Imagine No Textbooks

Posted: August 1, 2014 in Uncategorized


It’s tough to believe that school is back in session in early August down South. The idea of going back to school several weeks before Labor Day was unimaginable years ago, but the concept of summer break these days is dwindling. I’m sure many educational professionals who have enjoyed these summer breaks are not cheering on this trend in many ways. Still, a lot of observers say that with progress and technology, it’s unnecessary to have students take time off between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Many feel that the concept of a full summer off is too much time away from learning. I agree can with those observations since there is a lot more competing for students’ attention in this culture from now cheaper handheld streaming devices to traditional over-the-air and cable television. Learning does take a “back-seat” for some students with so much noise in the air.

Certainly students ought to learn from an early to age to limit their time with multi-use mobile phones and of course television. There is no doubt that with so much progress, mobile phones and television offer up a smorgasbord of distractions for students.  It’s a challenge for students, parents and teachers.

There has been so much progress with electronic devices over the years. Just like any bit of progress, technological progress has its advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is the introduction of iPads and/or similar devices which fall under the electronic tablet category in our gadget-filled world. Tablets are already in use at certain public schools and/or private institutions.

It’s no secret that electronic handheld devices like tablets are slowly replacing the traditional textbook. There are several advantages to this progress including the fact that updating information on this format is easier and cheaper than printing textbooks. Further, electronic readers are obviously smaller, lightweight and take up far less room in students’ backpacks. “Hooray” for the orthopedists who have most likely seen kids with all kinds of backpack-related injuries over the years!

The downside is that students are staring into electronic screens for longer periods of time. I’m sure optical professionals are noticing changes to their younger patients’ eyes urging them to take plenty of breaks away from the screens. Indeed schools that are using electronic tablets in place of textbooks have probably implemented limiters on those devices in hopes that students will not access online games or worse yet, materials not suitable for the educational environment. It’s amazing how kids can get around limiters.

Another disadvantage to school tablets is that students have to take good care of them. From “accidental tablet toilet drownings” to cracked screens —  even with pricing falling on the devices — it could get expensive if schools have to constantly replace them. Let’s face it: kids do not have the greatest track record for using their devices with care, but with time, that seems to be improving.

In our neck of the woods, we are probably a long time away from replacing traditional textbooks in our schools. Thus, there’s no need at this moment to pine away for the “old days” of the feel of holding a textbook. I cannot imagine that years from now, parents will fondly recall dragging their textbooks around in backpacks, but hey, I know a lot of people who miss their vinyl record players. Publishing companies are holding on for dear life to keep the ole, thick textbook around – especially in college where they still retail for exorbitant prices. Still, the future will be upon us and it will most likely be filled with tablets everywhere.

  1. Great post Bob! My daughter is already doing too much screen time without the textbooks! I am also concerned about tactile learners who really do better holding a book. Finally, these devices do leak out some radiation. I suspect that the dangers of mobile devices will be better understood in a generation from now, but the experiment is with our children. Just as there was some noise in the 1950s that cigarette smoking was harmful, we have the same types of studies about the health risks of mobile devices that the industry ignores.

    New is not always better but unfortunately, we will have to learn the hard way.

  2. @annmarie Who knows how potent the radiation factor is with these devices. It will take years of research.

    At the moment I joke about being handed an electronic tablet when entering a church or temple for services.

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