How do online textbooks improve learning?
When the first online textbooks appeared, many experts were sure that they would completely change the teaching process. Although such predictions have not yet materialized, the fact is that the use of online learning materials has greatly improved teaching, especially in primary schools.
Namely digital books help students learn new material 30% to 80% faster than before, according to the research of the US Department of Education and Studies. Primary school teachers from all over the world agree with these insights: 81% of them believe that digital textbooks improve the teaching process, according to the survey conducted by PBS.
However, before we explain how online textbooks improve teaching quality, let’s first see what the term actually means.
What is an online textbook?
An online textbook is also known as a digital or electronic textbook. Although, strictly speaking, these terms are not synonyms, all three of them refer to digital textbooks. Depending on the publisher and textbook type, some of them can be exclusively accessed online, while others can be accessed offline, and the Internet connection is only needed to update them.
An online textbook is not the same as an ebook, i.e. it is not a digital version of a book that can be read on different devices. On the contrary a digital textbook is actually much more than just an electronic version of a printed textbook.
It is a learning package with extensive visual and interactive potential, options to create links to other internal and external content, options to underline, highlight and take notes, as well as other advanced options brought about by modern technologies.
When talking about online textbooks for primary school, it should be noted that there are two types of digital materials:
- electronic textbooks that enable teachers to enrich and enhance their classes with photo, audio and video content, as well as interactive tasks;
- interactive digital material designed for independent student work – electronic workbook.
The first digital textbooks were created for primary schools, later expanding to all levels of education. As technology advances, they are quickly becoming an indispensable methodological tool in classrooms around the world.
Why do digital textbooks have such potential?
Today’s children are growing up in a world where technology plays a major role. Many of them come into contact with smartphones, tablets and laptops before they’ve even learned to walk. Later in life, one of the main ways in which children learn new content is through video games, cartoons, movies, and social media. This is where the digital textbook comes in.
Simply, its goal is to make use of all the advantages of technology to create the best learning material. This way, children receive educational content in a form that is relatable, familiar, and associated with fun, thus the final outcome should be more successful learning. Digital textbooks enable us to use technological potential for educational purposes in order to teach children to use technology responsibly for development purposes.
Digital materials are particularly attractive for parents who are worried because their children spend too much time on the computer having fun. This is why parents and teachers want to utilize new technologies to offer better content to their children. They are aware that we cannot run away from technology in the 21st century, because it provides great opportunities, and digital literacy is one of the main requirements for professional success in modern society, which is why it should be used for the right purposes.
In order to utilize the possibilities of technology in the best possible way for education, digital textbooks must be well-designed. When considering an e-textbook for your child, you should take the following into account: quality digital material is not just a fashionable and modern extension of traditional textbooks, but should significantly improve the quality of teaching.
Ask the publisher or the seller in what ways can a textbook and its content improve your child’s learning.
Both children and teachers benefit from them
Online textbooks are a great help to teachers. Not only do they automate certain teaching processes, thus saving time, but they also provide teachers with a whole range of tools and aids for enriching lectures. Simply put, an electronic textbook combines a traditional textbook with a teacher’s handbook, offering a multitude of creative and multimedia content that make classes more attractive, both visually and cognitively.
A special benefit of digital materials for teachers is continuous possibility of adding new content. This way, the teaching process can never become monotonous and repetitive, which makes learning a creative and fun process.
A special appeal of the digital textbook is the fact that it allows for the possibility of automatic task reviewing. This is why they are suitable for independent work from a student’s home, and parents and teachers have a constant insight into the child’s progress. In addition, there is another reason why children like digital textbooks knowledge testing becomes interesting.
Namely, tests and written assignments are among the main causes of stress for students. Many children forget even things they know due to test-related anxiety and consequently get poor grades. In the case of digital textbooks, a student’s knowledge is tested through online quizzes, guessing games, and other fun instruments. Thus, knowledge assessment becomes game-like, which is interesting and attractive for students, and most importantly, stress-free.
Online textbooks for primary school
Digitization of teaching and learning material is slowly changing the face of traditional education. Only a few years ago, the application of electronic textbooks in primary school was just a theory. Today, such teaching materials have been present in classrooms around the world for a while now. Thanks to that, we can see the benefits of such teaching aids more clearly. The benefits are varied, ranging from learning improvement to improvement in children’s health.
Some of the most common benefits of digital textbooks for primary school are:
1. Lighter schoolbags
Pediatricians and chiropractors recommend that the weight of the school bag must not exceed 15% of the child’s weight, and ideally, it should be even lighter. However, in reality, children’s school bags are very often much heavier than the recommended weight.
As a result, more and more students suffer from spine curvature disorders and bad posture, and the main cause is the weight of printed textbooks. Unlike printed textbooks, digital textbooks can fit onto a tablet, which is far lighter than an average book, and as a result, the schoolbag becomes much lighter.
Electronic textbooks for primary school provide students with more means of communication than their traditional counterparts, because of the multimedia content. As a result, children are more engaged in learning. Students can use the following:
- interactive geography maps,
- math charts,
- videos, e.g. illustrating the life cycle of a plant or animal species,
- language games and online dictionaries,
- online quizzes,
- knowledge tests,
- educational video games.
