Supported eText Theoretical Foundations Background

The concept of “supported text” was first developed by Anderson-Inman and Horney (1998; 1999) to describe electronic text that is modified or enhanced in ways that support student comprehension and extend student learning. The underlying assumption of “supported text” is that electronic text (e.g., a word, phrase, paragraph, page, or document) can be linked to additional text or other types of media in ways that promote better understanding of what the author intended to communicate. In addition, the concept assumes that electronic text can be structurally presented or organized in ways that accommodate to individual learning needs/styles or facilitate the accomplishment of targeted instructional objectives. Together, it is assumed that these enhancements can help readers overcome the conceptual and comprehension hurdles found in the text materials they are asked to read.

From multiple research projects focused on investigating the nature and impact of supportive electronic text, Anderson-Inman and Horney developed a typology to describe the specific types of resources that can be developed for electronic text. In earlier publications they describe eight different types of supportive resources that can be used to make the process of reading a specific text easier or more educational (Anderson-Inman & Horney, 1998; Horney & Anderson-Inman, 1999). Unlike typologies suggested by instructional design or educational psychology (e.g. Alessi & Trollip, 2001; Mayer, 2001), the resources in this list do not focus on what media is being used to modify or enhance the electronic text, but rather what function the supportive resource plays in the reading and learning process.  Any specific type of resource can be implemented in a variety of different ways, using any number of different media.

In other words, these resources are distinguished on the basis of the role they play in the process of reading and learning, not on the basis of their media. This typology has evolved and expanded over time. The most recent description of the types of supportive resources that can be paired with, embedded in, or linked to electronic text appears in an article by Anderson-Inman (2004) where nine types of supportive resources are described and illustrated. Quoting from this:

Presentational Resource: Presentational resources allow the text to be presented in a way that is most effective for individual readers.

Navigational Resource: Navigational resources provide the reader with easy movement from one part of a document to another part, or from one document to another document.

Translational Resource: Translational resources provide a reader with a familiar or more understandable version of a word, phrase, or paragraph that is difficult to comprehend.

Illustrative Resource: Illustrative resources provide the reader with assistance in visualizing concepts, objects, and processes.

Summarizing Resource: Summarizing resources provide the reader with a condensed way of viewing some aspect of the document.

Enrichment Resource: Enrichment resources provide the reader with information that is related to the text, but not strictly necessary for understanding what is written.

Instructional Resource: Instructional resources provide the reader with prompts or instruction designed to facilitate successful reading and learning within the text.

Notational Resource: Notational resources provide the reader with tools for marking, commenting on, or taking notes from the text.

Collaborative Resource: Collaborative resources provide a reader with tools for reading and studying a text in collaboration with another reader, the author, or some other relevant person.

More information about these resource types is provided in the NCSeT Typology article in this section.  

These supportive resources are not mutually exclusive. Any given feature in an electronic text may serve more than one function and therefore serve as more than one type of supportive resource. For example, in the ELF version of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales ( ), the reader is able to select one of several options for displaying the text, allowing the reader to have both the Old English and the Modern English version of a specific tale on the screen at the same time. This feature is both a presentational resource (in that it allows customization of the display to match the reader’s needs) and also a translational resource (in that it translates archaic words with unfamiliar spellings into modern equivalents). Similarly, a Table of Contents can be both a summarizing resource and a navigational resource. The list of chapters or sections within the digital text serves as a summarizing resource because it provides an overview of what is contained in the document. If each item in the Table of Contents is also linked to the section containing that content, and is also a navigational resource by facilitating movement within the document.