Two separate digital textbook articles today create some doubt about student’s perceptions and use of digital textbooks and eReaders. While it’s too soon to determine whether the problem lies in the difficulty of changing paradigms or the quality of eReaders, we still have a long road to travel before paper disappears.
The first article comes from the Teaching and Developing Online blog which posted survey results from students at Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School. The four question survey, responded to by ninety students, reaffirms that many students are not quite ready to give up paper. Still, I can not attest to the survey’s background, the age of the students, or whether these students have been using digital textbooks.
Asked whether schools should keep hardbound textbooks, 66% said yes, while 56% responded in question two that they like the idea of a digital textbook. 53% felt that digital textbooks would save money. 81% of students felt that some form of textbook is necessary in schools.
More telling, though, were students’ comments which seem to confirm that they’ve not yet encountered digital books and that they’re struggling with the paradigm shift.
- I am not too sure if electronic textbooks would be very handy, you would have to keep flicking back and forth from page to page on your computer.
- I like turning the pages of a real book.
- Electronic textbooks would be annoying because you’d always need a computer. Sometimes reading on the computer is not fun.
- They would save money in the long run, but it would be another thing we would have to learn how to use.
- Textbooks are useful but not up to date
- By having electronic textbooks, students would be able to access newer information.
Perhaps more striking is an Education Week article published today entitled Kindle Lightens Textbook Load, But Flaws Remain which chronicles comments from 200 students who received Kindles from Amazon. The Associated Press story also seems to point out some of the problems students have with shifting to digital textbooks on eReaders. “… some students are finding they miss the decidedly low-tech conveniences of paper — highlighting, flagging pages with sticky notes and scribbling in the margins.” Students disliked taking notes using the tiny keyboard. While students did take advantage of the Kindle’s highlighting and bookmarking features, one commented that a large number of bookmarks can be difficult to organize. For one MBA student, a paper textbook makes more sense when a large number of calculations are necessary, since he needs to scribble notes in the margins.
Students complemented the Kindle, though, and seem to recognize that today’s eReaders are similar to computers from the 1990s, primitive, but a first step.
So, the battle continues. Like any disruptive innovation, we’re all adjusting to a paradigm shift while the technology slowly improves to meet our expectations.