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Going Digital with eTextbooks in K12 Education


Dr. Wilsons Words of Wisdom: I read an article the other day that said Arnie Duncan (Secretary of Education), hoped to have all k12 schools make the move to eTextbooks in the next few years. His reasons for this push included benefits such as a monetary savings and more up to date textbooks, but perhaps more critical is a shift to a more immersive environment. In a digital book students can read, highlight, take interactive quizzes, and even watch a video all from a single device as part of a single reading assignment. I personally think there is power in this type learning.

Many complain that students already spend too much time in front of a screen, to have them do all their reading on a screen would increase this. Is this really where we want to go?

The idea of using digital content does show promise. As the article suggests, students across the world are beginning to use these devices and showing increased benefits. Unfortunately, many teachers I encounter are not ready for this shift. The US can’t just roll out k12 textbooks and expect teachers and students to know what to do with them.

I have an eVersion of my college textbook available for graduate students to use for the last few semesters. Some students already owned digital devices and found it to be a less expensive textbook option. They thought that since they read for pleasure on these devices, they should be able to read for class using the device. The problem is that many don’t know how to use the eBook device)for learning. Several have even confessed to purchasing a second copy of the book as a hard copy because they had a hard time taking notes and recalling what was highlighted in a meaningful way. Interestingly enough, even those who did manage to read using the eTextbook, many confessed it is still was not their preference.

Change takes time. Do you remember how hard it was to change from typing on a typewriter to typing on a computer with a word processor. It was a shift in process. I remember helping my father make the transition (an good typist but clueless about keystrokes on a computer). He wasn’t a cussing man but if he was, our time together would have needed a PG-13 rating. It was frustrating!

Of course now, he has made the shift, he is very prolific and comfortable on the computer. He just needed time to make the adjustment. Thinking about this shift got me thinking. If it is true that we will move to eTextbooks over the next few years (and I think it is), then teachers should right now begin to force themselves to purchase digital content to read and use professionally. We need time to practice with the new tools, and become proficient with them ourselves before we put them in our student’s hands. It will be up to us to teach our students how to use these new tools, and if we are not comfortable with it ourselves, then I doubt that we will encourage the use of these tools.

So do you have a digital reading device? Have you started highlighting and taking notes on this device? I think we better get started. What do you think?

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