The teaching content available to students through online textbooks is far richer than the content available in traditional books. This is not surprising given the fact that many digital textbooks are more than books; they represent learning packages.
3. They are cheaper and easily updated
Online textbooks cost up to 50-60% less than printed textbooks. In addition, unlike traditional textbooks which change every year, digital textbooks are simply updated, and don’t become obsolete as fast as their printed counterparts. Therefore, instead of buying new textbooks every year, online textbooks for primary school can be used by several generations of students.
4. They adapt to students with reading difficulties
One of the great advantages of digital learning materials is the fact that they can be adapted to the needs of students with reading difficulties. The text, images and lighting can be enhanced or diminished as necessary, and there is also the text-to-speech option which is great for students with visual disabilities. In addition, colors can be adjusted to suit the visual and cognitive needs of an individual.
One of the main tasks of the future generations is to take care of our planet. Online textbooks reduce deforestation for paper production, thus contributing to the preservation of the environment. The introduction of these tools in education is also an opportunity to raise children’s awareness from an early age of the importance of environmental preservation, as well as actions that contribute to it.
Another advantage of electronic textbooks is the possibility of personalization. The digital textbook can provide teachers with valuable insights into the learning method and progress of each student, which allows for the adjustments in the curriculum in line with student affinities, needs and learning pace.
For example, if a student acquires new knowledge quickly and is at a higher level than the rest of the class, the teacher may decide to introduce the student to new, more advanced lessons for higher grades. Or digital textbooks allow teachers to clearly identify the subject or area the student struggles with; this way, additional help can be provided, and progress can be achieved.
Online textbooks also provide various opportunities for personalized use by adapting to different students’ learning styles. Thus for example, students who are learning a new geography lesson can underline keywords, leave comments, use Google Maps to see the areas they are learning about. Students no longer have to wait for the teacher to hand out the necessary materials, but can look up everything that interests them about the lesson on their own.
This is a good way to train the child to study independently, and to strengthen their curiosity and provide them with valuable research tools. Unlike traditional, non-personalized, one-size-fits-all textbooks, digital materials provide a variety of options for each student, allowing them to customize the learning process, research additional literature, and be assessed individually.
7. They make learning easy and fun
Rich content, interactivity, and a selection of interesting quizzes make digital textbooks interesting, accessible, and relatable to children. Because they speak a language familiar to children and offer educational content in the form children associate with fun, online textbooks greatly facilitate the learning process.
There are numerous websites that offer entire libraries of online textbooks from different fields: mathematics, languages, science and social studies, etc.
8. They prepare students for the 21st century
As part of digitalization in education, online textbooks allow students to better prepare for the challenges of the 21st century. Although we cannot say what the future holds for our children, one thing is certain: technology will play a much larger part in the future than it has in our lives.
Most jobs will demand adequate knowledge of new technologies. Therefore, introducing children to the creative and educational applications of technological products as early as possible can play a decisive role in their professional future.
9. It is easier to take notes
One of the reasons why books commonly cannot be re-used is note-taking and underlining/highlighting text. Digital textbooks don’t have that problem. Students can underline text and leave comments without destroying the book, because any comment or section of underlined text can be removed. In addition, digital textbooks come with a built-in search option which makes lesson navigation intuitive and efficient.
10. It is easier to track student progress
Electronic textbooks for primary school allow students to solve tests and quizzes independently, automatically recording correct and incorrect answers. This is the moment when an electronic textbook becomes a workbook, allowing students to practice independently and receive immediate feedback on their progress. This option also allows teachers and parents to be up-to-date with the student’s progress, as well as to identify areas the child struggles with, and those he/she excel at.
11. Availability on multiple devices at any time
Online textbooks can be used on different devices: mobile phones, iPads, laptops and computers, which means that students can access their learning materials from the device they prefer and review their lessons at any time, for example, while commuting to school. All this makes the learning process far more comfortable and effective.
Some interesting facts about digital textbooks
Ever since they were introduced to education, different studies have been examining the impact of digital textbooks. Here are some of their most interesting findings:
- a tablet with a memory of 4 GB containing 3,500 digital textbooks weighs one billionth of a billionth part of a gram more than an empty tablet; in comparison, the same amount of printed textbooks would weigh around two tons;
- students who used interactive, digital textbooks achieved 20% better results in standardized math tests than their peers who learned from traditional textbooks;
- the number of students who require medical care due to back and shoulder problems caused by the weight of their school bags dropped by 54% since the introduction of digital textbooks.
The future of online textbooks
Although digital and printed textbooks are often compared, i.e. usually by talking about the advantages and disadvantages of each, it is actually a wrong point of view. We shouldn’t be exclusive when it comes to teaching and learning. The solution doesn’t lie in an either-or approach, but in the synthesis of digital and printed teaching materials.
In that sense, digital textbooks certainly won’t replace printed textbooks, at least not in the near future. However, they are a significant addition that enriches teaching, expands content and engages students in a different way than traditional textbooks. The right approach involves combining both types of textbooks and their personalized application.