Backpacks, notebooks, and textbooks may one day become items in a museum. Old-timers will gather young’uns around to hear stories of carrying dozens of heavy textbooks from class to class, uphill both ways in the snow. These textbooks had all the information anyone needed to know. And sometimes they had information that no one needed to know, such as outdated maps and unrevised theories. And why will elderly storytellers have such tales to spin? Because the shape of K-12 publishing is changing. This new-fangled model embraces digital textbooks.
E-texts have advantages unparalleled by those of traditional textbooks. And these advantages benefit K-12 publishers. In the past, publishers invested a lot of time and resources into updating textbooks. Even just adding a few new ideas to a book required a lot of effort from multiple departments. However, updating digital textbooks is far more cost-effective. It doesn’t require as much time, people, or resources. An entire product doesn’t need to be re-released to give current information to students.
Digital textbooks can also incorporate new technology as it becomes available. In the past, being able to zoom in and out on an image was impressive. Now learners expect to rotate an image and view the object from all sides. This kind of digital manipulation supports deeper learning, which is appealing to any school.
A traditional textbook is limited in the tools it can provide: a glossary, an index, and maybe an appendix or two with a few charts. But with digital textbooks, K-12 publishers can provide more tools that bring learning into real-time. For example, if a learner reads about reptile habitats and wants to learn more, the learner can click on a “learn more” hyperlink. This link opens a window with additional details.
E-texts can encourage reluctant readers by making understanding easier. A learner with a limited vocabulary can access a definition of any word in the text just by clicking on it. This tool also supports lower readers and English language learners. By including these types of tools, K-12 publishers help schools meet federally-mandated accommodations to help every student succeed.
A big boon for teachers is the ability to track learners’ progress. Digital textbooks can include learning management system features. A teacher can click on a learner’s name to receive a report on progress, areas of weakness, and strength. Still, within the e-text’s LMS-like system, the teacher can assign the learner with additional practice to reinforce ideas. Or a teacher can click on a learner’s completed work within the e-text to determine where support is needed. These are the types of features that teachers dream of.
So you see, youngsters, back in my day, we had heavy textbooks. We had to look up any word we didn’t understand. And we were lucky if a picture was drawn in 3D. These days, digital textbooks make learning so easy. You should thank your lucky stars!