Because of the advances in technology, educational methods have been changed forever in recent years. The use of computers, tablets, and other electronic devices have been implemented in classrooms all over the world, making students much more tech-savvy as well as providing motivation to perform their academic responsibilities. However, some educators as well as parents are lamenting about the increasing obsolescence of textbooks, and books in general, as a source of cultivating and preserving a variety of skills in students. This paper will discuss the benefits and disadvantages of using tablets as opposed to textbooks, supporting the idea that using tablets in lieu of textbooks provide many advantages that outweigh the drawbacks.
The benefits of using tablets are several; Pro-Con.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that addresses educational issues, points out that publishing for the kindergarten through 12 school market involves three companies that comprise an $8 billion industry, while tablets, which have certainly become more common in American households, are a $72 billion industry (Should Tablets Replace Textbooks in K-12 Schools? 2014.) Because tablets have become so much more available to both adults and children, the issue of whether school districts should change over from using print textbooks in favor of tablets containing digital textbooks has been a modern debate in the education field. People who support the use of tablets in the classroom believe that the majority of teachers as well as students are in favor of the change, in part because the tablets are physically much lighter than textbooks, and as a result, students are more likely to carry them to and from school. This has resulted in improvements in standardized test scores.
Since tablets can contain hundreds of textbooks, they are also beneficial for the environment because they reduce the number of books printed. In addition, they increase interactivity between students, as well as fostering the creative element of talents for children. Perhaps most importantly, digital textbooks are far less expensive than traditional books published on paper.According to an article by The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, there is also growing evidence that students are able to comprehend and retain information better with tablets that with textbooks (Schumacher, 2013.) According to one report that was focused on academic use of electronic devices has led to the growth of tablets to increase exponentially, a study that was conducted using students and algebra indicated that there was a measurable increase in the scores of students who used tablets when compared to those students who did not.
As the NEA points out, although using tablets may appear to be extremely appealing on a number of levels, there are also some drawbacks that are important to consider. People who criticize the use of tablets in the classroom cite the fact that they are very expensive, and are easily broken. In addition, when they are in need of repair, the costs are usually significant as well is time-consuming (Alvarez, 2013.) Because tablets are so appealing to so many, theft has become a problem as well, in comparison to school textbooks which are rarely stolen. In addition, using traditional textbooks prevents Wi-Fi connections from being “tapped out” (Alvarez, 2013.) If the academic settings do not have the adequate infrastructure in place, then using tablets can expose the children to connections that are slow or even completely dead.
Some people hesitate to use tablets instead of textbooks because of the constantly advancing nature of digital technology. There is a great concern that these improvements are being updated and upgraded on a regular basis, so that the need for newer, more expensive tablets that are more efficient will be an ongoing expense for school systems. This contrasts with textbooks, which are revised every few years at most, and so the replacement costs are relatively low. In addition, in order to use textbooks, teachers and students have no need for technological support; school budgets have so much difficulty meeting their expenses that adding in a budget for tech support could additionally strain school systems. Finally, if classrooms completely switch over to tablets, educators will need to develop a set of standards about their use: matters such as when to allow students to take the tablets home and what to do if a student breaks a tablet are all policy issues that must be developed in addition to all of the other standards that must be set by school administrators.
After carefully considering the points made by both sides of the tablet versus textbook argument, my conclusion is that not only is it inevitable that tablets will be used more frequently in the classrooms instead of textbooks, but that will be a beneficial transformation for all involved. One of my most pressing arguments for my position is that anything that will increase the likelihood that students will read and study more in order to complete their school work is beneficial for the students themselves, over the long and short-term, and the teachers as well. Teachers spend a great deal of time dealing with the matter of students not completing assignments because they have not brought their books home with them, and having to grade students downward because they have not followed through with assignments.
My experience has been that students are very responsive to electronic devices, and the lightness of tablets as well as their amazing capacity to access virtually any information quickly is an appealing aspect of using tablets in schools. Although I think it would be a shame if books became completely obsolete or nonexistent, I think that they can be used for students regarding library books for other types of assignments because it is important to learn how to use books for research. After all, batteries run low, tablets break, and there is not always a Wi-Fi available, so having books as a backup seems practical. Generally, I believe that using tablets in schools bring tremendous advantages to the educational process, but that books should always be available as another important educational tool.
- Alvarez, B. (2013, July 31). As More Schools Embrace Tablets, Do Textbooks Have a Fighting Chance? Retrieved from NEA.org: http://neatoday.org/2013/07/31/as-more-schools-embrace-tablets-do-textbooks-have-a-fighting-chance
- Schumacher, G. (2013, February 8). The Future of Education: Textbooks Versus Tablets. Retrieved from Art Institute Online.edu: http://www.aionline.edu/blog/post/The-Future-of-Education-Textbooks-vs-Tablets.aspx
- Should Tablets Replace Textbooks in K-12 Schools? (2014, April 9). Retrieved from Pro Con.org: http://tablets-textbooks.procon.org/