Thursday, February 11, 2016

Online Textbooks

It is the 21st century and everything around us is going digital. Almost all of our important information anymore is kept in some kind of a computer, electronic text, or cloud based format. This includes everything from the photos from your last vacation to the emails and documents we use on a daily basis. School districts are no different. More and more of them are turning to more electronic means of storage, teaching, and learning. Some schools are now even completely online! But is this really the best thing for the students? Is there any real benefit for things like textbooks to be online?

I simply say no, it does not always benefit the students and here’s why:

The idea of books being online is great in theory. There is less paper and it’s cheaper because books get worn down and stuff happens to them. The online versions cost less and give students the same information etc. etc. But guess what students don’t learn near as well reading off of a computer screen!! Students obtain much more information and are much more likely to remember it if they read a physical copy than if they read an online resource. There are tons of studies out there that show students will score higher when put in both situations. Is the money really worth having the students learn less? I don’t think so. We need to look at the progress of students and how well they do with the electronic versions of things like textbooks.

Now don’t get me wrong there are a few things nice about having an online textbook. I no longer have to carry around that 40 lb. chemistry book and students can’t say they forgot it in their locker. I’m also not going to lie and say that I haven’t used an e-book or two to save money and I loved the fact that I could use ctrl F and search the entire document. But there is something to be said for having the book in your hand and feeling it.  It engages the reader more and often makes them feel like the information is more relevant.

Then there is the fact that it is hard on your eyes to constantly be looking at a bright screen all day. Ask almost any computer programmer or someone with a strictly desk job in front of a computer. More often than not they say sometimes their eyes hurt or they get headaches from it. Leaving students in front of a monitor all the time isn’t the best thing for them.

Overall e-books have their ups and downs. However, I think we need to look at the quality of information we are giving students. If scores on assessments would be better with a physical book why try to rethink the wheel. E-text has its time and place but I don’t think it should be in the everyday k-12 classroom.