Learning in a digital era

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Katie McCabe ’18

In 2017, most school textbooks are easily accessible through mobile phone applications and websites. Though online textbooks can provide students with helpful additional resources and are often more convenient than printed copies, I believe that their negative consequences outweigh the lighter backpack load. 
According to The New York Times, carrying numerous paper textbooks adds additional weight to students’ backpacks. These printed books, however, enable students to complete homework more efficiently by keeping their attention for longer periods of time. Therefore, printed textbooks allow students to finish their homework with fewer distractions than they would find while reading online.
With the Internet as a tempting distraction, students can easily lose focus while reading an online textbook. For instance, advertisements and pop-ups can appear and immediately take hold of a student’s attention. According to nbcnews.com, if a student is distracted while learning or studying, he or she is less likely to retain the information. 
Despite the convenience and cost-efficiency of virtual texts, it is often easier for readers to focus on a printed text rather than an electronic screen, according to cbsnews.com. Online textbooks force students to look at their computers or tablet screens for long periods of time. According to chicagotribune.comthe participants in an Indiana State University study noted that online textbooks contributed to eye-strain issues. As a result, students experience “computer vision syndrome,” which occurs after viewing a lit computer screen for too long. 
“I prefer printed textbooks because it is easier to stay focused and to concentrate while doing my homework. They are also easier to navigate when I need to reference a text,” junior Nathalie Perrault said.

Katie McCabe '18
Katie McCabe ’18

Though some find paper textbooks superior, online textbooks do offer flexibility and convenience. However, while numerous online textbook websites offer interactive lessons and activities which some students believe are useful, most students do not take advantage of these resources that accompany their online books. Busy high school students often only read the assigned text in an effort to save time.
According to chicagotribune.com, cheaper prices provide an incentive for students to purchase online textbooks. In addition, low prices have also encouraged schools to utilize these resources. According to a study by the James Madison University Psychology Department, students tend to opt for the cheaper options when purchasing textbooks, which is most often the online version of a textbook. 
Even though wireless Internet is prevalent throughout schools and American households, Internet connections are not always reliable. According to chicagotribune.com, issues of broken routers and computers running out of battery cause obstacles while a student attempts to access his or her textbooks.
While the lower prices of online textbooks are appealing, printed textbooks are a worthwhile investment to preserve eyesight and limit distractions. Thus, schools should allow their students to determine which type of textbook they would like to purchase and use in an effort to help students learn more comfortably and productively. 
-Katie McCabe, Staff Writer