Should Tablets Replace Textbooks in K - 12 Schools

Should Tablets Replace Textbooks in K – 12 Schools? (Important Facts)


As technology expands into schools, one debate you see in the news is whether students should use tablets instead of textbooks. A school’s funding is at the forefront of the discussion as to whether investing in tablets will decrease the amount of spending on books and other classroom materials. 

Investing in tablets for educational purposes should be a serious discussion among school executives as it can be quite expensive to carry out. 

Financial limitations aside, investing in tablets is good because tablets may be used for more than just studying. They can serve to respond to coursework as well as do research, submit assignments, take quizzes, and develop interactive materials for students to learn at their own pace.

However, the concern of how distracting a tablet can be for a kid, among other reasons, is a cause for concern among teachers and parents.  

Let’s weigh the pros and cons to see if any resolution is within reach.

Pro: Tablets enrich classroom education

The presence of technology in a classroom is exciting and fun for a child. Proponents of tablets in K – 12 classrooms say that they motivate children to want to learn more. Tablets also increase the speed at which a child can learn the material.

Con: Tablets are distracting

With the temptation of all the apps available on tablets, students may pay attention to those instead of a lecture. Lesley Lanir, “Digital Information Overload Overwhelms and Distracts Students,” found that “87% of K-12 teachers believe that “today’s digital technologies are creating an easily distracted generation with short attention spans.” Tablets in the classroom could potentially do more harm than good.

Furthermore, with easy internet access, students now have a higher chance of developing internet addiction. 

Aside from missing out on real-life experiences, statistics indicate that children and teenagers aged 8 to 28 are expected to spend 44.5 hours a week in front of digital devices like tablets.

34% of students spend at least 4-6 hours per day on the internet, while 56% choose to spend more. 

Pro: Tablets decrease the amount of paper, saving the schools money on supplies

In a study by Ben Johnson, “Paper and Pencil Curriculum: How Much Do You Rely on It?” Johnson found that a school of 1,000 students on average spends between $3,000-4,000 a month on paper, ink, and toner, not counting printer wear and tear or technical support costs. To reduce that cost, teachers could use tablets to distribute their assignments.

Con: The production of tablets is harmful to the environment and to human health

The creation of a single ebook is detrimental to our health and to the environment. Making one ebook results in 66 pounds of carbon dioxide. One tablet requires 100-kilowatt hours of fossil fuel to make, whereas print books only need 2.

In humans, carbon dioxide substitutes the oxygen that the body requires when CO2 levels grow in a confined space. Once this happens, the body decelerates and eventually becomes dysfunctional.

Carbon dioxide is also known to be a major air pollutant. It absorbs and retains radiation on the earth’s surface, leading to the formation of ground-level ozone that prevents the earth from cooling, resulting in higher temperatures.

Pro: Tablets enable teachers to effectively adjust and personalize student learning

Every student has developed their own learning pace and style, which means that a single activity may lead one student to understand while leaving the other one confused. Some students may also find a lesson too fast, while others may find it sluggish. 

This difference in undertaking only means one thing: in learning, a one-size-fits-all approach is most likely to end unsuccessfully.

Tablets can come preprogrammed with instructional content like textbooks, applications, and movies, giving students access to a vast range of resources. In effect, students can repeat the same lesson or activity whenever necessary, while teachers can discover a learning method that addresses their students’ learning weaknesses and necessities. 

This enables them to effectively adjust and personalize activities according to the student’s method and speed of learning.

Students who understand the content well can concentrate and proceed on more advanced tasks, while struggling students can focus on strengthening their knowledge of the fundamentals. In effect, the teacher can identify what type of assistance the student requires and how they can effectively render the help that the student needs.

In addition, with a learning management system, students can be quizzed on topics and immediately receive real-time feedback. Because of this, teachers don’t have to wait to correct a test to know where students are struggling. 

Con: Teachers must spend time studying a tablet’s capabilities and how they can use it 

To properly incorporate the use of tablets into the classroom, teachers must first become accustomed to a tablet’s functions and capabilities. 

For this reason, schools must spend time and resources on training teachers in order for a tablet to be an effective tool for educational settings, considering the fact that only a handful of them use tablets to teach.

Pro: Tablets are lighter and are easier to carry than a ton of books

Students may download all of their digital textbooks in one lightweight tablet rather than carrying their numerous hefty textbooks in one backpack. Tablets are portable and lightweight, with a Lenovo Tab 4 at barely 0.68 pounds. 

On the other hand, print textbooks are often so heavy that they can cause injury to students.

Injuries, edema, and exhaustion can occur when students carry over 15% of their body weight in their backpacks. In 2017, around 8,000 children aged 5 to 18 were treated for injuries caused by backpacks. 

In essence, a student’s bag may be lighter if they only need to bring a tablet to school rather than a ton of heavy textbooks.

