Monday, September 21, 2020
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Do students prefer textbooks or tech?

While many education “leaders” consider the 1-to-1 programs a good idea, students at some schools see the situation quite differently.

A poll at Dunlap High School in Illinois showed that more students prefer to learn with textbooks than with Chromebooks, according to a report published in the student newspaper.

“Textbooks are easier to use and more convenient to have, and Chromebooks are a hassle,” The Eagle’s Eye quotes one sophomore who responded to a poll of about 100 students at each grade level, as saying. “With textbooks, you don’t have to remember passwords or charge it and [they are] more convenient to teachers, knowing their students are not doing anything they are not supposed to be doing.”

Other students in the survey said they found information to be more readily available on Chromebooks, even though the devices require a WiFi hotspot nearby.

“I voted for Chromebooks because they are easier to use,” the paper quoted one senior as saying. “When you need a certain page you can just type it in instead of flipping through pages.”

But all four classes at the school, where the total enrollment is about 1,300, showed equal or stronger preference for traditional textbooks, compared to Chromebooks.

Does it help?

Some studies have found that 1-to-1 programs, where each student is provided with a Chromebook or other device from the school, can boost scores on tests.

Binbin Zheng is an assistant professor of counseling, educational psychology, and special education at Michigan State University. He conducted a meta-analysis of 15 years of data and found that scores eventually improve in schools where technology is introduced:

“It’s not like just providing a laptop to every student will automatically increase student achievement, but we find that it’s the first step,” he says.

In schools larger than Dunlap, though, the implementation of 1-to-1 programs can require the school to take on a bulky tech support staff.

“The rapidly evolving and improving devices and software also present a problem,” writes Alex Shrader in Edudemic. “A school district could invest a significant sum in technology only to find it obsolete and unpopular with students in a short time. The style or type of device should also be consistent with the larger vision.”

And while some districts can plan for that “larger vision,” others lack knowledge of the high-tech software world—at least the “institutional” knowledge needed for any program or initiative, technology-based or otherwise, to have a successful outcome.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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