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Textbooks in the Digital Age

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Textbooks in the Digital Age

The way students use textbooks in the digital age is rapidly changing.

That’s according to Dr. Sharon Anderson, Curriculum Supervisor for Grades 9-12 in Putnam County. She said current textbooks are more than just a book.

“When we make a textbook purchase, we’re not only getting physical textbooks,” Anderson said. “We also get a digital platform component with lots of additional resources that teachers and students can access. Also, a part of that is usually a copy of the text in PDF format.”

Anderson said students can access those digital copies from their computer or tablet. According to a report from Applied Educational Systems, textbook prices increased by 812 percent between 1978 and 2013.

Anderson said even if schools could go totally digital, it wouldn’t likely change textbook expenses.

“What we have found in textbook pricing is that the difference in the cost for purchasing a hard copy of the textbook or purchasing a digital copy is very minimal,” Anderson said. “Textbook publishers have seen the writing on the walls, and they have followed suit. It is actually more cost-effective when we purchase the bundle that includes the hard copy text and the digital resources instead of just going with the digital-only copy.”

As digital devices continue to become available to a wider number of people, Anderson said she can see a time when physical textbooks become obsolete. However, she added, equal access to internet has to be addressed.

“In order for that to happen, paticulary in here in Putnam County, we’ll have to progress to the point where we have digital devices for every student,” Anderson said. “As we found out during this remote leaning period, the majority of our students have devices of some sort at home, we have lots of devices in our schools, but not every student has a device or internet access. In remote areas of the county, even hotspots we loaned to students would not work because they were too remote.”

No matter what textbooks look like in the digital age, Anderson said content will always be the most important part of making choices.

“One of the big focus area of our district is to make sure the materials we purchase are high-quality instructional materials,” Anderson said. “The recent research has pointed to how important it is to have high-quality resources in our teacher’s hands.”


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