August 9, 2009

Digital Textbooks Sound Good On Paper

I know I'm kicking it old school, but I'm still on the fence about this textbooks migrating to e-reader thing. I mean at first blush, I love the idea of less textbooks. They are heavy, expensive, hard to inventory, and quickly go out of date. What could be better than a whole stack of them stuffed into e-readers or net books?

But then I think of actually using textbooks as a student. I distinctly recall have five or six books laid out in front of me on a desk, flipping between indexes and maps; diagrams and illustrations. I know e-readers are searchable and yes, you can highlight and make notations, if not always as easily. But maps and illustrations come out less well--even on the best-designed websites.

I'm not saying it's not an option--and a very attractive option right now with all of the financial cuts we're dealing with. But I hope we think this through and do whatever is best for our students--not just easiest.

(Of course, I've never been a big fan of most of the textbooks out there, either, now that I think about it...)

(image from flickr)


Kevin Hodgson said...

Like you, I feel a bit mixed about the (impending and inevitable?) shift from paper to digital textbooks. While I like the concept of innovation, I wonder what gets lost in the shift. I was thinking about how many times I stumbled upon something in a textbook that piqued my curiosity that had nothing to do with an assignment. Will we lose those moments in a digital book?

Teacherninja said...

I think we might, Kevin,but there might be things we gain--I don't know. At the moment there are so many picture books, graphic novels and "coffee table" books that do not look good on an e-reader that only the most basic text-heavy stuff will make the migration right away.

C. B. James said...

For textbooks to go on computers we'll need two computers per student, one in school and one at home. You might get away with a slightly smaller number at school since at any given time a portion of the students will be in P.E. class.

Who's going to pay for them? Who's going to pay to keep them all up and running? Who's going to make sure every child is on teh correct website and not surfing around when the teacher's back is turned?

I currently teach English and history in Marin County, California, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, and I have five computers in my classroom. Three of them have not worked properly for two years.

But, there is a lot of money in textbooks. Lots of money.

Teacherninja said...

C.B., if there's $ to be made, the textbook publishers will find a way to make it. I doubt that 2 e-readers or netbooks will be necessary and I'm sure all kinds of draconian filtering will be installed to prevent surfing. There's actually good monitoring software available now for classroom teachers. I just hope we don't leap into this without looking where we're going.