Print vs. Digital: The Third Option
The debate over whether The New York Times should be read in print or digitally doesn't need to be so two-sided. And really, when we ask if students should be reading the New York Times in print or digitally, we are asking the wrong question. The real question we should be asking is how can we maximize the worth of reading The New York Times for students, and I believe the answer to that question is to allow the students to choose between the print and digital editions independently.
There are several reasons this is the ideal solution. The first is a matter of practicality; if a person subscribes to the print edition of The New York Times, they also get an unlimited online subscription. Why not utilize this resource? It gives students who do not subscribe to the daily paper an opportunity to stay current on the news, and allows teachers to more easily distribute articles to their students using DePaul's online-based assignment system. But for those who do not like reading online, for any reason, the print edition is still available. The physical copy of the paper also allows teachers who don't like laptops in their classrooms to talk about specific articles in a group setting.
Most importantly, the choice between mediums gives the students the greatest possible chances to read the paper, creating a reading habit that will make the paper, and by extension the class, far more fulfilling.
That comprehension is often shown by annotation of the article, but I don't think that annotation is the only way. Having students write about the articles they just read, whether that be a more abstract journal entry or a tight summary process like a rhetorical precis, can be just as effective, and once again allows students choice in how they complete their assignment. Many online readers supplement the ability to write in the margins with rereading or note-taking, and I see no reason why that can't work just as well. This kind of flexibility will produce better work from the students, since they are able to work within a system that's better for them.
With this compromise, many of the other issues brought up in the two-sided debate become irrelevant, because it's no longer a choice made in the hopeful interest of the student; it is a choice made by the student. I believe that college students can be trusted with choosing the method that works better for them, and that giving them this choice will make them more active participants and learners in the classroom.