Con: Tablets are more likely to be lost, damaged, or stolen

Tablets are delicate and should a student accidentally drop one, they now have a cracked device that no longer works properly. 

Additionally, handheld devices account for a large percentage of robberies and are much more expensive than paper. Should any of them disappear throughout the school year could be devastating to a school’s budget.

Pro: Tablets contain features that textbooks don’t

Tablets can hold hundreds of textbooks, giving students access to an infinite amount of resources. Unlike books, you can get the most up-to-date information and research information, facts, and findings easier.

Plus, there are limits as to what textbooks can offer students. Unlike books with only words and images on a page, tablets can go beyond and include videos or podcasts related to the subject at hand. Teachers can even include interactive diagrams, which can improve a student’s attention, engagement, creativity, and understanding of the lesson. 

Aside from this, tablets make it possible for users to take notes and highlight important details without damaging the digital textbook for the person using it next. 

Pro: Tablets make it easier for students to store, manage, and navigate educational documents

Students may use tablets to store homework, quizzes, and other educational materials through files. 

This way, students can become more organized as they can have all of this paraphernalia in one place. Hence, they won’t have to keep track of many documents, notes, or folders anymore. 

Con: Tablets and other handheld electronic gadgets have been linked to a variety of health issues

The American Optometric Association says tablets and other handheld devices can lead to Computer Vision Syndrome, which leads to visual fatigue, migraines, impaired vision, and other eye problems. 

People who use tablets and mobile devices have a greater frequency of musculoskeletal ailments like carpal tunnel syndrome, neck discomfort, shoulder pain, and fibromyalgia, which are caused by repetitive pressure on muscles.

Con: Tablets require wifi and stable internet, which not all students have at home

Tablets need a stable internet connection or wifi to unlock all these features. For schools in low-income areas, this can potentially be an issue. 

Should a household not have access to the internet at home, it would render the tablet useless and limit a child to using it only at school.

Pro: It is cheaper to download textbooks on a tablet

Buying textbooks is more expensive than downloading them. The cost to print a large number of hardcover textbooks over 1000 pages could be as much as $20 per book. Meanwhile, downloading a textbook to a tablet can be more than half that cost.

Con: A tablet runs on battery

A tablet’s average battery life is 7.26 hours, which is less than a school day.

Tablets require continual charging, increasing the demand for power in schools and necessitating the installation of more electrical outlets. 

Tablets that are used for research, drafting reports, and other tasks on the same day are more likely to die, leaving a student without support for the rest of the day. Charging a tablet can take quite some time, and empty tablets can add to a child’s reasons for not finishing his or her schoolwork.

Pro: Learning, doing, and submitting schoolwork can be done seamlessly on tablets

Certain applications like MS Word, Powerpoint, and other learning-related software can be installed on a tablet, which would make it easier for students to do their homework on. 

The resources that they can use to produce quality output are also accessible, which makes homework less hassle and unmotivating to do.

Moreover, with just one click, students can use their tablets to study learning materials and seamlessly send schoolwork and other activities over. This process makes it simpler for teachers to manage, find, and grade classwork. 

Con: People who read text comprehend and remember information better

While it may be more cost-effective for schools to download a book, studies say that people comprehend and remember information better when reading a physical book. 

In a study by Pulitzer Prize-winning tech writer Nicholas Carr, he found that reading hyperlinked text may increase the brain’s “cognitive load,” lowering the ability to process, store, and retain information.

Pro: Students who use tablets for digital textbooks score better than those who don’t

In a 2013 experiment, a textbook manufacturer produced a digital, interactive Algebra 1 textbook for a California school district to compare how students will perform after learning the subject via digital textbook against those who use a traditional print version.

On California state assessments, 78 percent of students who utilized the digital version of the textbook scored competent or advanced, whereas only 59 percent of students who exclusively used the conventional textbook earned a proficient or advanced rating.

Con: Unlike digital textbooks, print textbooks are free of technological issues

Because of technological advancements, privacy and security issues are rampant with the use of gadgets like tablets.

Other than episodes of files and learning materials freezing and crashing, hacking and other data and security issues are also possible. Print textbooks, on the other hand, will experience none of this. 

With actual textbooks, there is no chance of getting malware, spyware, or having personal information stolen.


Up to this day, the debate still continues. Both sides make good points to support their argument, and it will be interesting to see what role tablets will play in classrooms moving forward. 

However, should tablets replace textbooks? The answer depends on the school. As mentioned above, students have different learning styles and paces – so not every student can do great with a tablet. 

But, if budgetary constraints are out of the way and efficiency is given more thought, investing in tablets for education wouldn’t hurt. After all, a tablet is not just for learning and answering schoolwork like how textbooks are used. They can also be utilized for research, submitting assignments, quizzes, and creating interactive materials for students to learn at their own speed and time. 

What do you think? Should schools replace textbooks with tablets? Let us know your argument in the comments below!

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