Can the use of textbooks survive the introduction of technology in secondary schools in Ireland? Could textbooks be in danger of becoming something of history and are the teachers and schools prepared and trained enough to embrace these changes in the education process in Ireland. In recent years many schools across Ireland began to introduce the use of Tablet Computers (tablets) for educational learning. Tablets are hand held mobile computer devices that can be used for personal use or in this case for educational purposes. Is education in Ireland ready to graduate into the digital world of learning or will the traditional textbook always be the method of teaching and learning? This blog will discuss the positive and negative effects of the use of tablets in secondary schools. It will examine the differences that a textbook and a tablet can have on learning. It will also compare the cost and difficulties of maintaining a tablet and a textbook in the learning environment for secondary school students. Lastly, it will discuss the advantages and disadvantages regarding health issues for students in full time education. Our children’s education is important to society so it is crucial to get these decisions correct for their future.
Tablets: Positives and Negatives
There are many positive and negative issues regarding the use of tablets in the learning environment of secondary schools. Some positive aspects would include, tablets having anywhere between eight and sixty-four gigabits of storage space (ProCon.org, 2017). They are capable of holding lots of information and several e-books on one single device which eliminates the physical storage of book and other materials needed for homework and classwork . A further positive element would be how the tablet is lightweight and helps to eliminate the heavy weight issues that are attached to the use of textbooks and the transport of textbooks to and from school. Most schools provide lockers in order for students to store their textbooks, but most of those textbooks would be needed to complete homework, therefore the lockers serve very little purpose. Having a tablet would mean less to carry to and from school and would make school life a little easier. Another positive aspect would have to be the technological features which come with the use of a tablet. Whilst studying with an e-book, it would be possible to copy and paste notes, highlight important parts of the text and edit text where it is necessary without ruining a textbook for the next user. Tablets also have a search function and a built-in dictionary, making it easier to look up words quickly if the student does not understand the meaning. There are many more positive aspects but the negative elements are evident too. Some negative issues with the use of a tablet for educational purposes would have to be the battery life. The battery life of a tablet would approximately be seven and half hours which is shorter than an average school day, meaning that the device might need charging in school. This would increase electricity demands and creates a need for several electrical outputs in the classroom.
Negative concerns such as tablets like any other internet device can crash and can freeze, all of which can disturb the process of learning at home or at school. The textbook on the other hand would not have such issues and would be more reliable to deliver the content without disturbances. There is also the aspect that the device could be hacked and student’s personal information could be stolen, there would not be any concern regarding these problems with the use of textbooks. Negative issues would include the demand for the student to have sufficient home broadband in order to be able to use the tablet for homework. Students in rural areas of Ireland could have very limited broadband if any at all, which would result in the student being unable to use the tablet for digital or internet based homework . This might indicate that textbooks would be more reliable than the tablet for homework use and that the work would be completed regardless. There are other negative aspects such the distractions associated to tablets. How would teachers be aware that the student is not on Facebook or Instagram when meant to be focusing on school work. Also, will student lose the skill of reading books from just using small parts of on-line materials and not really focusing on the relevant topic being taught.
Textbook or Tablet: Difference in Learning
It is believed that using a tablet opposed to a textbook is a better way for students to learn (Bookhitch.com, 2009). Technology based instructions apparently can reduce the time that students take to reach their learning objective. A survey of technology used in classrooms by the Public Broadcasting Services in 2012 in America shows that teachers found that tablets increased student motivation to learn compared to textbook learning (Public Broadcasting Services, 2012). Tablets have also helped to improve student’s achievements regarding tests, students scored twenty percent higher on tests by using a tablet compared to students who used textbooks in 2012 (ProCon.org, 2017). On the other hand, students that read print textbooks remember more and comprehend more than students who use tablets for classroom work and homework. Textbooks also stop students from cutting corners and cheating on school work because when using a tablet, students can avoid reading full texts by looking up passages in an e-book also there is the opportunity of searching for answers on the internet without doing the required research. This in turn could explain the twenty percent increase in grades in tests achieved in 2012 as explained previously. Textbooks could be a better option for teachers as many teachers would not be computer savvy and could find it easier to teach the traditional way (National Education Association, 2013). Therefore, teachers might not be able to reach their full potential if they are not fully trained on how to teach with technical devices such as tablets. Although, in America to support the change from textbook to tablet, the federal government and several technology organizations have collaborated a seventy-page guide called “Digital Textbook Playbook” (Federal Communications Commission, 2012). This could ensure that the transition from textbook to tablet is efficient and easy for the teachers.
