New Educational Technologies vs. Paper Books

professor discussing in front of studentsNew educational technologies are starting to emerge as an additional teaching and learning tools by teachers and students respectively. You’ve probably seen in the news how Secretary Arne Duncan announced how she wanted traditional printed textbooks to be a thing of the past and leave them obsolete.

Justin Hollander, an urban and environmental policy and planning assistant professor at Tufts University, asserted that the hasty promotion of digital textbooks presents itself a huge danger to the already tested and effective paper textbooks. He maintained the fact that paper books are not obsolete and are highly tested as effective learning tools for many centuries and that abandoning paper-based books completely are inimical to the learning success of students.

Since digital textbooks are still “unproven” Hollander suggested that we stick to the good old paper before we completely abandon what was already working for all students. Digital books are hyped extravagantly promoted basically because many Internet companies are lobbying to convince governments that going digital for textbooks is the way to go.

There is danger to abandoning paper-based books and adopt a new way to store the knowledge that are usually stored in paper form simply because the digital version is not yet universally tested and little studies have been devoted to see its effectiveness. There might be some schools or pilot universities who have been using it for a while but we would like to see it on a far more bigger picture and examine if it’s feasible to stop usage of traditional method of learning from books.

Platforms like open source textbooks are starting to become popular now because it simplifies the publication process and leveled the playing field for producing textbooks. More authors are being encouraged to write as the new platform frees them from unwarranted cut from huge publishers that are trying to make money out of producing books.

Digital textbooks per se are really not “unproven”. In fact, the universities and students who have been using them are starting to appreciate the convenience of being able to bring many books without really breaking their back. Now students don’t have to bring stack of books when going to schools and instead just download them in their e-readers and open them up in classrooms.

Science textbooks are now starting to find their way to e-readers and can be downloaded and accessed everywhere. Download only takes seconds and there’s no need to wait in line in bookstores to get them. Online bookstores are available and they are interactive and easy to use. Often, the price of online textbooks are way too cheaper than their paper counterparts.

The advantage and disadvantages of using new technology can only be gauged once students started using it. Whether or not it’s useful for the academic world depend on how students are reacting to it. eBooks and other tools in the world of educational technology are useful and should not be abandoned altogether just because they threaten the already tested and long serving paper books.

As the years go by more college courses are starting to demand a more sophisticated way to access learning materials and this is being spearheaded by schools that are not hesitant to diversify their teaching strategies. With the availability of gadgets like smartphones, tablets, and netbooks the push towards a all-digital textbook environment for students is ensured.

Image by Phil Sexton

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