CaN yOu ReAd ThIs?

So many fun things to explore in this suggestion that students learn better from materials printed in harder-to-read fonts. First, I have only skimmed and not read the source paper, but they do acknowledge up front that this is part of a larger body of work that suggests that students learn better and retain their knowledge longer when they have to exert more thought in obtaining the information or knowledge. What is novel is that something as simple as the presentation font can trigger this effect. I liked the finding that just shaking a page while copying it to make it a bit blurry can have the same effect as well. One wonders if poor handwriting when commenting on student papers could be argued to have educational benefit, though of course that benefit would only accrue in cases where the comments were read (and the article concedes that text that becomes too challenging to read may dissuade the student from trying to understand the content at all, leading to a worse outcome than the simple-to-read text).
There is an interesting comment on the weblog entry describing the story that the researchers claim but do not rigorously establish the difficulty in reading these fonts, and that the “readable” font chosen was not designed for running text but rather for titles or the like. While I’m not sure the design intentions are relevant here, some data on time-to-read or imaging of brain activity while reading texts in these fonts would be interesting to solidify the claim that the fonts take different amounts of cognitive effort to process.

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