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Do Textbooks Still Have a Place in Modern Classrooms?

Updated: Aug 1, 2018



For decades and possibly even centuries, textbooks still dominate classrooms and have been the foolproof go-to books for students to gain knowledge and for educators to use in their day to day. But are they still relevant today?


Photo: Textbooks have long been part of the learning route for educators and students. (Credit: Designed by Freepik)

Textbooks - The Way to Go


More than half of the world's population still does not have access to the Internet, with Asia and Africa having the lowest rates of access, according to a United Nations report. Education in the rural, underdeveloped communities are still heavily dependent on textbooks since they may not have Internet access or the means to have gadgets such as computers and iPads. Therefore, it is still the most reliable method for accessible education.


Being physical books, textbooks are also preferred because of the touch and feel factor. The brain interprets digital and printed text differently, and people generally read digital text 20-30% slower than print, according to Kate Garland’s “Computer vs. Paper-based Tasks: Are They Equivalent?”. That means that people who read print text are able to understand better, remember better, and learn better than those who only read digital text.

Not only do textbooks provide a physical approach to the learning process, but they are quality resources that have been fact-checked by professionals and academics. All research findings and information can be parked comprehensively all in one book, with confidence that they come from a legitimate source.


Textbooks - How About No


But as much as some educators and parents love the look and feel of holding a physical textbook, there are others who beg to differ. Sheryl R. Abshire, chief technology officer of the Calcasieu Parish school system in Lake Charles, Los Angeles explains it very aptly—

“Kids are wired differently these days. They’re digitally nimble. They multitask, transpose and extrapolate. And they think of knowledge as infinite.”

With this ever evolving generation, teaching with real-time scientific discoveries and a vast trove of real time information is vital in developing critical thinking and problem solving skills in the most advanced of minds, while providing an avenue to grow exponentially in their thought system.


Also, just the thought of textbooks can make both parents and children cringe with a heavy sigh, in the literal sense and how it sometimes makes no sense…

“It’s so heavy,” says one parent.

“My child will never grow taller with all those books weighing him down,” says another.

“This is the fifth textbook I’ve bought for my daughter this year… THIS YEAR ALONE!,” says a very concerned mother.


Technology - Elevating Education


So, how would technology change the way students learn and the way teachers teach?

  • Teachers would have to up their game: What was current yesterday, may not be the case today!

  • Enhances students interactivity: With the advent of coding, VR and AR technology, the possibilities are endless.

  • Shortens educators’ preparation time: There are so many resources out there, at the touch of a button.

  • Accessibility anytime, anywhere: Learn outdoors in the school field or find real time information on the Internet!

  • Lesser carbon footprint: Less paper used to print handouts and assignments, thus you save money (and trees!) in the long run.


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So, where does this leave textbooks?


There will still be a market for textbooks as long as there is a relevance in our present day learning and teaching. However, it will not be long before technology inevitably takes up a more prominent role, albeit at a slower pace when there is a jarring need to keep up with the times to facilitate a holistic learning experience, to bring out the best in every child.

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