TED Conversations

Lynn Salehi

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Are printed textbooks obsolete? Are there good reasons to keep using them along with or instead of digital learning environments?

What are the pros and cons of paper vs. digital resources for learning? Assuming equal access to computers, is digital necessarily better? Will we be losing anything if we give up the hard copies? Should schools (and textbook companies) focus their resources on creating and using rich digital environments that support 21st century learning?


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    Feb 17 2011: It is unfortunate that the textbook game is overwhelmingly about money and profitability. At this point, however, print textbooks are not quite obsolete. The overall trend seems to be moving to a digital educational format. But while I myself loved my textbooks and probably would have struggled learning biochem on a kindle, the issue is more about the content rather than the format of information. Digital formats allow great potential of manipulation and editing (not always bad) whereas the physical tactile format allows for interaction and engagement.

    The solution really just lies in finding the educational balance and the monetary balance. Kids needs to be engaged with their books and pens but a smartboard allows for tremendous volumes of information to be displayed at will. And textbook publishers need to reinvent the application of their educational tools to provide information in either format.

    I also don't believe we are heading into a state of all digital format overnight. These new innovative tools aren't always thrown into a classroom immediately but rather introduced slowly and systematically. Not every school and district gets the newest toy and therefore trial and error have a lot to do with the process. I don't fear that one day we'll wake up and every single kid has an iPad 8 and no use for a number 2 pencil. I think balance between the two will be discovered at the greatest learning benefits of our kids.

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