Welcome to the first article in our ‘iPads in Education’ series. We will be using these blog posts to discuss important issues and developments at the intersection of education and technology – as well as to share relevant information for anyone who uses technology in the classroom.
2012 is looking to be the biggest year yet for iPad adoption in K-12 schools – in fact Apple reports that American educational institutions are now purchasing iPads at approximately twice the rate of Mac computers. As students trade in their textbooks for tablets, many parents and educators have begun asking questions about the health implications of reading on LCD screens for extended periods of time. In order to help adults and children make informed decisions about their technology usage, Subtext has gathered the following information along with links to relevant articles and studies.
What is the Primary Cause of Eye Strain?
Research has shown that electronic screens themselves do not cause eye strain – rather is a combination of reading ergonomics, font size, external lighting and the reader’s rate of blinking that can cause discomfort or long-term vision problems. Early model computer monitors were notorious for causing eye strain primarily because they suffered from choppy, sluggish refresh rates (responsible for the flickering effect on antiquated screens) and displayed jagged, low resolution text that is difficult for the eye to process. The iPad’s refresh rate and display resolution do a much better job of approximating (and even exceeding in the case of the iPad 3’s retina display) the capabilities of the human eye. This means that there is no difference between reading text on an iPad screen or on a printed page if all other viewing conditions are equal.
What Other Factors Cause Eye Strain?
Inadequate external lighting conditions are a major cause of reading discomfort. Anyone who has tried to use an iPad in direct sunlight knows that the reflected light causes screen glare that can make the device difficult to see. Poor viewing conditions require eye muscles to work harder and consequently tire out more easily. Because of this it is recommended that both children and adults stay indoors and away from windows with direct sunlight when using the iPad for any extended length of time.
Font size also plays a major role in eye strain. Reading applications like Subtext contain settings which allows the reader to adjust the text of the book larger or smaller. If your eyes are fatigued, it is recommended that you try increasing the font size to make the text easier to read.
It is also important to be aware that reading of any kind is a high-intensity activity requiring approximately 10,000 eye movements per hour. This is why you should be sure to take regular breaks from reading to allow your eyes to rest – regardless of whether you read on an iPad or with paper books. In addition, most people blink less often than normal when they are using any kind of screen so taking regular breaks also helps to ensure that your eyes stay properly lubricated.
More Tips for Comfortable and Healthy Reading:
- Adjust your screen brightness manually to find the best contrast for your particular reading conditions (don’t rely on the iPad’s auto-brightness sensors).
- Try switching to White on Black mode (located in the Accessibility section of your iPad’s General Settings menu) to improve the clarity of text. This setting reverses the screen’s colors temporarily.
- Take periodic breaks whenever you are engaged in long reading sessions by looking away from the screen and focusing on a distant object for 20 seconds.
- If you experience repeated headaches or other symptoms when using an iPad, contact your doctor or healthcare specialist.
Stay tuned for more “iPads in Education” blog posts from Subtext – and happy reading!