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Are Textbooks Becoming Obsolete?

textbooks becoming obsolete

Technology, the classroom, and the future of learning

Textbooks and digital media in the classroom is nothing new. Yet, the popularity of the digital devices has sparked interest into whether it is beneficial for such technology to be dominant over the textbook. While higher learning institutes have long since embraced the digital delivery of information and courses, the core education levels (that being k-12) have begun to transition in some areas to more digital delivery. The question which arises when primary and elementary schools start to do such is “are textbooks becoming obsolete” and if so “how will this effect learning and development”.

Technology meets reading

When considering the technology in the classrooms, one of the first things that comes to mind is the Chromebook. Youth as young as 6 years old are being taught how to use the technology to conduct reading activities. Slow integration of modern technology is needed, as we live in a technological world. However, studies have shown that there is a negative effect on children’s bodies when they use a tablet over a book. Time reports that “when volunteers read from electronic devices, they had shorter REM sleep, the stage in which memories are consolidated and the brain refreshes itself, than when they read from printed books.” Additionally, studies have shown that too much time staring at tablets and smartphones can negatively affect the eyes.

On a positive note, electronic books have had various studies conducted which have shown that younger learners tend to retain the knowledge presented in tablet form. Interactions between the book, 3D models, quizzes, and animations, help to solidify the lessons which are presented. Where technology meets reading, teachers in many schools limit the time in which tablet access is allowed, minimizing health risks and encouraging “traditional” reading techniques. However, like most learning, a child’s development is primarily based upon the option that a parent chooses while outside of the classroom. While the retaining of information from scholastic books may be higher with digital technology, the ability to think creatively may diminish. A balance is needed.

Building creativity and exploration

While it is debatable, the effectiveness of reading, math, and science can play on the brain when presented on a tablet rather than in a textbook. One area which does not have a great deal of debate is on the creativity applications and software that tablets provide over the textbook. Simulations as well as augmented reality and animations have allowed for students to grasp complex concepts. Classes in coding and technology development allow for students to gain not only an understanding of the technological world without a textbook, but also to acquire marketable skills for later in life. Additionally, students in the higher core grades can use their creative abilities, in some cases, to create 3D content, Code, or apps which can be synced to their mobile devices and then uploaded (outside of school of course) to sites such as CGTrader.

The negative aspect of using digital content for creativity is that there may be too much of a dependence upon the tool and not enough focus on the creative part of the process. Textbooks, especially those which limit the pictures and visual content, force the reader to use the visual part of his or her brain to create and piece together the story. Additionally, as text books are not hands on, those which rely upon them encourage additional learning and exploration to get that experience. Arguably, one could state that tablets allow for the base of hands on activity which textbooks could not provide and encourages activity outside of the classroom by getting the student “hooked” on a topic.

The real factor

While debating the issues of whether textbooks will become obsolete or not is something which should be considered, the real factor for this argument is not in the health risks, the learning capabilities, or ethics, but rather in the availability for educational material to be presented for cheap. Textbooks have a tendency to run rather expensive with little ROI. The books get damaged, both from accidental and intentional wear and tear, are cumbersome, and are limited to sharing information to the person holding the book. Digital tablets and devices provide a means of streaming to multiple students, are lighter, and overall have a higher ROI. While the technology may be more expensive at first, schools have found that the long-term costs are better for the budget.

So while the textbook may not be obsolete, the tablet is sure to become the dominant learning platform. Parents who are concerned about their child lacking in development are encouraged to keep books in the home, work one-on-one with your child, and to attend school meetings to voice your concerns. However, keep in mind that we are in a digital media age, and even this article was presented to you in such a format.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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