Tablets Could Be the New Textbooks

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Photo from Flickr: Students have the option of buying their textbooks as eBooks, reading and annotating them off of the iPad.

Nicole Krage, Advertising Manager

Technology has, without a doubt, become a significant factor in today’s society. But what we’re starting to see now is that it is gradually making its way into our school systems as well.

There are some colleges and universities that have made iPads or tablets requirements for classes. Recently, Arkansas State University has become one of these schools. This past March, Apple Insider published an article that announced starting this past fall semester, Arkansas State University was requiring all incoming students to have an iPad.

While Lewis is not one of the schools to have made such drastic changes, it is not a ruled-out possibility. Technology is constantly progressing, and it would most likely be a challenge to keep these advancements out of the classrooms. Dr. Jamil Mustafa, chair of the English department, feels that the shift to teaching with technology is “inevitable.”

One advantage, he believes, would be the cost. Though iPads themselves can be expensive, students can certainly get their money’s worth by buying their textbooks as eBooks. Studies have shown that by purchasing eBooks instead of textbooks, students can easily save hundreds of dollars per year, and most likely per semester.

Another advantage to the integration of iPads, as Mustafa pointed out, is the portability.

“You don’t have to be lugging around a backpack,” he said. “There’d be no excuse for not bringing your book to class … and you can get these other materials right away.”

This easy accessibility, while serving as a convenience factor, could also drive students toward more academic success. Although students learn in different ways, Shawn Jarmuz, psychology professor, believes that there are some students that would excel with electronic texts.

“I think the really good thing about technology is that it’s so readily available,” Jarmuz said. “And when you look at the way our memory processes things, we have 30 seconds to decide. If we have something in our short term memory, it’s going to be stored there for 30 seconds before we have to make a move.”

By having all required textbooks in one place and having constant access to study materials, Jarmuz believes students would have a better chance of storing things into their long term memory, meaning they would retain more information in the long run.

“I see it switching,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t all the way, but it makes sense, because if you look at it environmentally, what’s better – to have the book online or to have the paper copies?”

However, Jarmuz recognizes the drawbacks this technology would bring as well. While there are students who would benefit from it, there are others who would struggle.

Some of Jarmuz’s students annotate while they read, highlighting and writing in the margins.

“That becomes a lot harder when you have your textbook online,” he said. “There’s always going to be students who need the physical book in front of them.”

Jarmuz admits that he’s one of those people, saying he’s “old school that way.” As a member of a literacy committee that reviews controversial textbooks, he was given a Kindle to borrow.

“I tried to read one book on a Kindle, and I gave it back,” he said. “I had a free Kindle at my disposal, and I gave it back. I could not read a book on a screen.”

Being unable to adapt to new technology is one challenge students may face, but another is staying focused and eliminating distractions. Mustafa believes that moving from pages to screens would require a different way of thinking, and that this would be a “huge cognitive leap.”

“This kind of multitasking that we do where we have six screens open at once, and we’re checking our email while we’re looking at our calendar while we’re writing a letter while we’re reading a book – that’s something that people around my age and younger have kind of slipped into and learned how to do,” he said. “But theoretically, you have always been doing it.”

At first, this might sound like Lewis students are very talented, but in fact, they might just be thinking too highly of themselves.

“Studies have shown that none of us can [multi-task] very effectively,” Mustafa said. “We think we’re multitasking, but actually we’re just jumping from task to task, and we’re not focusing very effectively on any of [them].”

With technological advances come new obstacles and challenges, but it will more than likely find its way into Lewis classrooms. Most teachers already include PowerPoint presentations in their classes, which, believe it or not, used to be unheard of. In a few years, iPads and tablets are likely to be the norm, and who knows, maybe future generations won’t even know what a textbook is.

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