Cost and Maintenance
The cost and maintenance of tablets compared to regular textbooks is a huge difference. With textbooks there is the initial payment to purchase the textbook and that is the only payment required. In comparison e-books and tablets has several costs involved. The cost of purchasing the hardware (tablet), the download of the software and material needed on the tablet, the insurance of the device and the cost of repair if the device is broken or if it needs technical attention. Lee Watson, a marketing expert, estimated in America that the annual cost per student per class with the use of tablets to be $71.55 and for textbooks it would be $14.26 (ProCon.org, 2017). This is evidently a large difference in cost and more realistic for families to afford the textbook instead of the tablet. Comparing the maintenance of tablets and textbooks is quite easy. Textbooks require very little maintenance, only for the student to take care whilst using it. Tablets require a great deal of maintenance to ensure that it can be used to its full potential. First, a tablet would require charged batteries on a daily basis to ensure that the device has enough power to be used for classwork and homework. Second, a tablet would have to have new material updated regularly to ensure that all learning material is up to date for the student. Third, the insurance for the tablet would be a once off payment but would be an extra yearly cost for families to pay, this would not be an issue with textbooks. Another costly aspect would be the payments for the repair of a tablet by an experienced technician. This would mean that the student could be without the tablet and learning material while the tablet is being repaired causing disturbance to their learning experiences. In the event of losing or forgetting a textbook, it would be easily replaced or found in the school library or the local town library, either way, it would be at hand and not disruptive to a student’s learning process. Considering the cost of the tablet, there would also be concern with the changing nature of digital devices creating extra responsibility for the student to have the newest version of the tablet at an extra expense on families.
There are advantages and disadvantages within the use of tablets for educational purposes. Some advantages would include the weight factor as discussed previously. Textbooks can create problems with heavy back packs, so the tablet and its lightweight features are a bonus. Pediatricians and Chiropractors recommend that students should carry less than fifteen percent of their body weight in a back pack. In 2011, more than 13,700 students in America aged between five and eighteen were treated for back pack related injuries (National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health., 2017). The disadvantages connected to the constant use of tablets could cause other ailments and health problems. According to the American Optometric Association, tablets amongst other technological devices can contribute to “Computer Vision Syndrome”, causing eyestrain, headaches, tired dry eyes, and blurred vision (New York Daily News, 2012). Students who would normally have good eye sight, could start to develop difficulties resulting in having to wear glasses whilst using a tablet for school work. This, in turn, is putting extra financial strain on families to afford eye care and equipment. Students using textbooks could also depend on glasses for reading although to purchase glasses for textbook reading would be cheaper. Glasses required for tablet use would require anti-glare screen protection which comes at an extra cost. Another disadvantage would be the physical health concerns attached to using a tablet. Students who use tablets more often than textbooks have a higher risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders associated with repetitive strain injuries. Injuries such as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and shoulder and neck pain (“Text Neck”) are the most common, usually causing stiffness and discomfort from excess use of tablets and other technological devices (Text-Neck.com, 2017).
This blog discussed the positive and negative effects of the use of the tablet or the textbook in secondary schools. It examined the differences between a tablet and a textbook and how they influence learning for students. It then compared the cost and maintenance involved in using a tablet or a textbook to ensure learning experiences for students are meet to their full potential. It also considered the advantages and the disadvantages regarding the use of tablets and how that could affect the health of students. In reflection, based on the research presented in this blog, the argument of which is better, textbook or tablet will be an ongoing debate. As an unsuccessful costly process in recent years in Ireland and the conversion back to textbook learning, it is hard to determine which is best for our future students. Further research would be helpful regarding the cost and maintenance more so, as this could be the downfall of the use of tablets overall. One thing is for certain with the world becoming more digital in every aspect of life, it is inevitable that the tablet will be the future for school education. Technology has proven to be a force for change but that could mean that the future of the textbook is in danger of disappearing into history.
- Bookhitch,com. (2009). The future of Education: Textbooks v’s eBooks. [online] Available at: http://www.bookhitch.com/archives/082009a-future.aspx [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].
- Federal Communications Commission. (2012). Digital Textbook Playbook. [online] Available at: http://fcc.gov [Accessed 11 Oct. 2017].
- National Education Association. (2013). As more schools embrace tablets, do textbooks have a fighting chance. [online] Available at: http://neatoday.org/2013/07/31/as-more-schools-embrace-tablets-do-textbooks-have-a-fighting-chance-2/ [Accessed 25 Oct. 2017].
- National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. (2017). Overloaded Backpacks Can Injure Kids: Experts. [online] Available at: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2017].
- New York Daily News. (2012). iStrain: Tablets and iPads Can Cause Eye Problems. [online] Available at: http://nydailynews.com [Accessed 13 Oct. 2017].
- ProCon.org. (2017). Tablets V’s Textbooks. [online] Available at: http://tablets-textbooks.procon.org/ [Accessed 15 Oct. 2017].
- Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). (2012). “National PBS Survey Finds Teachers Want More Access to Classroom Tech,”. [online] Available at: http://pbs.org [Accessed 11 Oct. 2017].
- Text-Neck.com. (2017). The Text Neck Institution. [online] Available at: http://text-neck.com [Accessed 30 Oct. 2017].
Pathrena Cunningham is currently an undergraduate student in the Bachelor of Sciences (Applied Social Sciences) Degree Programme at the National University of Ireland Galway