Sunday, January 2, 2011

Digital Textbooks

At the Apple Education Leadership Summit last March I went to a presentation about a school district that was eliminating paper textbooks and moving to eBooks or online resources.  Today I read a report entitled From Paper to Pixel, which started me thinking again about digital textbooks.  Here are some of the advantages outlined in the report:

Supporting 21st Century Learners
I read somewhere today that we have 21st century learners in 20th century classrooms learning 19th century curriculum.  Textbooks definitely seem to be a relic of 20th century schools, and as students today engage with materials in a different way the onus is on teachers to change the way they teach – and perhaps digital textbooks or books with links to websites and further resources make the content more engaging and the students more motivated.  We need to give our students the tools they need to communicate and collaborate in new ways that are more relevant to them.

Promoting Good Teaching
Students using digital textbooks can access the most recent information –printed books are quickly outdated by the ever-changing nature of information.  Multimedia can provide support for students with learning needs and allow teachers to differentiate more.

Improving Technology Integration
Because all students need to be able to access their digital textbooks, this will promote schools adopting a 1:1 programme. 

Financial Savings
I have no idea how much money is spent by schools on textbooks, but I do know that they are often very expensive and need replacing every 5-6 years.  Schools using digital textbooks can receive updated information by the publisher, without having to replace the entire textbook.

Health and Safety
Studies have shown that the amount of weight being carried by students in backpacks is more than recommended – leading to health and safety issues.  In my last school where there was a 1:1 programme, students didn’t carry books at all – they just carried their tablets with them and accessed everything through the school portal.

The Environment
I’m not sure how much the environment is protected by using digital textbooks – when you consider the amount of energy that has to be created to access them.  However the costs of paper textbooks include the high energy use and pollution related to printing and transporting books, deforestation, and issues of disposal, and recycling.

Photo Credit:  Reading Short Stories on the iPod by The Unquiet Library

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