Digital Age Kills Textbooks

In our ever growing technological age, I understand the value of keeping up with technology and know its invaluable place in education. As a high school teacher, I enjoy using tablets and cell phones in the classroom for engaging, interactive learning, and I appreciate learning about new applications from research and from my peers. By teaching students with current technology, we will prepare them for their college years and future careers. In fact, the most successful people are ideas people, and by cultivating meaningful, problem-based learning through technological projects that promote thoughtful inquiry, we can lead students towards that path.

In an effort to stay current in this digital age, many schools are having a 1:1 model, meaning all students have a tablet or ipad that essentially replaces their textbooks. I believe as a teacher, it is my responsibility to adapt to new teaching strategies and learning initiatives, but I do not think that means I have to support abolishing text books. Can these values be mutually exclusive?

Digital Age Kills Textbooks

I grew up in a home where if you didn’t know something, mom sent you downstairs to look it up in the Encyclopedia. During family dinners, we challenged one another with new vocabulary words and used our thick, trusty red Webster’s Dictionary regularly. I still have my all-in-one dictionary/thesaurus my parents got me for a gift when I was younger and truly cherish it. However, we were also very hip with technology; some of my best memories come from playing Reader Rabbit and The Oregon Trail on our massive computer. And oh yes, we had three laser disk players at one time. So I think you can say I come from a family who values technology and traditional books.

Pros of ipads

By investing in one piece of technology, you can replace a whole locker’s worth of textbooks. In fact, you can also clear out those disorganized folders, stuffed with papers, homework, notes, and handouts. This is not only extremely convenient for students but useful for teachers to use this technology in the classroom. While smart phones have many capabilities, and I love using them for certain lessons, not every student has a highly functioning phone (why do all teenagers seem to shatter their phone screens as a hobby?). If all students had iPads, teachers could create highly engaging lessons that appeal to students; if students are interested in the mode of learning, they will be more apt to use the technology for the task instead of mindless internet surfing. Textbooks can easily become outdated, but internet sources and online books can stay relevant very easily.

Cons of replacing textbooks

Last year, I tutored a few students who had online textbooks, and let me tell you, it was a frustrating mess. We spent most of the time “flipping” through the “book,” attempting to navigate to the parts we needed to study. When we were answering questions that went in order of the chapter, it wasn’t a huge issue, but when we wanted to synthesize material across multiple chapters and sections, there was a giant disconnect in learning. Physical cons of online textbooks include computer vision syndrome, eye strain, headaches, and trouble sleeping, not to mention the cost and issues with technology. Sure, you eliminate the whole “my dog at my homework” excuse, but teachers will be susceptible to a whole new age line of excuses, that may or may not be true. Technology is a beautiful thing, when it works.

There’s something about paper…

I struggle with the part of me that values embracing technology and the part of me that needs paper. I need to flip through a book and annotate with a pen as I read. I need the ability to read a chapter, then go back a few paragraphs or pages and re-read to really retain and understand the information. I need to feel a real book with actual pages in my hand. I need to have multiple books open while conducting research and go back and forth between them as I hand write my notes. I need this because I learn better this way. Reading from a book and writing down my notes helps me remember. Writing notes in my own words in my own hand writing helps me retain concepts.

I realize you can read and take notes online; you can have multiple tabs open to cross-reference articles. However, my eyes and brain need a break from the computer. When I’m on the computer, there are too many temptations and distractions at my fingertip, so I am not as productive. Earlier tonight, I was writing down notes for a future blog post; there is just something about taking my favorite pen to paper to organize my thoughts that makes me feel happy, focused, and productive.

I also realize books are online, but I still need a real book to flip through, not only for a comforting, enhanced reading experience, but to be able to annotate and flip back and forth. When I read, I like to engage, and I prefer to engage with real pages. Is that so wrong? Can I have my technological cake with a side of good old fashioned paper and eat it too?

Side note:

While I love using technology, I do not think it’s the only way to teach an engaging lesson. Some of my most cherished lessons and classes come from no technology. What were some of your most valuable and memorable classes?

How do you feel about getting rid of textbooks? Do I seem hypocritical for wanting to embrace technology yet cling on to traditional books?