Tablets vs. Textbooks

If you haven’t noticed yet, all Madison Metropolitan School District high school students have been given individual Chromebooks to take to and from school. The goal of this project and investment was to provide access to the internet and projects for students who are unable to do so otherwise. Despite having a similar idea be implemented in various other schools and districts throughout the nation, there is a still a heaping debate over whether or not education’s shift towards the digital world is effective or wise. 


The Case for Tablets


Our globe is ever-changing, from altering political policies and governmental systems, to the cars we drive, and the homes we live in. Education is no different. As the internet and technology are beginning to infest our lives, it’s no surprise that schooling is using Youtube, Google Classroom, online assignments, and even online assessments more often than not. From its timeliness, deepening classroom learning, and allowing for far more educational resources, integrating laptops, tablets, and more technology into our schooling is incredibly effective. 


For one, technology and access to the internet enrich and deepen classroom education due to accessibility, and renewing of information. According to the Public Broadcasting Services (PBS), 81 percent of kindergarten through 12th grade teachers believe that access to the internet and technology enrich classroom education, and  even increase a student’s motivation to learn. A large aspect of this is that tablets and computers allow teachers to better customize student learning. There are thousands of education and tutoring applications on the internet, so teachers can tailor student learning to an individual style and personality, instead of the outdated ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to schooling. In fact, there are more than 200,000 education apps available on the iPad alone. Another aspect is that tablets contain technological features that cannot be found in print textbooks. The internet gives users the ability to highlight, edit text, type notes, watch videos, etc. without the permanency of ruining a textbook for the next user. 


Not only is the use of technology better for students, but it is far more fiscally responsible. E-Textbooks online cost far less than print textbooks. According to the School Library Journal, the average price of a K-12 print textbook is approximately $70 compared with $35-40 for a 6-10 year subscription to a digital textbook. In addition, computer and tablet prices continue to drop, and there are a multitude of grant opportunities for schools to take advantage of. 


Finally, technological accessibility assist students in better preparing for a world immersed in computers, tablets, and the internet. Students that learn technological skills early in life will be better prepared to pursue relevant careers in the long term. Nearly every person on the globe is introduced to some form of technology hundreds of times a day, if we do not prepare our youth for how to properly and healthily interact with it, we will have a generation of people who are unable to productively use their resources. 


From economic benefits to student gains, it’s obvious that a shift towards technology in education must take place. 


The Case for Textbooks


There is no denying that our world is becoming more and more invested in technology and the digital world; but this does not mean that we must incorporate it into our classrooms. From environmental destruction and health problems, to educational mishaps and distractions, technology is not the answer to our school’s problems. 


For one, handheld technological devices are associated with a wide range of human health problems. According to the American Optometric Association, technology contributes to Computer Vision Syndrome, which causes eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes. People who use technological devices often have a higher incidence of musculoskeletal disorder associated with repetitive strain on their muscles, including carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain, fibromyalgia, and shoulder pain. It is irresponsible of school systems to implement such a hazardous problem on their students. 


On top of that, manufacturing tablets is environmentally destructive. According to the New York Times, “the adverse health impacts from making one computer or tablet is estimated to be 70 times greater than those from making a single book.” One computer requires the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals, 79 gallons of water, and 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels resulting in 66 pounds of carbon dioxide. Print books on the other hand, produce 100 times fewer greenhouse gases. It is environmentally hazardous and irresponsible to not acknowledge education’s impact on climate change. 


Aside of human and environmental health, technology negatively impacts the classroom as well. Computers and tablets have far too many distractions for classroom use. Students may pay attention to apps, email, games, and websites instead of their teachers and classroom content. 87 percent of teachers believe that “today’s digital technologies are creating an easily distracted generation with short attention spans,” reports the New York Times. Students will even use their access to the internet to cheat and take the ‘easy-way-out’ on assignments and assessments. 


In addition, according to Nicholas Carr – a Pulitzer Prize winning technology writer – people who read print text comprehend more, as opposed to those who read digital text. The brain interprets printed and digital text in far different ways, and people generally read digital text 20-30 percent slower than print. The hyper-linked text may increase the brain’s cognitive abilities, lowering the ability to process, store, and retain information, or translated the new material into conceptual knowledge. 


At the end of the day, glorifying our access to technology seems splendid; however, it is incredibly destructive in the long run.

By Maggie Di Sanza



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