The Rocket

Shiny, new electronic textbooks won’t make students study more

Dan Gladis

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There are very few things that raise my blood pressure more than listening to supremely unqualified and out-of-touch people talk about education as if they have even the faintest idea of what they are talking about. One of the recent news items to provoke such a response from myself was the news that Apple is beginning to develop and push for electronic textbooks. While I have no qualms with the implementation of this product at the college level, and I raucously cheer the hopeful decline in textbook prices, there are several issues that the brave new world of”iTextbooks” have at the pre-university level that should be cause for pause.

As a student, I feel that many involved in this electronic textbook situation have missed the point entirely. To quote Voltaire as best I can from memory, “We cannot all be equal, but we can all be equally free.” Thus, it is disappointing to me to see these tech-folks try to make all students do “equally” well in schools. I hate to be a bringer of disappointment, but no matter what shiny things are conceived of and created, there will still be those who don’t like it, don’t “get” it, and refuse to try and learn the material.

What companies and many government officials (but few educators in my experience, thank heaven) seem to expect is that if something shinier and more gamey is offered, students will follow obediently and do collectively better.

Wrong.

Kids will do as well as they wish to, quite frankly. The culture of victimization that is becoming ever more so pervasive amongst the sue-happy people of this nation would beg to differ and kick the blame upstairs, so to speak, and find another scapegoat for problems in education.

It’s simple, really. If a kid has motivation to do well, and puts in hard work to do well, then the chances of them doing well are exponentially increased – not only in school, but in life. The opposite is equally true – where a lack of motivation corresponds to a lack of success in almost all cases.

I suppose that what I am saying can be boiled down to this: student performance is almost always a question of the child’s motivation and how good their parents are/were at parenting (as no government, school or technology can take the place of a competent parent). It is almost always NOT a question of shiny new things and adaptive learning.

By creating such narrowly individualized plans of education for all students at an early age, a growing misconception would be embedded in new generations of students.

That misconception would be, why yes, the world is specifically adaptive to your needs and you are just as smart and special as the next kid! Well, yes, we are all important in our own way, but don’t go on giving them a big head about it.

To conclude, I don’t wish to be seen as a Draconian beast that dislikes children and wants to make them feel bad and insignificant.

In fact, I think giving confidence to a child is vitally important, and makes the kid an overall better and more productive member of society.

However, when such fallacies as perfect intellectual equality are being tailored to by an ignorant tech-folk, that is where I draw the line.

For further reading on this topic, I suggest checking out this page on The Economist’s website: http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2012/01/future-teaching.

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Shiny, new electronic textbooks won’t make students study more