Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Textbooks Instead of e-Books

There's a world of difference between K-12 students and college/university students.  K-12 students are, for the most part, compelled to attend school, whereas college/university students are all volunteers.  In the US, the vast majority of K-12 students are guaranteed a free education, whereas college/university students must pay for theirs.

The two differences stated above delineate why e-books may be the book of choice for college/university students but have no place in K-12 public education:
As classrooms across the country embrace digital textbooks, one Sydney school has declared the e-book era over and returned to the old-fashioned hard copy version because it improves comprehension and reduces distraction.

For the past five years, Reddam House's primary and junior high school classes have used e-textbooks on iPads. But the consistent feedback from the students has been that they preferred pages to screens.

Teachers also found the iPads were distracting and did not contribute to students' technology skills, prompting the school to announce that students should no longer use digital textbooks, and must revert to hard-copy versions instead.
Why anyone would expect any different outcome is far beyond me, but I still congratulate this particular school for believing the facts over their prejudices and restoring dead-tree books to classrooms.
Dr Margaret Merga, a senior lecturer in education at Edith Cowan University, said an analysis of all the research into differences in book formats has found that understanding improves when information is read in a paper rather than a digital format.

Research into why young people prefer hard-copy textbooks "points to greater perceived comfort, comprehension, and also retention of what's been read," she said. "Some have found that there's less immersive involvement [in digital text]."
There is one legitimate concern about dead-tree books:
As for the weight of the textbooks in backpacks, Mr Pitcairn said students could leave them in their lockers or use a digital version at home. "I've noticed that students prefer their textbook in both places," he said.
My solution to that would simply be for schools to stop buying behemoths!  My students marvel at the tiny algebra book I have from the 1940s and the moderately-sized book I have from the 1980s.  The Integrated Math 1 book my (mostly freshman) students use today is so large that it has to be split into two separate volumes, and each of those volumes dwarfs my 1980s textbook.  Does anyone reading this believe that today's math textbooks are more challenging than those older books?  If they're not, then what justifies the huge size?  Bring books back down to a legitimate size.  So many K-12 textbooks nowadays come with an "online component" that there's really no need to try to cram so much crap into a textbook.  A lot of the "extra" stuff can be put in the online component that students can access at home if they want or need to.

College/university students should have the option of purchasing dead-tree or online versions of their texts.  If cost is an issue, perhaps the online version would be preferable--but the student should know up front about the reading comprehension research regarding e-books.  But college/university students are adults, they're volunteers, and they're more academically capable than the average K-12 student.  Let them make the choice for themselves.

I'm in California.  Textbooks are not my usual area of activism.  How would I start a movement to shrink the size of textbooks?  Who's with me on this?


David said...

As a history teacher, they are way too big. Too many pictures; too much fluff. The history book could easily be half the size if they took out that stuff and just get to the nitty gritty.

Anna A said...

I cannot help you with the text book issue, even though I agree, since I am neither a teacher nor a current Californian.

One reason I like tangible books is that it is much, much easier to flip ahead, like to see where the end of the book is or to go back and find something. I love my Kindle, but it is very hard to do either thing.

Auntie Ann said...

One of my favorite videos:

Math Textbooks: Size Matters?

I really like an old algebra book (Wentworth) I have from the late 1800's. The problems are challenging with plenty of them, and the explanations are solid. I found a PDF version online and had it printed and spiral bound.

Momof4 said...

I also have algebra texts from the 40s (and maybe some earlier); courtesy of my late FIL. They are thinner than a Tom Clancy paperback, about the same width and only a little taller AND they present the material so clearly and succinctly that many kids can learn new material on their own, as my DH did. There are plenty of problem sets for practice, and possibly the solutions (have not looked at those boxes for years).

Darren said...


Could pictures and videos for history class be saved for the online version?

Auntie Ann, could you send me a link for the Wentworth book you're referring to? I have a copyright 1913/1941 Academic Algebra book by George Wentworth and David Eugene Smith.

Auntie Ann said...

Darrin, just emailed you the first half of the Wentworth book. I don't remember where I found it online, but it is a nice, clean copy that doesn't look like photos of the page. (To your mrmillermathteacher)

Auntie Ann said...

Second half sent