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In a Digital World, Many Students Prefer Printed Books

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Will there ever be a day when there are no real books in schools? This question comes up periodically when we discuss how we should prepare students for the twenty-first century. I hope the answer is “Of course not!” I cannot imagine a world without books—the real kind printed on paper. I fear that I am wrong, though, because it is often a lot cheaper to provide digital books to students.

Please don’t misinterpret me. I am not a Luddite. I much prefer to read books on my digital reader. I can highlight, annotate, bookmark, and do the normal things I do with a paper book. But there are occasions when I want to have the real thing in my hand as I read and study.

I was once touring a student and his parents through the school. As we looked into classrooms, the student remarked how glad he was to see real textbooks being used in the classrooms. When I asked him why, he replied that he is bothered by the light on the screen, and that he has trouble keeping up in class when students are doing a group activity together in their book. He said it is much easier for him to keep up, write notes, annotate, or read from a real book instead of digital. He also said that he likes to follow along under the words he is reading with a pencil because it helps him focus his eyes in the right place. There are ways to do each of these things digitally, but there are some students who prefer to hold the book and pencil in their hand. They get feedback through their fingertips and muscles that helps them to learn better. Since that time, I have surveyed students regarding their learning preference and a significant number of them prefer the old-fashioned book as well as paper and pencil in school.

If your child has an Individualized Education Plan and she benefits from having a real book instead of digital one, you can request that she be provided the normal textbook in addition to her digital copy. She might decide to leave the paper copy at school in her locker and work from the digital one at home.

For a related blog, you might enjoy reading Does My Child Need a Laptop for School?

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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?