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Title:Using information theory to analyze multimodal readability
Author(s):Hovious, Amanda
Subject(s):Information theory
Transinformation analysis
Born-digital documents
Abstract:Educators frequently inquire about the readability of documents used in classrooms, due to the belief that text complexity is related to students’ reading comprehension and growth. Because documents used in classrooms tend to be language-based, common readability metrics focus on the complexity of language. For multimodal documents, there are no commonly used metrics for analyzing readability. This is problematic because multimodal reading is increasingly recognized as a 21st-century skill. One potential solution is found in Weltner’s transinformation analysis, an information theoretic approach to readability that uses entropy to measure the difference between objective information (e.g., pixel intensity) and subjective information (e.g., think-aloud screen recordings, oral retellings). A higher transinformation value in a multimodal document reflects greater information complexity and a more difficult level of readability. This study experimented with transinformation analysis and content analysis to measure the multimodal readability of a born-digital story. Fifteen eighth-grade advanced readers served as the study population. Findings showed that 14 out of 15 of the readers attended to less than half the information in the story. Their mean readability score was .57, indicating higher than average information complexity. Readers attended to and recalled information predominantly from the text mode, which may have been a strategy for reducing information load or it may have reflected their beliefs that reading is a language-based activity. It appeared that these strong traditional readers were weak multimodal readers. The study’s findings have implications for the need to create more opportunities for multimodal reading experiences in today’s classrooms and libraries.
Issue Date:2021-09-20
Reading and reading practices
Information practices
Young adult services
School libraries
Genre:Conference Poster
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17

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