Source: Voranai Vanijaka and Lamphai Intathep, "Tablet Tryout at Rachawinit School," bangkokpost.com, Mar. 12, 2012
As the cost of bulky textbooks continues to climb at double the rate of inflation, ever-slimmer digital tablets keep coming down in price. Now that 98% of American classrooms have access to the internet, increasing numbers of school districts are opting for digital tablets.
But the transition from textbooks to tablets is controversial. Are digital tablets too expensive for schools, too distracting for students, and too prone to problems for realistic adoption by K-12 schools? Or should the increasingly popular tablets replace print textbooks as an inevitable classroom tool of the future?
ProCon.org, a nonpartisan research organization devoted to critical thinking on controversial issues, debuts a brand new issue website Tablets vs. Textbooks (tablets-textbooks.procon.org) and delves into the pros and cons of whether tablets should replace textbooks in K-12 schools.
Proponents of tablets say that they are supported by most teachers and students, are much lighter than print textbooks, and improve standardized test scores. They say that tablets can hold hundreds of textbooks, save the environment by lowering the amount of printing, increase student interactivity and creativity, and that digital textbooks are cheaper than print textbooks.
Opponents of tablets say that they are expensive, too distracting for students, easy to break, and costly/time-consuming to fix. They say that tablets contribute to eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision, increase the excuses available for students not turning in their homework, require costly Wi-Fi networks, and become quickly outdated as new technologies are released.
In addition to in-depth pro and con research, the latest ProCon.org website contains a historical background section, videos, photos, over 45 footnotes and sources, and Did You Know? facts including:
1. A 4GB tablet filled with 3,500 e-books weighs a billionth of a billionth of a gram more than if it were empty of data - a difference that is approximately the same weight as a molecule of DNA. The same number of physical books would weigh about two tons.
2. In San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, robberies related to internet-enabled handheld devices have accounted for 50, 40, and 25 percent respectively of all robberies in 2012.
3. During the 2011-12 school year more than 13,700 US kids, aged 5 to 18, were treated in hospitals and doctors' offices for backpack-related injuries such as contusions, sprains, fractures, and strains to the back and shoulders
4. Students who used an interactive, digital version of an Algebra 1 textbook for Apple's iPad in California's Riverside Unified School District in 2012 scored 20 percent higher on standardized tests vs. students who learned with print textbooks.
5. Publishing for the K-12 school market is an $8 billion industry, with three companies - McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - capturing about 85% of this market. Tablets are a $35 billion industry with roughly one in three adults owning a tablet.
ProCon.org President Kamy Akhavan explained: "As more and more states, school districts, and individual schools weigh the tough decision to go digital or stick with print, we want to help educators and facilitate those decisions with our nonpartisan research."
For more pros, cons, and related research on whether or not textbooks should replace tablets in K-12 schools, visit tablets-textbooks.procon.org.
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