Innovative teachers playing with flipped and blended educational models may be tempted to replace old good paper textbooks with electronic books.
What’s so special about e-readers that makes people neglect centuries old habits and the Gutenberg tradition? Aside from pure fun and an engaging experience for their audience, instructors will most likely consider obvious cost and volume savings associated with digital flipbooks. Do the pros of e-books outweigh the cons (if any), and should the modern learning system gear up for completely paperless teaching? Let’s browse through key decisive factors so you can make up your mind as an educator.
How are e-books better than hardcover learning materials?
The young prefer e-readers. We live in the twenty first century and there is really not much we can do about it. Research and common observation maintain that students get sick of dusty libraries and heavy backpacks. By making an electronic device part of the learning process you assume the apparent risks (distraction, ambiguous attitude, technical implications), yet you also make textbooks part of the ubiquitous digital environment spearheaded by smartphones and iPads. Hence, you peel off yet another boring ‘layer’ from learning, and speak a common language with your audience.
Better accessibility, increased flexibility. E-books are easier to distribute, easier to download and faster to produce. They allow for unrivalled mobility and portability in and out of classroom, catering to blended and remote training models. In addition, advanced ink technology encapsulated in modern reading devices minimizes eye fatigue, putting e-readers on par with visually ‘harmless’, ‘healthier’ paper books.
Space economy, less muscle loading. Old books may be antiquary gems, but also a plague for small stuffy classrooms. E-books solve the problem by storing tons of literature and educational materials in a single lightweight device. Then again, there is one reason less for spine curvature. Stocking and re-using textbooks year after year is a frustrating experience for school administration. Paper books wear out and turn obsolete, with no easy way to update and upgrade them, whereas replacement may strike you as a costly and lengthy option.
Cost efficiency and seamless scalability. In the long-term prospective, the Kindles and Nooks of this world reveal lesser total cost of ownership. Digital data is cheaper to manage and store than print materials. Someone might argue that physical books are still a tangible asset that may be resold or exchanged. On the other hand, this is a flimsy benefit since educational programs and textbook editions evolve, and school libraries may fail to keep up with the change.
Keep in mind that e-books are easy to create on your own once you have the right tools in place. The market offers a broad range of paid and free tools to create interactive books. You can find an overview of top flipbook software and samples at Scott Winstead's e-Learning blog.
Flexible fonts and spacing, ability to tweak and tune. Paper books may give you a tangible feeling of knowledge acquisition but they won’t let you play with text size, colors and brightness to accommodate your specific eyesight patterns. Visually impaired readers will find comfort in digital devices due to a wide range of in-built options and custom features. Research prompts that e-books also help students with dyslexia perceive material with greater efficiency, thanks to the ability to shorten lines and highlight specific fragments.
Both carrier types have their upsides and downsides. Technology geeks and gadget aficionados like myself turn to digital books when occasion offers, others enjoy the smell and weight of hefty tomes. Apparently, old good hardcover textbooks also have a few solid benefits under the belt. There is no battery involved or warranties needed. Some experts argue paper book reading ensures better retention compared to flipbooks. In part, this may be due to the fact that print books lack the interactive elements of fancy e-readers. Not to mention that many e-books provide Internet access out of the box…
From a psychological angle, the number of pages read and units studied may serve as a progress bar of a sort, and provide a rewarding feeling of achievement. Waded through those daunting six hundred pages? Good for you! That’s something to write home about.
This may not beexactly true for textbooks, yet many of us still have a soft spot in our hearts for ‘real’, beautifully crafted, wood-scented books – regardless of environmental and innovative considerations. Those who say tradition is water under the bridge should better think twice. Sharing a book with a child, passing a book on to a friend have innate significance that you can’t easily replace with web links, scroll buttons and digital bookmarks.
That said, many progressive schools are jumping on the e-book bandwagon. Some of those just toying with the concept, others – eradicating all sorts of brick-and-mortar on purpose. In pursuit of new training techniques, make sure to have your ultimate goals crystal clear and opt for seamless transition rather than painful overnight upheaval.