Students trade heavy tomes for e-texts

Andrea Castro, Staff Writer

Today’s youth, often referred to as Generation Z, is known for its technological savvy— from using smartphones apps such as Instagram and Snapchat to inventing new tools to help with healthcare, Generation Z  is on the path to becoming the most technologically advanced generation ever.  So it only makes sense some students are more comfortable with online texts than lugging around heavy textbooks.

“I do see more teachers being friendly to online textbook use,” Gabriela Vasquez, LUSD Supervisor of Instructional Media Services, said. “There’s always benefits when students have access to it; the obvious drawback, though, is not everyone has internet access.”

Some of the benefits of using online textbooks rather than regular printed textbooks are that backpacks weigh less, the texts are more portable, students don’t have to worry about taking good care of the book, and they are sometimes able to get more help.  Many online textbooks have links to primary sources, maps, and other websites with video clips that are useful to students.

“For the most part, I like [using online textbooks] because I hate having to get up and get my textbook when I’m already situated and doing homework,” junior Sandra Sunio said. “It helps for Stats because the option to view the answer is right under the question so it’s easy for me to look at it and guide me to answer the questions, which further helps me understand the overall concept.”

Sunio also likes the fact that she can view her online textbook on her cell phone.

Other students recognize the limitation to online texts.

“I became incredibly reliant on my online textbook last year, but I was unable to do some assignments during the year when my internet went down and my grade suffered from it,” junior Carmen Oaks said.

Not only can internet service be disrupted, but some students don’t have internet access at home and are unable to do work, a frequent obstacle cited by teachers who don’t use online textbooks.  As online texts become more accessible, high schools throughout the nation are coming up with ways to make the online texts work, despite the problem that some students don’t have internet access.

For example, West Springfield High School in Virginia has come up with a few solutions to what faculty can do to help those students without internet access.  The school has distributed lists of local public wifi hotspots, offered after school computer lab hours, and has even allowed students to check out laptops overnight.

Currently, only a handful of courses at Bear Creek offer online texts.  AP Statistics, APUSH, Integrated Math I, II, III, and Spanish classes all have online books.

“I would have used [online textbooks] in the past had they been available,” Integrated math teacher Dave Goodwin said.  “There’s been no decrease but improvement [in grades] because you no longer need the traditional textbook to practice; it’s more available to students.”

Some teachers still prefer to stick to the regular textbooks, because they feel that students comprehend more better when actually reading out of the book.  According to a study composed by lead researcher  Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University, people who read paper books are generally able to connect with and understand the text better as opposed to those who used e-readers.

Still, some teachers like to explore new ways in which students can learn.

“Every teacher needs to find out their own teaching strategies that they like and always look for new things to do and get out of their comfort zones,” Spanish teacher Andres Gil said.

Teachers who choose to use online textbooks have the ability to access more updated material for their classes.  Usage of online textbooks can also bring more comfort to the students because they are already familiar with devices like iPhones, iPods, and laptops.

“Some of the pros of online textbooks are that they can be updated with new material or errors more frequently, they are in general less expensive than hard copy, you don’t have students carrying backpacks filled with heavy books, and the material is portable and accessible from many different devices with internet connection,” AP Stats teacher Tammy Naylor said.

As of now there is no hard data to support how online textbooks are beneficial compared to traditional texts.