Books in the Classroom: Text or Note?

There’s nothing like curling up with a good book on a delightfully dreary fall day, watching the grey skies while keeping cozy warm by the fire.  On the other hand, I love getting on the computer and catching up on the latest news or finding the answer to some question one of my kids asked.  Luckily for me, I can choose either option — or, rather, I could if I had that kind of free time.  But what if one had to choose?  Many schools can’t afford both technology and textbooks, so which would teachers rather have?

In the UK, almost 70% of teachers in a new survey said they would rather see school budgets pay for state-of-the-art technology than for textbooks.  This makes a lot of sense to me; teaching is about interaction and getting the kids interested in a subject.  It’s much easier and far more effective to do so with an electronic document viewer and projector than by having kids read from a dry, static textbook.

In addition to wanting more tech in their classrooms, more than half of the teachers feel that students who do not have internet access at home are “seriously disadvantaged.”  Chances are, if you’re reading this, your kids have access to the internet at home, either through your computer or even, perhaps, one of their own.  So it’s easy enough to forget that some kids can’t just pull up Wikipedia or to check something.  They can’t just do a Google search to find out the distance from the Earth to the Moon or how many teeth a crocodile has.

Sure, one can keep a dictionary next to the dining room table for easy access, as we do, but it’s hard for a book to explain a concept like the relationship between Pi and the diameter of a circle as clearly as an animated image can.  The teachers I’ve spoken with echo the British teachers’ views, so this is not just a UK idea; it seems that educators who have seen what can be accomplished by using technology tools to teach get very excited about doing the same in their own classrooms.

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