Tablets taking over textbooks

By Ryan Graham
October 14, 2013

The pros of using tablets over textbooks have numerous points in their favor and the statistics to back up their argument. However the cons aren’t far behind on why the transition of the two would be a bad idea.

Some pros on tablets over textbooks are that tablets help students learn more material faster. 81 percent of K-12 teachers believe that tablets enrich classroom education. Tablets also help to improve student achievements on standardized tests. They help students better prepare for a world immersed in technology. Tablets also lower the amount of papers teachers have to print for handouts and assignments. Even high-level education officials support tablets over textbooks.

Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and Federal Communications Commission chair, Julius Genachowski, said that schools and publishers should “ switch to digital textbooks within the next five years to foster interactive education, save money on books and ensure classrooms in the U.S. use up-to-date content.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education and studies done by the National Training and Simulation Association, technology-based instruction can reduce the time students take to reach a learning objective by 30-80 percent.

Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt tested an interactive, digital version of an Algebra 1 textbook on a tablet in California’s Riverside Unified School District. Students who used the tablet version scored 20 percent higher on standardized tests vs. students who learned with traditional textbooks. Tablets help students learn technology skills early in life and will better prepare them to pursue relevant careers later in life.  The fastest growing and highest paying jobs in the United States are technology intensive.

Lowering the amount of papers will help save the environment and money. A school with 100 teachers uses on average 250,000 pieces of paper annually. A school of 100 students on average spends between $3 – 4 thousand a month on paper, ink and toner, not counting printer wear and tear or technical support costs.

The cons have solid rebuttals to back their argument. Using tablets is more expensive than using print textbooks. People who read print text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read digital text. Tablets enable students to cut corners or cheat on schoolwork and that tablets shift the focus of learning from the teacher to the technology.

Implementing tablets in K-12 schools requires purchasing tablets and e-books, building a new wi-fi infrastructure and training teachers and administrators how to use the technology. The brain interprets printed and digital text in different ways and people generally read digital text 20-30 percent slower than print, supporting the fact that people who read print text comprehend more than those who read digital text.

Students can easily avoid reading and analyzing texts on their own because they can quickly look up passages in an e-book and search for answers on the internet. The change in focus of learning from the teacher to the technology marginalizes decades of learned wisdom in the teaching profession in favor of an unproven technology. Technology gets in the way and makes learning and teaching more burdensome.

Personally, my take on the argument over tablets vs. textbooks is that in reality tablets would just make communication of outside of school easier for students and teachers. All types of applications and programs on tablets can allow students to have better access to homework, study-guides, test reviews, upcoming tests and papers.

The argument that it will cost more is really just showing that you’re not willing to do all you can do to better your child’s chances of thriving in his or her education.

We are living in a world engulfed by technology, having students use tablets will just better their education in a high-paying and demanding market and will give them a chance to revolutionize the education techniques and studies.

Using a tablet is so intuitive that it makes learning fun and easy. In fact, the One Laptop Per Child organization dropped off closed boxes containing tablets pre-loaded with educational apps taped shut with no instruction in two isolated villages in Ethiopia. Within five days, elementary school-age students without prior education were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs and within five months they had successfully hacked the tablet’s operating system and customized the desktop settings.

Ryan Graham

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