Technology vs. Textbooks

By, Dayoon Chang

Today, a digital bookcase is emerging, where traditional paper textbooks have yielded to iPads and computers. Across America, students’ backpacks are becoming progressively lighter because new technological devices are making their way into classrooms as learning implements for students. Due to the rapid advancement of technology, schools are beginning to replace old school textbooks with tablets and computers to increase class efficiency and to provide varied learning experiences.

Indeed, since the past few years, technology has come to play a big role in Winsor’s education system. For example, Winsor changed its policy in order to introduce technology to students at a younger age. While individual iPads were previously not given out to students until Class III, the new policy allowed students to begin learning with their own iPads starting in Class I.

But from here, a certain question arises: should technology replace textbooks in schools? When Winsor’s technology policy officially changed, I was shocked. Although electronic devices are beneficial to learning in many aspects, I have always believed that technology should be used sparingly, especially in an academic setting. There is always the risk for overexposure to technology. The vast majority of us, myself included, tend to spend at least seven hours on a technological device a day because of school. While Class I and Class II students are not allowed to bring their individual iPads home, most classes depend on the iPads for classwork, writing, and projects. The continuous exposure to screens are associated with a range of health problems, such as visual impairment, headaches, and eyestrain.

Furthermore, iPads can be an obstacle to younger minds. At a younger age, students are not mature enough to control their actions and are more susceptible to distractions like games and social media instead of following the class. Even though I received an iPad at the older age of 13, I remember that there was always that inkling to go play a game or check Instagram during class when the teacher was not looking. The Family Handbook also specifies that “such [technological] access is provided solely for education-related purposes.” Winsor seems to value the benefits of technology in the learning environment. However, allowing younger students to constantly handle such a powerful tool sends a contradictory message. The introduction of technology not only is an easier distraction for younger students, but also introduces to them the distracting world of technology at a younger age in the first place.

This earlier introduction to technological distraction may also stunt a student’s social development. A student’s day at school provides many opportunities for social interactions and conversations with friends and teachers. However, with today’s technology, many students, myself included, tend to recharge by scrolling through social media on phones or texting on computers and iPads rather than face-to-face conversations. As a student who was not completely aware of technology in the classroom until Class III, I vividly remember enjoying free time with my friends in the courtyard. We played tetherball, wall ball, and four squares. Yet, when I walk past the hallways today, I see many younger students sitting on the couches immersed in their iPads instead.

However, technology has its benefits. There is no doubt that technology is powerful – tablets, computers, and phones are used for virtually everything we do today. Because of technology, we can communicate efficiently, have access to the latest information, and use social media apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for entertainment and social connection.

Technology not only helps us with efficiency in life, but also opens up a variety of possibilities in the classroom. Berneece T. reflects that “primary sources and scholarly articles online are significantly more reliable sources than textbooks, which tend to summarize key details. Additionally, a tablet or computer allows students to do things like take notes, write a paper, or look up a word in order to expedite and benefit the learning experience.” Technology can help save money as well. According to the Federal Communications Commission, the United States spends $7 billion dollars a year on textbooks. Because of this expensive cost, most schools tend to keep using outdated textbooks while less expensive, accurate information is readily available online.

On the one hand, technology enhances a student’s learning experience. Thus, the use of tablets and computers in schools are beneficial to students. On the other hand, however, it is important for us to remember that the main goal of technology is to help us pursue a more dynamic education. I am not saying that social media or online games should be completely removed from our lives but rather that technology should be used more sparingly.

Textbooks are the physical approach to studying effectively and help students process information more quickly than they do on screens. Computers and tablets can certainly expand upon the knowledge from textbooks, but by no means should technology completely replace textbooks or any other physical sources, especially at such an early age. To create a more productive class environment, Winsor should reconsider how its recent technology policy change is currently affecting younger students and their ultimate futures.