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Literature Review on Switching Textbooks to Tablets

Chelsea Lopez

The University of Texas at El Paso



This review discusses switching textbooks to tablets and the emersion of technology in

the k-12 school system. Today there are many schools who have integrated this switch to

enhance teaching and learning. It further discusses both sides of this topic and opinion to provide

data to the reader what the assistance tablets can offer in the classroom and economically. Also,

examining online learning, cost, benefits, as well as, are tablets being better than textbooks. The

review will be discussing e-books, what it is, and it benefits too. This literature review provides

primary research of six questions, 50 applicants, and their observations of textbooks vs. tablets. It

will be examined what sides the public had taken on this topic.

Literature review on Textbooks vs. Tablets


As technology continues to evolve it has taken a central role in our daily lives, from

mobile devices to televisions. Internet browsing is now available through more than just desktop

and laptop computers. These advances had led information to be shared at an exponential rate.

The new avenue to transmit information is allowing students to explore the world at the swipe of

a finger. There has always been a learning gap in each generation because the ways of teaching

haven’t always accommodated the way each student obtains information and their ability to learn

it. Schools have always tried to find the best method for closing this learning gap by using

technology to customize their learning experience for each student in the k-12 school system.

However, textbooks have been a huge part of education for many years, but technology

has already begun to replace the standard methods of teaching with textbooks. Many believe that

switching textbooks to tablets will increase learning and assist with education in ways teachers

are unable to do. Other views differ and believe that textbooks are better because there are no

distractions, they are more reliable, and inexpensive. In addition, there have been many studies

and factors on tablet use in schools and the effects on students, parents, and teachers. This review

will update the findings of those studies and researchers. Therefore, a set of questions have been

formulated to be explored:

1.) What is online learning and digitalized textbooks?

2.) What are the benefits of tablets/online learning?

3.) Are tablets better than textbooks for learning?

4.) Are there any implications for switching textbooks to tablets?


These questions will shed light on identifying the effects of technology being integrated

into the k-12 school system. This will also examine any implications on the removal of textbooks

as the main component of learning and teaching.

What is online learning and digitalized textbooks?

The beginning of online learning dates back to the 1990's. Many thought that online

education would never evolve and eventually fail. However, just as technology has grown so has

online education. The authors Mehta, Makani-Lim et al. (2017) state, "Online learning

enrollment has been growing at an annual rate of 16.4% from 2002-2014.” Online education has

become a passageway for high school students to graduate and access for students to learn

outside of class room hours. This is essentially a virtual class room that can be accessed

anywhere and anytime. Teachers and students have the ability to interact through various forms

of mediums such as, email, course announcements, phone and discussions board posting.

Furthermore, online education has since evolved allowing teachers to conduct classes

over the internet. Classes are implemented through a course that is put together by the teacher

just as they would for a face to face class. Though, online courses differ from face to face classes

the students and teacher only interact though mediums as discussed above and never have to

interact in person. This can produce a challenge as Perry & Pilati explain that some students are

internet savvy and can navigate on their own, yet there are other students whom do not posse that

skill. (Perry & Pilati, 2011) This bring us to digitalize textbooks which are e-books that are

downloaded to a portable device. E-books contain text and images that have been imported from

a textbook and converted to digital format for display on a computer screen or handheld device

(Hutchison, Beschorner, & Schmidt-Crawford, 2012). E-books can be access on any devices

such as a laptop, phone, and tablet. Additionally, online education and eBooks allows for

students to easily access the class or material which the benefits will be discussed further in the

next section.

What are the benefits of tablets/online learning?

Tablets have been a force to be reckoned with as it begins to push for paperless teaching.

There has been a lot of discussions that tablets reduce the amount of paper used in schools which

allows schools to save money, and more importantly the environment (Alexander & Levine,

2008). Tablets can store and organize homework, quizzes, thus not only letting the students and

teacher to see their progress, but also gives feedback without the enormous amount of paper or

the chance of students losing their feedback. An E-book is one method of decreasing the amount

of paper being used for textbooks allowing the book to be on one device and removing the need

for any physical storage. (Alexander & Levine, 2008) Although having to buy a tablet that can

cost more than the textbook its self, it saves schools money in the long run because the damage

and replacement of textbooks happen more often.

E-books have become more popularized as much the tablets. As it can be updated

instantly without waiting years for a new edition to be published. Also, in Ciampas article it is

discussed how they did a study of children's experience with ebooks vs textbooks. The children

in the study was found to be more engaged in eBooks then text as they were seen to be more

distracted, and often flipping through book for long periods of time. (Ciampa, 2016) E-books

allows the children to interact and stay engaged by attracting them with narration, music,

animation, color, and embedded games. (Hutchison et al., 2012).

