Textbooks are History: Apps are Where It’s at
It’s easy to see why textbooks are quickly becoming a thing of the past. First, bound stacks of paper are inherently unfriendly to the environment. Second, the information in those books can quickly go out of date, requiring the purchase of new ones. Third, and probably most importantly, paper textbooks are a significant expense for schools with dwindling dollars.
In these days of limited educational budgets, districts strive to make every dollar stretch as far as possible. The fact is that digital textbooks and online apps are much easier on district budgets. Students can save hundreds of dollars on textbooks each year.
With savings like that, and Pew research reporting that 70 percent of teachers now allow smartphones and tablets in the classroom, the switch to digital apps and online textbooks is imminent. Paper books just don’t make much sense in our modern smartphone-wrangling, tablet-toting world.
Over the past several years, teachers have started dabbling with a few educational apps and digital learning tools. Here are a few standouts:
Edmodo allows students and teachers to do the business of learning – share assignments and notes, submit work, message with each other, and share relevant online content – all within a frontend interface that looks and feels like a social network. Because of its creative and youthful appeal, teachers rave about how effective the app is and how relevant it is for the modern world.
eduPad offers a series of apps for elementary, middle school and foreign language students, as well as SAT prep applications. These apps work across subject areas from language arts to math, and comply with Common Core State Standards being adopted by states nationwide.
TenMarks Education offers a math app that allows teachers to choose the math curriculum and concepts, and delivers a “playlist” of lessons to students. Amazon, looking to get into the digital textbook space, acquired TenMarks in late 2013.
Duolingo is a free foreign language-learning app for both iOS and Android devices. It wasn’t developed specifically for the classroom, but the app has such an effective methodology and easy-to-use interface that some teachers have started using it with students. Reviews on the app are extremely high, and with a variety of ways for students to approach learning a language – open ended questions, translations, verbal responses and more– Duolingo delivers an effective learning experience for both young students and adults alike.
Not only are students and teachers getting into the digital app game, but there are also many opportunities for parents to participate in their students’ learning. For example, parents who want to keep track of what their students are learning may download the Common Core app, which will allow them to reference standards by subject, grade and subject category of their students.
What’s clear from the success of these apps is that online and digital learning is the future. As districts continue to build IT infrastructure and acquire devices to make digital learning easier, students are sure to see far fewer paper textbooks.
– By Jessica Oaks