Ernest Hemingway was one of my greatest influences growing up. He repeatedly said that “There is no friend as loyal as a book” (Kowalczyk, 2017); followed by William Feather who suggested that “Books open your mind, broaden your mind, and strengthen you as nothing else can” (Skip Prichard, 2014). For years, textbooks have been that fundamental part of our educational infrastructure and have also been used in the development of students’ cognitive skills. Moreover, textbooks are a critical component of the type of learning design used to facilitate active classroom participation, but over the years as new technologies such as laptops, tablet computers, etc., have made their way into the classroom. Too often, society has pushed us towards the path of digitalization, but that should not mean that it is time to implement such technology into the hands of our upcoming generation.
Though we have seen the positive effects of technology, there are, however, pitfalls such as Wi-Fi issues, prices, distraction factors, apps, etc. Today, this has cause needed debate on the topic, leaving us to answer this question “whether or not tablets should replace the use of textbooks in K-12”. As such, I believe that tablets should not replace textbooks in the educational system. Therefore, this paper aims to present supported arguments towards this position, presenting a counter argument and rebuttal and finally closed by summarizing what was discussed in this paper.
In selecting the two premises for this paper, a list of pros and cons were reviewed on the website ProCon.org, as such two opposing views were selected to support my position as to why tablets should not be used in the classroom. Firstly, the cost of tablets is said to be more expensive than that of print textbooks and would eventually marginalize poorer communities (ProCon.org, 2016). Typically, implementing tablets in schools would require the purchase of the hardware’s and software’s, Wi-Fi infrastructures, and putting together of training programs to adequately support the system (Times, 2015). These implementations all come with a high cost; for instance, it was estimated that the cost of e-textbooks on tablets was 552% higher than new print textbooks in an average high school (The Education Business Blog, 2012). Not overlooking the cost of installments, but we also need to acknowledge the cost associated when replacing damaged or stolen tablets (Times, 2015).
According to Lee Wilson, a prominent marketing expert, estimated that the annual cost per student per class with tablets is $71.55US compared to $14.26US for print textbooks ‘see figure 1.1 & 1.2 in appendix’ (The Education Business Blog, 2012). Taking this factor into account, the needed finances can be diverted towards other resources, e.g. school infrastructures, program developments, as well as increase salaries for teachers’. Alternatively, allocating finances for the purchase of tablets would inevitably leave low-income communities at a disadvantage based on wealth distribution. For example, when parents incur the cost to finance these devices, they ran the socioeconomic inequity inherent in the already existing school system. However, this further illustrates that it would be beneficial for schools to maintain the use of textbooks rather than implementing tablets; as it would be the best bargain and also save money.
Secondly, there are numerous health factors associated with tablets both from an individual and environmental standpoint, which can affect the learning atmosphere of students. According to the American Optometric Association, handheld devices contributes to what is called ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’ otherwise known as ‘Digital Eye Strain’, which is a “group of eye and vision-related problems that result from the prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader, and cell phone use” (2018). Some of the symptoms associated with this syndrome are increased headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes (American Optometric Association, 2018). In addition, students and teachers also experience a higher rate of musculoskeletal disorders which is associated with repetitive strain on the muscles, including carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain, shoulder pain, and fibromyalgia (Cheng, Wong, et. al., 2016).
Let’s be real, with a device that causes such health risks, why would anyone want to implement such technology into the school system, which can pose destructive and dangerous in the long-run. To further add to my premise, according to an article from the New York Times, written by Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris, the ‘adverse health impacts from making one e-reader are estimated to be 70 times greater than those from making a single book’ (2010). Additionally, when these devices eventually become obsolete—which they would—they release toxic chemicals into our environment, adding to the health issues that are already prominent. In a research done by Goleman, et. al., it was found that one tablet amounts for approximately 33 pounds of minerals, 79 gallons of water, and 100 kilowatts an hour of fossil fuels which results in an overall 66 pounds of carbon dioxide (2010). In comparison, only two gallons of water are required to produce pulp slurry and two kilowatts an hour to form and dry the paper (Goleman, et. Al., 2010). Basically, physical textbooks only produce at least 100 times fewer greenhouse gases than that of tablets; therefore, I believe textbooks pose a better health risk than tablets.
Many advocates for tablets claims that they are much lighter than print textbooks and causes less spinal problems than that of a crammed bag of textbooks.
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. Tablets contain many technological features that cannot be found in print textbooks (ProCon.org, 2013). Tablets give users the ability to highlight and edit text and write notes without ruining a textbook for the next user. Tablets have a search function, a backlighting option to read in low light, and a built-in dictionary. Interactive diagrams and videos increase student creativity, motivation, attentiveness, and engagement with classroom materials. (for technology)
Tablets should not replace textbooks in schools. The affirmative side makes some valid arguments for the need of tablets, however, it uses these same arguments throughout not only their constructive speech and cross-examination but also into their own rebuttal as well. They pair affirmative facts against the presented negative facts in a fight of who can say the same thing the most in order to win. In the affirmative constructive speech, it was stated that “…the student would have to pay for another tablet on their own just like they would if they would lose a textbook. There are always consequences for things that we do…They also may be penalized by the school not buying a new one for them and they won’t be able to learn or read their school material if they don’t have a tablet.” When asked by the negative cross-examination about the circumstances of a low-income student not being able to replace a tablet, the affirmative switched from a solid. (Rebuttal)
To conclude, I can agree that the tablets are an essential device for transmitting information, but to implement them in the classroom is not the answer. However, I strongly believe that education should not revolve around the use of technology, but should be centered around the use of textbooks. At the same time, what makes a difference in the educational systems is that student’s learning stems from information learned through experience, not in the form of gadgets. Hence, With the continued use of textbooks, we can guarantee that the cost of education and the health factors would be of a minimum. A statement released by Boston College’s Walsh, states that “I would prefer a good traditional experience over a bad digital experience” (Reiss, 2013). As such, authorities should take a closer look at the potential risks and pitfalls before we put them into the hands of our generation.
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