Education has always been a main concern in any civilized society and with technology becoming faster and more advanced, it is no wonder that administrators are trying to join the two in the hope of producing more globally competitive students that will one day be the assets of the country or the state. In the early 2000s, schools began integrating laptops into their education system, urging every student to learn through these computers (Rock, “If You Wonder How Broken Our Education System Is, Have I Got a Solution for You”). The result was mostly positive with many schools adopting this system.
With the birth of tablets, however, computers are fast becoming a thing of the past. After all, tablets are more convenient, lighter and can mimic the functions of a laptop and more. More and more people have began to purchase this new gadget, and this is where administrators got the idea of reinventing the idea of the 2000s – to bring education and technology together – using tablets instead of computers. Because tablets are even smaller than laptops, administrators also thought of another idea – why not use tablets instead of printed books? Thus, the proposition of using tablets in schools to replace textbooks started.
The idea itself has sparked many debates over many organizations and individuals. There has not been a unified decision, however, of whether to accept the proposition or rule it out altogether. Nonetheless, some schools have found the idea appealing and so they adopted the system. Knowing all that information, this paper was written after careful analysis of both sides. After much thinking, the researcher decided to write in favor of using tablets to replace print textbooks and the arguments will be supported and defended by solid facts the researcher of this paper has managed to obtain.
The first argument is that tablets enable students to learn more lessons at a faster speed than if they were using textbooks. In the pdf file from the Federal Communications Commission entitled “Digital Textbook Playbook”, it was said that recent studies by the National Training and Simulation Association show that the time taken up by students to learn certain objectives was reduced by up to 80 percent when technology is used to explain instructions to them. In the same pdf file, this is further backed up by the U.S. Department of Education by saying that online learning has helped students perform better than those who are exposed to more traditional teaching methods.
Further support for this argument is that according to the statistics in an article entitled “Graduating with Technology”, U.S. students who own tablets read an average of 24 e-books in a year while students who do not own tablets read an average of only 15 books in a year. Notice that there is a 9 book/e-books difference. The evidence only shows that students are able to cover more lessons in a lesser time if they were allowed to use tablets for school-related activities.
The second argument is that a tablet is lighter and, therefore, more convenient. Average tablets only weigh about 1 to 2 pound, so it is easy for the students to carry to and from school. The case stated is a particularly strong argument because for years, many schools require students (especially in the lower grades) to carry several books for several subjects every day. The combined average weight of basic subjects alone in grades one to twelve such as Science, Mathematics, Language and History exceeds 15 percent of a student’s body weight which is alarming because a person should not carry more than the percentage mentioned (Adams). The situation in schools had been so extensive that it had resulted in back-related injuries for more than 13,700 children, ages 5-18, in the school year 2011-2012 alone (Dallas). By replacing textbooks by tablets, the students will be able to bring more ‘books’ with them than the usual number and still carry around just 1 to 2 pound of tablet.
The third argument was taken from the fact that the world is constantly changing and right now, technology plays a big part in the world we are living in. Knowing a lot about technology will be an advantage for students because most likely, their future employers will be looking for certain skills connected to technology. It is no longer enough just to know how to type in Microsoft Word or to know how to make spreadsheets in Excel. Today’s world demands more skills than that. Also, because most companies are computer-depended, the jobs in United States with the highest pays are currently those that are technology-related. In fact, according to United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012), jobs related to “computer and information system” are expected to hire 18 percent more employees from 2012-2020. It would be best for the students of today if they are given a fighting chance to thrive in the world waiting for them once they graduate from their studies.
The fourth argument in favor of using tablets is that most tablets have around 8 to 64 gigabytes (GB) of space which means that it can hold not only hundreds of textbooks but also homework, quizzes and other files (Price, “How Much Storage Does Your Tablet Need?”). Because of this, there is no longer a need for books and other school-related items to be brought to school. This big space of tablets can also help save the environment. For every 100 teachers, the number of papers being used reaches up to 250,000 pieces (Johnson, "Paper and Pencil Curriculum: How Much Do You Rely on It?”). Now consider the fact that according to an article by Conservatree.org titled “Trees into Paper,” for every ton of printing and writing paper, about 24 trees sized 40 feet tall and around 6-8 inches in diameter need to be sacrificed. In a year alone, we are losing hundreds of trees due to the demand of paper. However, if students will be using tablets, the number of trees cut down can be reduced dramatically.
Another supporting fact to this argument is that tablets can not only store more but also, they can transfer files from one device to another. For example, a student can transfer the files from one tablet to another through the Bluetooth function or he can store the files in an online server such as Dropbox.com and access it later in any computer, tablet, or other smart phones. The information can also be secure because usually, the students need to sign in with their account and password.
The last but certainly not the least of the arguments answers one of the basic problems with textbooks – it is often outdated. In fact, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genchowski and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in “The Digital Playbook” that many students all over the world use books that are up to 10 years outdated. Outdated books can affect a student’s knowledge especially with subjects such as science because the terms or even processes might have changed during that 10 year gap. Furthermore, every year, new information is being discovered and developed, and the children are missing out on this if they are still using books that are not updated. However, buying books for every student every year can be expensive on both the school and the students so the logical solution would be to use e-books instead through tablets.
Both sides of the issue of using tablets instead of textbooks in schools were considered and therefore the next part will be to provide counter-arguments to those who are in favor of using tablets in school. There are many arguments from that side as well, but only three of the strongest cases will be tackled. Each of those cases, as well as the counter arguments, can be found in the succeeding paragraphs.
The first argument against using tablets is that it is more expensive than using textbooks. An article by Lee Wilson stated that it costs 552% more to use iPad than to use printed textbooks. Wilson’s statement is a sound argument because after all, schools really need to be able to afford whatever innovation they are trying to put forward.
However, Wilson only talked about tablets made by Apple, particularly iPad. Most users of tablets or those who are considering buying tablets know that Apple is one of the most expensive brands when it comes to gadgets. There are other options available. For example, brands such as Samsung or Lenovo are relatively cheaper but still offer quality tablets. Also, according to Margaret Rock (2012), the cost of tablets naturally drop over time as technology advances and the amount is further reduced when the schools buys in bulk. Also, tablets will also be cheaper in the long run if you factor in the books that students need and are accommodated by tablets. According to FCC, textbooks for students cost the schools around $8 billion per year. However, with the switch to e-books, that amount can be lowered up to $1,000 dollars per student per year.
The second argument against using tablets is that it is too distracting for classroom use because of its many technological features or applications that may encourage the child to play than to study.
However, the fact that tablets have many technological features does not necessarily mean that it is a distraction. In fact, it can improve the way students learn. For example, most tablets allow the user to highlight texts and write notes on the margin of an e-book or an article. This feature is useful because the teacher can check the papers of the students directly from the tablet and add comments on it and the students can edit the paper again without needing to rewrite the whole thing. Also, textbooks get easily worn out when a student highlights them while tablets will not do that. In tablets, you can simply remove the highlight if another user needs to use it. Also, tablets have a search function, making it easier for students to look for a particular sentence or phrase that they need to study. This feature can be such a great help for a student who needs to study several subjects because the student does not need to go through mountains of books or papers to be able to find one topic.
The third argument of the negative side in the topic being discussed in this paper is that tablets may take away the purpose of the teachers as the focus of learning becomes dependent on technology. This case is a good argument because many people have this fear that one day machines will replace humans in the work force. After all, it is already happening. With the advent of CCTVs, for example, fewer security guards are needed. However, tablets do not serve to replace teachers. Instead, it is only a tool to help teachers to teach their students better, in a similar way that, in the older times, blackboards help them improve their teaching methods.
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