Scrolls in the classroom

Summer break is a great time to discover new ideas!


Scrolls open new avenues for reading research:

  • They enable us to see the content in our books — both bound and digital — from an entirely new perspective.
  • They help teachers teach, and students learn.
  • They bring a new understanding of comprehension and learning differences.
  • They help differently-abled individuals like myself become successful and active participants in the culture of ideas.

I'd like to collaborate on research. Interested? Or know somebody who might be? Let me know!




Hi, Dave -

Thanks for highlighting the benefits of using scrolls in the classroom.  I think this is an important topic for more research.  In addition to the benefits you've mentioned here, I also think that they have the potential to help learners develop storyboarding skills, which are applicable to careers in media, advertising, and business, to name a few. 

Teaching strategies that support learners' comprehension of materials and, at the same time, help to develop a career-related skill set, is another reason we should be using scrolls with adult learners.

What are the questions that you're interested in focusing on in your research?



Disabilities in Adult Education Moderator

Hi Mike.  Thanks for acknowledging the potential value of research on scrolls (Why Use Scrolls?).  Ebooks have led researchers to describe some of the advantages of paper over digital.  Scrolls could add real and substantial value to the ongoing work in understanding how the form of our books impacts how we read and what we learn.

I hadn't thought of storyboarding, or its link to career-related skill-sets.  Interesting example.  I like it.  On a similar line of thought, I have been told that textbook designers often work this way -- hanging all of the pages of a chapter on a wall, so that they can see the whole thing.  Again, this is a link to a concrete, career-related skill.

As to my research questions: There are many.  I'll start with these general questions:

  • Does the size and comprehensiveness of a display matter?  Does it matter whether or not we can see the text as a whole rather than in a series of screens?  Does it matter whether we read/teach/learn from books displayed on cell phones versus laptops versus paper books versus unrolled scrolls?  How do the specific attributes of the text -- type of text (picture book versus treatise), subject matter, reading difficulty, lots of typographic sign-posts versus just plain, undecorated words -- and the reader's purpose impact the answer to this question?  And how does all this impact teaching and learning?  My bet is that display-size and whole-display/comprehensiveness matter a great deal -- especially to teaching and learning.  But for now, that's just my bet.
  • How do readers navigate books on cell phones versus laptops versus paper books versus unrolled scrolls.  How do text attributes and reader's purpose impact this?  And how does all this impact teaching and learning?  My guess is navigation matters a great deal -- especially to teaching and learning -- and that there are far more ways to navigate and far more handles for navigation on scrolls than on any of our books.  Again, that's just what I think.  The research could show otherwise. 
  • Which is better for comprehension: paper or digital?  How do text attributes and reader's purpose impact this?  And how does all this impact teaching and learning?  My guess is that the sensory feedback from paper is critical -- and that the much, much richer sensory feedback from scrolls is far and away the reason why scrolls will, I think, be found to be much better for teaching and learning than any of our books, paper or digital.  Of course, that's just what I think.  The research could lead to a completely different answer.
  • Are our books part of the problem for some readers?  Do some readers do better with scrolls?  How do text attributes and reader's purpose impact this?  And how does all this impact teaching and learning?  And what does all this tell us about "learning disabilities".​  My bet is that books are a real and substantial part of the problem, and that this realization will lead to a far greater emphasis on, and appreciation of, learning differences and accessibility. 

So those are a few questions to start with.  Please share Why Use Scrolls? with your colleagues -- and most especially the researchers and teacher-researchers who you know.


- Dave    



Hi David,

I'm so excited to see the work you've done with scrolls! I'm a teacher-researcher who's used scrolls in a very different way. I used them as a replacement for textbooks, to create a student-centered curriculum. Using a large roll of buther paper, I cut and tape a 6' x 3' piece on the wall and draw a chart with headings that relate to students' lives and they dictate to me to fill in information. Later, I type up the charts and pass them out and they're the foundation of our lesson plans and activities. I've presented the scroll-based curriculum at conferences as part of culturally responsive teaching, using the Mutually Adaptive Learning Paradigm as the model of instruction. Would love to continue the discussion. I'd love to share the slides, which have been uploaded to NYS TESOL website, but I don't know how else to make them available.

Looking forward to more discussion!