Welcome to The CITE -- a blog on Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education, created by Mark Nelson and now part of the Publications Department of the National Association of College Stores. CITE is a pun with multiple meanings - referring to cite as in citation, something people reference; site as in location, website, or place people go to; and sight as in foresight or looking ahead to what is coming. Comments, discussion, feedback and ideas are welcome.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pros, Cons of Digital Textbooks

Digital course materials are finding their way into more classrooms, particularly at the middle- and high-school levels. Teachers and students of the Miami-Dade County school district, which ramped up its digital efforts this year, found the devices are great when they work.

Tablet computers give teachers the opportunity to be more creative with their lesson plans and let students work more efficiently, according to a report in the Miami Herald. At the same time, teachers aren’t always sure what students are doing online. Students also complain of poor Internet connections and say sometimes the digital textbooks just don’t work.

“It’s a little bit of a love-hate relationship,” said Nadia Zananiri, a teacher at Miami Beach High School.

Insufficient training with the devices is a big concern for teachers, but there are also a number of technological issues causing frustrations, such as students without the proper access codes, apps for online material that disappear, and not enough electrical outlets in the classrooms when students fail to recharge prior to class. Spotty Internet connection tops the list of complaints for both teachers and students.

The district offered 18 training sessions for teachers and is working to add more Wi-Fi capacity at its schools. It already manages 20,000 access points and 45 million sq. ft. of wireless coverage.

“It’s like anything else: There will be hiccups the first year, but eventually we’ll get it down,” said Daniel Francia, a teacher at Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School. “I see the merits.”

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