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Do Textbooks Matter?

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In the educational world, there is a grand debate. Do textbooks still matter?

Several scientific studies have been conducted in the hopes of answering this question. As technology becomes more and more involved, teaching programs, computer software and interactive instructional methods are becoming more popular forms of providing education. Truly interacting with all five senses is the ideal way to teach new material for this most greatly mimics the way that we absorb the world around us on a daily basis.


However, reading remains an important method of solidifying and creating contextual memory paths for us to recall and apply practical knowledge gained through sensory experience. Yet, are books needed in order to generate this result?

The following sections came to offer a brief summary of the studies that have been conducted to help us gain a better understanding of this ever-growing debate.

Pro-Textbook:

A recent study conducted by Ann-Katrin van den Ham and Aiso Heinze focused primarily on the effects of using text in helping develop elementary students’ mathematical abilities.

Over the course of their study, Ham and Heinze discovered that books garnered a powerful impact on the students’ ability to learn, replicate and retain key mathematical skills. As books were used in instruction, students were found to benefit from longitudinal effects on their overall achievements. However, the impact of the text was directly correlated to the quality of the content within the book itself.

Based on their studies of the results of students examinations, Ham and Heinze discovered that, “findings suggest that textbooks should be considered as an important covariate in educational research and that textbook choice is a relevant factor for educational practice.”

According to this research, texts still play an influential role in instructional methods. In other forms of education—such as Communication or psychology—books provide incredible reference resources for students to refer to throughout the course of their study. However, in all realms, the texts were found to need excellent teacher examples and interactive instruction in order to make the content within accessible to a variety of students’ learning types.

Anti-Textbook:

According to research conducted by the Huffington Post, texts are not the premier way of teaching students new information. In their research, educational programs seem to be what make education—books or not—relevant and longitudinally effectual.

Huffington Post defines a program as follows, “A program is a set of coordinated strategies designed to improve student achievement.”

Programs are specifically designed by educators to engage their specific student body. Much like a business plan is applicable to a targeted market, educators take their student demographic into consideration when building these programs. Programs can be built around activities and interactive technologies which are specifically designed to engage students’ senses and creativity. By engaging students’ creativity, not only do educators create more interest in the topics at hand, but they also create a learning environment which is suited to the way that humans naturally learn.

When we are children, we are sponges. We absorb and absorb and absorb the world around us so that we can understand and one day survive and thrive within it. This is why language development is so easily acquired throughout the early childhood years. As we get older, our sponge abilities change into shortcut habits which are meant to help us efficiently manage the multiple responsibilities of daily life as an adult.

Interactive learning styles teach students from an early age how to create and re-create these essential habits on a daily basis. Using just information from a textbook does not do the educational system justice.

What is the solution here? Are texts completely obsolete?

The Consensus:

As seen in a Ham and Heinze’s study, books have the ability to help students make great gains towards their educational goals. However, engaging in multiple different learning styles through programs and technology is important as well. Therefore the consensus for the educational community is a combination of a good text and a good teacher who knows how to make the words come alive. Books are meant to be referential sources that students can use in their studies at home, whether they are learning a new mathematical equation or looking for specific information for their history paper. Books are meant to help guide the teachers in their creation of programs. Whether used textbooks or new, books are designed to function as resources for students and teachers. When applied in this way, texts can play an incredible role in interactive education.

Conclusion:

At the end of the day, new or used textbooks are wonderful resources for helping boost students’ knowledge bases. Yet, a textbook is not meant to stand on its own. Educators need to be willing to develop interesting programs which cater to a variety of different learning styles and learning disabilities to teach students how quality content can impact their lives. It’s also the teacher‘s responsibility to show students how to properly use a text. A textbook is an incredible tome of information, and when students know how to take notes out of it and use it as references for their work, a textbook becomes a scholar’s best friend.

So when it comes to choosing a textbook for a class, educators need to be on the lookout for books with good layouts, great pictures, and that will help supplement the programs they’re already developing and refining. If educators use textbooks in this way, students will learn how to use them to achieve great ends.

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