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“Sometimes the old-fashioned way just works”

May 12, 2011 3 comments

Last year, I wrote a blog post on my thoughts about the future of the book. I took a very firm stand that books can never be replaced by the new electronic age, at least not in my home anyway. Well, my knowledge about the e-book and emerging technologies has grown quite a bit in the last year, and while the Kindle may be a great mechanism for some, it has not quite found a place in my pocketbook, yet.

A couple months ago, a news station announced a public school that was considering buying electronic textbooks instead of bound books for all its classes. After hearing this news, I stood with my mouth open in shock for a few minutes trying to grasp this unfamiliar concept. It hit me then, just how popular the e-book was becoming and how terribly close we were to it completely redefining the way we read, study, educate, and even live.

I began thinking of my own education experience, especially as a child growing up. Learning to read was one of the biggest accomplishments and most important steps in my development. I can recall sitting on my bed as a toddler, struggling with certain words in a particular Dr. Seuss book, with my mother beside me encouraging me along, reminding me I did know those words. I can also recall the feeling of being able to read my first book completely by myself. The accomplishment I felt of being able to open a book, smell its pages, read its words, understand its meaning, and hold it close to my heart when I was finished. It was an experience that can never be replaced, especially by a hand-held device. While, I would hope we never have to teach our kids to read through the small screen of an iPhone application, I can’t imagine having to attend school trying to learn World History on an electronic textbook. Does that seem like the optimal way to learn?

I admit there are certain conveniences of having an e-book, the ability to take it anywhere and the option to have many stories all saved on one device. And certainly all of our backs would be a lot stronger if we hadn’t carried around so many heavy textbooks as high school teenagers. But for me, education is a hands-on experience. I need to hold it, highlight it, flip it, write it, and see it on a printed piece of paper. Having electronic formats for many things is wonderful, and there are various avenues where it can be used efficiently in education, but I would hope that the conversion to all electronic education would not do a disservice to children who need a more tangible way to learn.

Maybe the idea just needs to sit on me awhile longer, but this digital age is moving quickly. Hopefully, we will find a happy-medium where the growth of one form of books/education does not lead to the exclusion of the other. This new growth can be good, but why fix something that isn’t broken? Sometimes the old-fashioned way just works.

-Danielle