How the Digital Natives Feel About E-Textbooks: A Survey

How the Digital Natives Feel About E-Textbooks: A Survey
For the first time in my 27 years of teaching Spanish, I am using an e-textbook this year. We have been in session for about six weeks now, so I thought it would be a good idea to assess the students’ perceptions concerning their online textbook
in Spanish II class. While we are dealing daily with technology issues, such as a slow Wi-Fi in my class or students’ smart phones not wanting to connect (mainly the iPhones), I personally have noticed one great benefit: the students are now able to do work independently for much longer periods of time.

In our old textbook, my students could never do anything alone for longer than perhaps ten minutes at a time, except for looking up definitions, which is clearly on the lowest level on the Bloom’s Taxonomy. Now, I can present the concept to the whole class, followed by extended independent group work. Today, for example, we reviewed the formation of the present perfect tense on the Promethean Board. Then, students completed three online independent activities. The first one was fairly basic, involving changing verbs to the past participle. The second activity consisted of Google Searching seven locations in Mexico City and deciding what activities could be done there, using our lesson vocabulary. The final activity tied the lesson to students’ personal lives. They had to use the present perfect tense to create original sentences, describing ten different activities that they had done previously in their hometown in East Tennessee. These three independent activities took about 30 minutes to submit.

My survey sample included three of my Spanish II classes. They included responses by honors/dual enrollment students as well as regular and special education students. The results were as follows:

  1. What are your general feelings about using an e-textbook?

Overall general comments included that they thought it was fun and educational, they liked it very much, but it was slow (the Wi-Fi). Some thought that the e-book held us back because they thought they were progressing too slowly. Students mainly liked not having to carry another heavy book around.

  1. Is this the first time you have ever used an e-textbook?

A total of 81% of respondents said they had never used an e-textbook.

  1. What are the positives about using an e-textbook in this class?

Students stated that they really liked being able to use their cell phones in class. They especially liked that they could access the book from anywhere and that the presentations are built in the books for repeated viewing and studying at home. Students also appreciated very much that they are able to use technology in the classroom. “I think it is a good way of learning. Also, I like to use technology versus using books. That is why I enjoy this class so much. Well, and I like the teacher!”

  1. What are the negative aspects of using an e-textbook in class?

The main problem with the e-book according to the respondents is that it sometimes takes too long in their opinion to log on and get the work submitted. The WI-FI is not always dependable and there is the perception that we are progressing at a slow pace. An additional problem is that those students who do not have the Internet at home have difficulties getting their homework done. One student reported that “sometimes the Internet messes up or your answers get cleared.”

  1. If it were up to you, would you rather use the regular textbook again?

.             A total of 34% of the students said that they would rather go back to the regular textbook.

  1. How do you access the e-textbook in class

graph etextbook

A total of 79% said they were able to use their own device, while 18% said they used the classroom tablets provided by the teacher. A total of 3% said they do their work on paper, viewing the activities on the Promethean Board.

Overall, I do believe that the students are accustomed to working in the e-textbook by now and are adjusting well. The comments show that they are fairly relaxed in my class and the group environment makes learning fun and enjoyable. Some students clearly would prefer to return to the traditional textbook and not to have to depend on technology to get their work submitted. However, I feel that the occasional technical difficulties are actually a challenge that promotes problem-solving skills. In each of my five Spanish II classes I have been able to identify the tech geniuses who can be called upon for assistance with our technical devices. I can honestly say that we all learn from each other in my 21st Century Spanish classroom. At this point I am not sure if the technology at our high school is advanced enough to keep the e-textbook functional all school year, but it is no doubt a new and exciting way to present my content to the digital natives. 

About the Author
Author: Ruth ValleWebsite:
I am a high school and college Spanish instructor in the East Tennessee area. I am also co-CEO of Ed-Pro Consultants. We are a group of teachers who present webinars on current trends in technology. I was named 2012 Monroe County Teacher of the Year and received the 2014 Hiwassee College Dual Enrollment Innovative Teaching Award.

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