What’s the point of textbooks?

Let’s be honest; who actually reads the entire reading assignment anyway?

Just kidding.. but not really. I will be the first one to admit that I didn’t read what I was expected to read in high school. We were assigned ratty, old, falling apart text books and expected to read about 20 pages or a chapter or whatever for the lesson we were learning that week. I didn’t understand the importance of reading the book when the teacher was going to stand up in front of class and tell us exactly what the book said, in his/her own words anyway. Our tests were based strictly off of what the notes from class said, which didn’t challenge our analytical or critical thinking at all.

My honors biology teacher was the most boring of all. She would stand up in front of class and basically read out of the book. I didn’t learn anything. My AP History teacher would assign us readings every night from a thick text… most of which we never read. My AP English teachers would assign readings from books that were on sparknotes. They claimed the quizzes would ask questions that sparknotes wouldn’t cover… but I found out that wasn’t true.

I am ashamed of how lightly I took school in high school. I didn’t understand the necessity for reading analytically and critically; looking for the underlying meaning and being able to adapt the text to other situations – because I wasn’t taught that way.

When I got to college, I expected the same. I didn’t think that reading the textbook was so important and that I would fail the test if I didn’t read… but I learned quickly. I learned that listening and taking notes in lecture was critical, as well as reading the textbook and taking notes. It is unfortunate that some public schools, such as my high school, don’t really prepare you for college well enough. I made good grades and I did just fine on the tests without reading. Therefore, I was at a disadvantage when I expected the same outcome in college.

Additionally, not only do we have to worry about ensuring our students really know the importance of reading texts and understanding them – but now we have to determine which form of text best suits students. In this age of technology, more and more classes, schools, jobs, and offices are going paper-less. No more text books, no more paper tests, no more hand-written notes. However, is this truly the best way for students to learn? What about our eyes well-being from looking at screens all day? What about the importance of hand writing and sketching out thoughts and notes? What if the system crashes and you loose all of the information online or on the computer/tablet/laptop?

There have been countless articles in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Tribune, USA Today, and so on that have covered this topic. Textbooks vs. Tablets – the latest controversial subject.

What about the cost of the tablets? Will buying them in bulk really save that much money? There will always be updates and newer versions of software and hardware that schools will have to purchase. How beneficial cost-wise will this transition be?

Are tablets and online versions of textbooks really beneficial for learning? Sure, maybe the children are more engaged in the technologically advanced versions, but are they learning as much? Are they getting distracted? Do they absorb all of the information they need to?

I don’t know the answer. All I know is one day down the road when I have kids, I am almost 99% sure the educational and professional worlds will be nearly paper-less. And there are is almost nothing we can do about it. Technological advancements are inevitable. We just have to make sure our kids and students are learning as much as possible, as best they can.


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3 Responses to What’s the point of textbooks?

  1. leighahall says:

    So here’s the thing: (a) textbooks are just awful. AWFUL. Now, I’m not talking about a book that a college course might use – because I don’t know about that – but in k-12, they are terrible. They are poorly written and present a narrow view of the world. (b) the use of textbooks presents knowledge as fact based and not open for question. So the kind of critical thinking/reading/analysis you wish you had learned prior to college is not promoted in textbooks. You can use textbooks to engage in such thinking, but it requires expanding the range of texts being read, increasing the breadth and depth of information presented, and then analyzing those texts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jhelms94 says:

      I totally agree. I feel as if textbooks in K-12 settings are sort of a shortcut for teachers, and that is just unfortunate. Something needs to be done to implement critical thinking and analysis in such classrooms as I mentioned, so that students can get a better understanding of the material. Additionally, teachers need to learn better techniques and methods for teaching information rather than solely relying on the textbooks for fact based information.


      • leighahall says:

        I agree but remember that sometimes all teachers have access to ARE textbooks. Many teachers are limited in terms of texts they have access to. That said, how you approach any text can be changed. Someone might only have textbooks, but they can teach students how to read them in multiple ways.


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