There's no right or wrong answer as to whether textbooks or computers are better learning tools for students in the classroom. Many teachers incorporate both into their instructional methods because each has advantages and disadvantages. Some parents, especially those who didn't grow up with computers and advanced technology, might want their children to experience traditional textbook learning. Others might be open to replacing textbooks with computers, as long as test scores and learning benchmarks are met.
Cost of Laptops or Tablets
One of the major hindrances to replacing textbooks with computers or electronic tablets is cost. Even though textbooks can be expensive, they last for years without extensive repairs and don't require upgrades or maintenance. Some school districts can't afford to replace textbooks with computers. For example, in 2013, the Jefferson City Public Schools in Missouri purchased nearly 2,000 new iPads at $379 each, according to an article by Kris Hilgedick of the News Tribune. The total purchase cost was $750,000, and students didn't even receive individual tablets -- each class, including the primary teacher, received six iPads. Laptop computers and tablets for every student was too costly.
Broader Scope of Educational Materials
Computers offer a wider range of educational materials than standard textbooks. Content in a textbook never changes, improves or updates until a completely new textbook is published. However, the world is at your fingertips with computers and tablets. Software programs are available in nearly every subject, and online resources are plentiful. Online content is continually updated with real-time information, and students can read about current events. Computers and tablets store many e-textbooks, reducing the weight of students' backpacks and creating more space in classrooms, desks and lockers.
Despite the convenience of e-books, questions remain about their overall user-friendliness. For example, replacing textbooks with computers requires both teachers and students to have technical skills. Teachers must be able to troubleshoot program glitches and figure out why individual computers and tablets aren't performing as expected. Students, especially younger ones, may find it difficult to grasp the technical aspects of computers. Then there is the eye strain issue. Jim Johnson, director of instructional and information technology services at Indiana State University and research leader on a digital textbook study, concludes that eye strain and technical problems are two of the biggest drawbacks to replacing hard-copy textbooks with digital versions.
Ethical and Security Considerations
Individual classroom computers or tablets create new cheating possibilities. Students might download papers rather than create their own work, or look up answers to math problems, quizzes and tests. Teachers can't look over the students' shoulders all the time to ensure they're using computer resources in ethical ways. Furthermore, some students might test the limits by researching inappropriate content, visiting adult websites or hacking the school's security programs.
- News Tribune:Textbooks Vs. Tablets: Schools Begin Exploring Transformation in Learning Tools
- Scholastic: The End of Text Books?
- ABC News: Schools Dump Textbooks for iPods, Laptops
- Chicago Tribune: Pros and Cons of Digital Textbooks
- Indiana State University: Research Shows Students Perform Well Regardless of Reading Print or Digital Books
- Photo Credit Shalom Ormsby/Blend Images/Getty Images
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