Total Pageviews

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Electronic Textbooks?

I recently read an op-ed piece in the NY Times about a statement by Arne Duncan (US Education Secretary) advocating a switch to electronic textbooks in schools. The author made several worthwhile points including the fear-factor of having all our information available only through devices that require electricity. Two advantages of the traditional book are that is requires nothing beyond itself to be used (i.e. it is self-sufficient; no software, electricity, hardware, adapter, download, user account, plug, etc.) and that the format of ink on paper requires no special device to read. One of the complications of digital information is formatting (both of the files and the storage devices). It was not that long ago that I used to back-up my word files on a CD. Now, some computers aren't even coming with CD-drives, and I suspect that they will soon be obsolete. Furthermore, there was a time when we used to type documents in certain word processing programs that no longer exist (or that are not compatible with modern word processing programs), and so these files have been more or less lost. Is there a future in which Microsoft Word (the standard for most documents created in business and schools in the US) will be obsolete, and no one will be able to read those files?

Having grown up using books and being dependent on books for all my research in high school and college, I must admit that I sometimes miss the days when finding information required a little know-how and a little determination (qualities which I think are worth cultivating). As a teacher, I see that students have a diminished respect for data, for information, because they perceive it as being easily obtainable. We all know the old riff about things that come easily not being worth very much. It's like the guy who writes a newsletter and tries to give it away for free. No one wants it. But the minute he charges a quarter per newsletter, they sell like hot-cakes. There's an argument to be made that information shouldn't always be so easy to find. A little effort and time tend to increase our appreciation of the fruits of our labors.

So, as we move into this digital age, I think we need to give serious consideration to how new digital media affect student and cultural inclinations around information and data. This has interesting implications for education too...but I'll save that for another post!

Keep reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment