and descriptive information which enhances learning. It gives the learner the power to control the pace of their reading while watching videos dictates the pace of watching (and even understanding) which can be too slow or too fast for the reader. Reading also helps learners to improve grammar and enhance their vocabulary. Not only does it enhance one’s imagination, it also helps the reader develop a better sense of understanding in their own way.
Some facts about reading and literacy: 
- Reading books is the only out-of-school activity for 16-year-olds demonstrably linked to securing managerial or professional jobs.
- 70% of pupils permanently excluded from school have difficulties in basic literacy skills.
- 10 to 16 year-olds who read for pleasure do better at school.
- Reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parent’s level of education.
So when is it better to use videos as a mode of learning?
Instructional videos could be a better approach while learning difficult topics. The ease of learning is also useful with pre-recorded videos which could also be one of the main reasons for its popularity as a learning medium. Based on a study conducted on students in India, recorded classes uploaded at the university website/YouTube/any other application was the most preferred (54.4%) class format by whereas 27.04% of the respondents preferred live classes that can be recorded, 17.92% opined in favor of live classes and 0.65% preferred only reading materials.
It was also interesting to note that, in the same study, with regards to the nature of reading materials, the majority of the respondents (84%) preferred video content supplemented with reading materials- a blended mode of learning.
Literacy skills first, video next:
So let’s agree that a blended approach of both video and reading – is the best way forward. Let’s not be blinded by the attractiveness of only videos. Reading skills are a critical part of children’s development. In the end, children with low literacy skills fail to meet educational milestones. However, the integration of video in modern education is a trend that is here to stay and that is a good thing. The benefits of a hybrid method of learning are positive, which is why 92% of teachers say that they use digital content, books, or audiobooks in addition to video to deliver individualized instructional content or for independent student-choice reading.
Let’s be creative
Therefore I would like to encourage educational publishers and content creators to be creative. Include the power of digital into the textbook. If you are still using print, add a QR code that will lead students to relevant and reliable resources on the internet, including videos. If you are using digital textbooks, integration is even easier. And if you are using video, do me one favor – always turn on the subtitles since this doubles the chances of a student becoming good at reading .
– Diane Janknegt