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Will the Classroom of the Future Be eBook Driven?

11 Feb 2015 by Christine Kern

Print books are still used in classrooms around the world, but according to the Association of American Publishers, eBook sales continue to rise steadily (45 percent since 2011) and are now outpacing print sales in many categories. The 2014 Global eBook report also supports the trend of eBook sales increasing in many countries and genres.

Thousands of schools across the United States have adopted Chromebooks and are beginning to use eBooks, although many of these are middle schools and high schools.

Benefits of using eBooks

eBooks offer teachers the ability to take a familiar teaching tool — a book — and offer it in a format that students are engaged in — an electronic device. With more and more students using cell phones and tablets, students already know how to navigate a touch screen device as well as laptops. Other benefits include:

  • Texts can be placed on one small device such as an iPad, Mac, eBook reader (Kindle, Nook, etc.) or Chromebook — instead of the student having to carry heavy textbooks to and from school. In turn, this may encourage students to read more.
  • If a student is interested in a particular topic, finding additional resources in eBook form is as simple as searching a digital library.
  • eBooks save schools money in the long run. Even with the extra costs of purchasing a device to read the eBooks, it is still cheaper to download a book than to print one.
  • Notes and highlighting doesn’t damage eBooks. Digital marks can be made and easily removed. This isn’t the case with a print book. Once marked in, removing those marks can be very difficult, or even impossible.
  • eBooks also offer features that can help students with learning disabilities. Font can be made larger, software that reads out loud can be installed, lighting can be changed, and so on.

Drawbacks to consider

As with any adoption of a new technology, there are some drawbacks for educators to consider:

  • If more students are using digital readers or laptops, can the technology infrastructure at the school support the increase in the number of students accessing the network?
  • eBooks are still in an evolutionary stage. Formats are changing from year to year. Is the school’s technology department ready to adapt to any upcoming changes? The school may need to create a position and have a person whose job is to keep up with digital books and how to best access them.
  • There are also security concerns to consider. First, students should only be able to access a specific digital library of district-approved books for the purpose of school work. Also, are the devices going to be secure from outside hackers?
  • Some teachers still prefer traditional books. Paula Weston, a third grade teacher at North Harrison Elementary in Indiana, said she sees the push to use more technology and sees some of the benefits, but “I like real books and paper/pencil teaching.”
  • Weston also points out, “Since technology keeps changing, it might be hard to keep up with the changes and still remain cost effective.”

Consider blending traditional books and eBooks

Some schools are beginning to blend both traditional books and eBooks, meshing the best of both worlds. For example, if a teacher is covering World War II and the students take an interest in this time period, the teacher could access additional eBooks. This additional information would let the teacher dig deeper into specific battles, social impact or even American factories during the war, and really hone in on that time period. Topics that might only be skimmed over in a larger, more general textbook, could be looked at in detail.

Whether you embrace eBooks or not, there is no denying that their availability and the growth of the eBook market is a continuing trend that is worth looking into.


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