Colleges and universities across the country have begun experimenting with using e-textbooks, rather thanprinted textbooks, to deliver course content. Now, the K-12 public school system is getting on the e-text bandwagon too, as several state legislatures make moves to support the use of electronic textbooks in their state’s public schools.
- Hyperlinking - Digital textbooks can make use of hyperlinks to direct students to sources of more information on a given topic or statement. Like Wikipedia articles, which encourage readers to click from one article to the next to satisfy their innate desire to learn more, digital textbooks can enhance students’ learning by highlighting the connections between various topics and ideas.
- Updated information - A major advantage that digital textbooks have over print media is their ability to be frequently updated. As an analyst quoted by Enterprise Content Magazine notes, "If even one paragraph is wrong in a hard-copy textbook, the whole thing has to be trashed and reissued. One of the things that people like about digital textbooks is that there's no cost to updating incorrect info."
- Enhanced learning experience - Digital textbooks are not just words on a screen. They can include video clips, interactive quizzes to test students’ mastery of content, audio clips to help students with foreign languages, and message boards in which students interact with a larger community. These kinds of digital learning experiences are important, educational technology enthusiasts argue, because they mimic the types of experiences that students are engaging in during their free time.
- Budget-friendly - Digital textbooks may also have the advantage of saving public schools money. Traditional textbooks often have to be replaced because students lose or damage the books, and whole sets of textbooks must frequently be replaced due to the need for updated information. E-books, on the other hand, can be updated with little cost and do not suffer wear and tear from being carted around in students’ backpacks.
Though traditional textbooks can still be found in K-12 classrooms across the country, this may not be the case several decades from now if current trends continue. As the Boston Globe reports, Judie Mathis Johnson, assistant professor in the Technology in Education program at Lesley University, is one of several experts who believe that textbooks are on their way out. Sales are down, and, according to Johnson, “Already, a few school systems have said, ‘We’re locking up the textbooks. We’re only looking at digital products from now on.’ ’’