While schools have traditionally used printed textbooks, choosing digital textbooks impacts learning in positive ways. By adopting e-books in your school or district, you can expand learning opportunities. They help your students thrive in school because they get to learn the way they want to learn. Why else are digital textbooks worth it for K-12? Here are seven advantages of using digital textbooks in schools.
1. You can engage learners more deeply
One of the main advantages of using digital textbooks in schools is learner engagement. Digital textbooks often include interactive features that capture learners’ attention. Instead of asking learners to read a math or social studies chapter, you can bring the subject to life with a digital textbook. Learners can watch videos and animation, listen to audio clips or manipulate 3D images. They may also be able to interact with graphs, maps and diagrams to extend their learning. These engaging features pique their curiosity and help students focus more on the content.
E-textbooks also often include digital assessments. Students can take these assessments along the way while they’re reading. This type of active learning can reinforce concepts and help students get a pulse on what they need to review. Formative assessments in digital textbooks can also break up longer content to make it easier to grasp.
2. You can teach learners 21st century skills
Another advantage of using digital textbooks in schools is that they support 21st-century skills. These skills prepare learners for college and the modern workplace and build upon academic subjects. Some common 21st-century skills include critical thinking, creativity, digital literacy, technology literacy, information literacy and self-direction. School districts are now creating strategies for teaching these skills. That’s because many colleges and employers found that students in the past were not prepared for real-world experiences.
With digital textbooks, students learn how to use technology responsibly and pull information from a variety of digital sources. They also help strengthen learners’ executive functioning skills, which they can apply to life after K-12 schooling. Digital textbooks teach students how to self-direct their own learning by using note-taking and highlighting tools. Plus, they give students choices about how they want to learn about concepts.
3. You can personalize and differentiate instruction more easily
Digital textbooks give students a personalized pathway for learning. Teachers can customize resources in e-textbooks to support different learning styles and academic needs. Digital textbooks also include supplemental links and sources that students can click to learn more. This can help if they need to review a subject or are interested in learning beyond what’s in the textbook chapter.
Differentiation opportunities are also embedded into digital textbooks, another advantage for schools. For example, learners can quickly click on a word to bring up the online dictionary. Color, font sizes and contrast can also be adjusted, and there are Spanish versions of digital textbooks available for schools. For students who need to hear the content read aloud, there are also text-to-speech tools within the textbooks. Plus, along with deeper engagement, features such as videos and simulations can help learners better understand the content.
4. You can save money to use in other high-need learning areas
Your school or district can also use digital textbooks that are part of open educational resource (OER) repositories. These resources are free to use and available to any school or district. There are several high-quality OER sites that feature digital textbooks for K-12. By using digital textbooks instead of purchasing traditional versions, your school or district can save money that can be used in other high-need areas. For example, you can instead use the funds to create a culturally-responsive curriculum, support ELL students or special education students or develop social and emotional learning experiences.
5. You can ensure that students are learning with current information
Another advantage of using digital textbooks in schools is that they can be updated in real-time. Instead of learning with out-of-date material, your students get current information. Digital textbooks are also easily updated across the school district since teachers and learners access them online. If they are downloaded to devices to use offline, they can be quickly downloaded again with the new update. You no longer have to wait years for textbooks to be updated by the publisher or continue to teach with obsolete material.
6. You can keep students from getting injured
Some states have maximum weight standards for textbooks because they can be too heavy for students to carry in their backpack. For example, the California Department of Education found that when students had to carry all of their textbooks, the combined weight presented a danger to students. Another study found that from 2017-2019, an annual estimated average of 7,500 kids had backpack-related injuries and had to visit an emergency room.
Digital textbooks don’t present the same problem. Learners access them on devices like Chromebooks, tablets or phones. These weigh much less in a backpack than math, science, social studies and language arts textbooks. Instead of having to lug around a heavy backpack, students can easily carry their device for learning.
7. You can give students the chance to learn anywhere at any time
Because students can access digital textbooks on multiple devices, learning can happen anywhere, at any time. Students can access their e-textbooks at school, at home, at a friend’s house or at after-school tutoring. It’s much more convenient to be able to pull up a textbook on a Chromebook, tablet or even a phone. Instead of forgetting a textbook or leaving it on the bus, digital textbooks solve that problem so that learning isn’t interrupted.