E-Texts: Innovation or Status Quo?

1/1/2013 12:00:00 AM

Many textbooks now have an e-text version.  Do these e-texts improve  student learning?

Some advantages:

  • No heavy or bulky textbook to carry; portable
  • Font size can be adjusted so students can more easily read or see information.
  • Text can be searched
  • Often has an online assessment; allows online quizzes  to be graded automatically online
  • Often has an online homework management; allows  homework  activities to be graded automatically online
  • Has organized the content into  chapters; chapters have various sections
  • Text can be copied and pasted from the  e-text into a word processor
  • Text can  usually be highlighted
  • Usually includes multimedia (pictures, video, audio…)

Some disadvantages:

  • Often is an exact  reproduction of the textbook. An E-text probably is   not linked,  therefore,  students cannot  click on words or images to get additional information.
  • The e-text is still mainly print (word) based.
  • Many images  may supplement  the text but they do not add new information;  images help explain the text instead of the image being the main source of information.
  • Usually a student cannot write in the e-text such as writing  comments in the margin
  • The user needs an e-reader, a computer or a mobile device to read the e-text.
  • Additional exercises are  predominantly word based.
  • Most e-text homework managers and on-line quizzes only tell the students if they are right or wrong. They do not provide new strategies for learning the material.
  • Since homework and quizzes are done online, the teacher may never review what the students do not know. If the teachers do not review student progress, then the teachers cannot provide formative activities for student  improvement.
  • Interactivity  may include activities such as  moving some words around or rearranging pictures but  the e-text interactivity  usually lacks high  interactivity such as simulations.
  • Additional exercises are still  predominantly at a  low level of thinking.  They do not engage students in real-life use of the learning.
  • Often multimedia is an add-on, rather than an integral part of the basic textbook.  Often multimedia comes after the main learning.
  • An  e-text cannot be customized; teacher cannot rearrange parts such as  combining a part from chapter 1, a part from chapter 3, and a  a part from chapter 8 to create a new chapter.
  • The digital textbook can be outdated very quickly if the  e-text does not contain links to current events.
  • May not show the learners  the priority of the learning concepts within the chapter. What part of the chapter is the most critical? Is the most time and space spent on that critical learning or do minor  concepts get equal time and space?
  • E-texts are boring since they are still traditional textbooks.

What are your reactions to using e-texts?

cross-posted at  http://eduwithtechn.wordpress.com

Harry Grover Tuttle teaches English and Spanish college courses at Onondaga Community College and blogs at Education with Technology. He is also the author of
several books on formative assessment

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