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The Future of Education: Textbooks vs. Tablets

written by 8 February 2013

The place of textbooks in educational institutions is facing a growing challenge from tablets. The U.S. federal government, for instance, met with technology industry representatives and book publishers in 2012 to discuss the issue of textbooks vs tablets. Some of the organizations involved in the discussion included McGraw Hill, Apple and Intel. The advantages and disadvantages of tablets adoption in schools are interesting, but it is important to look at both sides of the coin before moving forward.

The Benefits
At a glance, it is clear that tablets can pack in more learning materials than textbooks. Most tablets today are manufactured with memories between 8GB and 64GB, which can hold hundreds of thousands of textbooks. Many of these gadgets also come with expanded memory capabilities, which can double their hard disk spaces. This means a single tablet is more than capable for holding all the textbooks a learner needs plus quizzes and homework. With such capabilities, there will be no need for physical space for storing learning materials.

Cost is one of the outstanding benefits of tablets. Electronic books obviously cost less than their print versions, meaning the same amount of money can be used to buy more textbooks. With billions of dollars being spent on textbooks annually, the cost savings benefits here is obvious. Even though the initial price of a tablet may be prohibitive, they are not that expensive and their prices are continually falling. Moreover, the thousands of textbooks they can hold can be used to offset their costs.

There is also growing evidence that students learn better with tablets than with textbooks. According to a MOBILEDIA report titled "Kids to Spur Tablet Growth," a study conducted on algebra students showed that those who used tablets scored higher than those who used print textbooks. Tablets are also lighter, can easily be updated and do not age as fast as printed books. But they also have their drawbacks.

The Disadvantages
One of the foremost disadvantages of tablets (as well as other handheld devices) is that they have been connected to a number of health issues. Heavy usage of tablets is believed to cause eyestrain, blurred vision and headaches, symptoms which are collectively known as Computer Vision Syndrome.

The other disadvantage of tablets is that students who use them tend to get too distracted, as opposed to those who use textbooks. This distraction comes from a number of areas including games, videos, emails and countless entertainment applications. This is why many digitally connected students tend to have short attention spans.

Other issues with tablets include their tendency to freeze, crash or get infected with malware. A school day can easily get messed up due to a successful widespread hacking. Also, the typical usage hours of most tablets are shorter than school day lengths. School charging will present additional challenges.

Despite all these challenges, however, it seems as if the adoption of tablets in schools is inevitable. Even before their adoption is integrated in education policies, independent schools and parents are slowly making tablets available to their students. Though complete replacement of print textbooks is still many years away, the two standards will soon be complimentary in most schools.

At The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division, we give students the opportunity to download digital texts as well as purchase traditional books. You can learn more by contacting an admissions representative today.