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I would say that both tablets and textbooks have their pros and cons. A tablet can provide cheaper access to materials. Ebooks are less expensive and less difficult to produce. Ebooks are certainly easier to carry around with you. However, the printed textbook has advantages as well. For one thing, you can write in your textbook with a freedom that is lacking in an ebook. Oh sure some ebooks will allow you to highlight, but with an actual paper and pen you can make notes or marks in the way that works best for you. Textbooks are less distracting and can offer a clarity that might be lacking in an ebook. For instance, a certain textbook I used recently had several key maps that the reader would need to access. In the ebook version, the maps were so small and pixelated that they were virtually illegible. The textbook version was much larger and clearer.
I agree with much of what #8 says, but from a district standpoint the tablet as a whole could save money over textbooks. One textbook runs from $60-$100, depending on the subject. If a student is issued 6 books in a year the cost of the tablet is easily covered, as districts get a nice discount on bulk purchases.
If a student were to use that tablet for two or three years, a substantial savings over traditional textbooks could be realized. Obviously there is a large initial start up cost, but in the long run the research I have seen shows that if a district can make the initial purchase it would be a long term cost saver.
Again, I agree with many of your concerns, but I feel the cost could actually be a benefit of the tablets in the near future.
Technology is great for so many things, but there are some things that will never be replaced. Textbooks in schools is one of those things and here's a few reasons why.
A textbook doesn't have a hard drive that can get infected with viruses and crash when it does; A textbook doesn't get fried if water, soda pop, or coffee get spilled on it. Its pages may get wet, but when the book dries out the information is still there (may be smudged or wrinkled); A textbook doesn't have to be recharged when the battery runs down; A textbook usually costs less than a tablet and is therefore more affordable; Not everybody can operate a tablet efficiently but everybody can read; Younger students may not take as good a care of a tablet as they would a book.
In the school where I teach, students start learning how to work on a laptop in the 5th grade. Before that time they aren't considered as reliable, as responsible, or as knowledgeable as an older student is. So, they use textbooks. There is talk of eventually switching to tablet use but it isn't considered economical or feasible at this time.
I agree with those that have pointed out that students may have trouble taking care of tablets. A lot of students I have taught (in fact, I'd guess most students I've taught) couldn't afford an insurance policy, nor could they afford to replace the tablet if something happened to it. It's something that I support in principle, but I have trouble imagining how it could work, or how it would be better than textbooks, in most of the environments I've taught in.
My school district that I teach in is extremely pro-technology. All of the schools are 'open' technology campuses, so the students can use their iPads, phones, tablets, or any kind of technology during the school day. I am all for issuing the students a tablet that their textbooks can be downloaded to. As for students damaging or losing them, my school district makes the students pay for an 'insurance' policy on it up front, so if the item gets lost, stolen, or damaged, it can be replaced. Then when the students graduate, they have the option of buying their tablet to keep for college.
One point that you might make against tablets is that they are much less durable than books. It is pretty easy to destroy a tablet by doing the sorts of things that students are fairly likely to do. For example, a tablet that is stuffed in a backpack and thrown around a lot could easily break where a book could not.
I have had a number of students I tutor over the summer use tablets. Here are some things I have noticed.
First, not all tablets are created equal. Some are much easier to use than others. On some you can highlight in different colors and make notes, on others you can only highlight in one color and some don't let you make notes.
Second, tablets make it harder to flip through to look for something. On the other hand, you can search. However, some people are visual. They know the approximate location of something in a book, and can't search because they don't know what they're searching for!
Finally, one of the best things about tablets is that you can load multiple books. However, going from one book to another can be harder on some tablets than others. It's also harder to share books.
One of my colleagues and I are going to test tablets loaded with ebooks this coming fall in lieu of textbooks. The tablets will be password protected so they cannot get on the internet, because #1 makes a good point about that. The advantages that we see are that the tablets will be much cheaper than books, and the texts are what are called "flex books", which means that the teacher can change the order of chapters or edit, add, or delete material, and the books will always be up to date. Since we teach science, this is important to us.
To best facilitate concentration, text books seem like the better option for students. Tablets with internet capability present a potentially constant source of distraction. Textbooks, clearly, do not present a similar potential problem.
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