Although eBooks have their benefits, they are not the only digitalized form that is being

used. For instance, online learning has it benefits of permitting students and teachers to interact

on the go, at anytime, anywhere, and on any device. The Authors Perry & Pilati (2011) examine

how online education has its benefits, such as its flexibility, easy access, and increase in student

engagement and interaction. This gives students the opportunity to learn at their own pace, as

well as catch up if fallen behind in credits. Students can still connect with teachers but in the

comfort of their home or any location they see fit. Many challenges can arise such as, technical

competence, student expectations and motivations, and time management. (Mehta, Makani-Lim,

Rajan, & Easter, 2017). Although yet not determined these challenges can cause more harm than

good if not used efficiently and responsibly.

Are tablets better than textbooks for learning?

Tablets contain advanced features that cannot be found in textbooks and with the

advantage of weighing less than textbooks. A study concluded that there are long-term effects of

student's carrying a heavy load of books in their backpack. The authors of "Effects of Carrying a

backpack" states, "Carrying posterior loads by young people has been linked with spinal pain,

and the amount of postural change produced by loaded carriage has been linked to the potential

cause of tissue damage". (Drzał-Grabiec, Snela, and et al, 2015). According to the U.S.

Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 13,700 students age 5-18 were treated for

backpack related injuries, such as contusions, sprains, fractures, and strain to the back and

shoulder, during the 2011-2012 school year (2012 This concluded that digital

textbooks decrease the potential of spinal related injuries.

Although tablets have a lot of benefits there are disadvantages such as tablets can brake

easily with a costly fix to restore the device. Also, the internet can crash or the tablet its self can

get hacked or have software issues. Just as cutting down trees is affecting our environment.

Manufacturing tablets too can cause environment and health destruction. It was discussed that

one tablet requires the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals, 79 gallons of water, and 100 kilowatt

hours of fossil fuels resulting in 66 pounds of carbon dioxide (2012

Although knowing the advantages and disadvantages of a tablet there is also a huge

divide when it comes to switching textbooks to tablets. As many people are for tablets and on the

other side many want to keep textbooks instead. Firstly, the argument of the public is, should

textbooks be switched to tablets many believe that it will improve students learning the material

faster, improve test score, and allows teacher to customize the students learning experience. In

Maragioglion discusses how the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt tested the California's

Riverside Unified School District digital version of an Algebra 1 textbook for Apple's iPad and it

showed those who used the iPad version scored 20 percent higher on tests then students who

learned with the old textbooks. (Maragioglio, J, 2012)

However, the other side is that textbooks should stay in the classroom versus tablets

because they are more reliable then a tablet. Many believe that tablets are a distraction, can cause

health problems (headaches, vision issues like starin, and blurred vision) as well as to expensive.

Textbooks have been around for a very long time and various people are certain that they can

comprehend print text versus digital text. The author Kate Garland states that the brain interprets

printed and digital text in different ways, and people generally read digital text 20-30% slower

than print. (Garland 2008)

Additionally, it is important to take into consideration of the public views. There has been

a survey that 50 candidates had taken. Two out of six question have been presented, and here is

what the public concluded:


Do you think tablets are beneficial in the learning process of K-12 students?


this table it shows that 65% of the public chose yes that tablets are beneficial. However, another

question they were asked:

Should the k-12 school system switch textbooks to tablets?

The table shows that another 65% think no to the switch. Gathering all the data from the other

questions it shows that the public rather integrate both textbooks and tablets in the classrooms

rather then cutting one out.

Are there implications for switching from textbooks to tablets?

Switching textbooks to tablets can have many difference implications weather good or

bad. However, it was previously discussed that tablets help students learn more material faster,

help to improve on tests, and increase the student’s attraction to be more engage. Moreover, it

has been found that students reading has stepped up in pace. In Chiong et al’s article they

converse that the interactivity of digital textbooks appears to lead to increased excitement about

learning, an increased sense of participation and control in one’s own learning, and higher levels

of intellectual curiosity (Chiong et al., 2012; Coldiron, 2011; Doiron, 2011; Moody, 2010;

Strout, 2010; Maynard & Cheyne, 2005).

However, the switch can be costly since every student has to receive a tablet or buy one.

Also taking into consideration the schools will have to buy the e-books to provide to the students

as well. Though this can place a burden on the school district it would have been the same for

textbooks. As yearly textbooks are updated and have to be switched out and can cost just as

much. Previously discussed, e-books can be updated instantly without waiting years for a new

edition to be published. A lot of people argue and question digital textbooks resilience. If a

digital textbook is indisposed it can require repair by technicians. Still, can be costly and time-

consuming. In contrast, paper textbooks can typically be restored with rudimentary supplies such

as tape or glue. All of these implications have to be taken into consideration for the change.


This Literature review addressed many concerns and question of switching textbooks to

tablets. However, the review provided both side of the argument on the topic. There will not be

only one side that one can be chosen as it has been examined that both are beneficial, yet at the

same time problematic too. This was seen in not only seen in the research but as well as the

public survey. It can be concluded that both will be integrated and not one removed as there can

be implications to it. Whether they are beneficial or a problem this will be an ongoing argument

with its many sides.



Alexander, B. & Levine, A. (2008). Web 2.0 storytelling. The emergence of a new genre.

Educause Review, 42(6), 40-56.

Chiong, C., Ree, J., Takeuchi, L., & Erickson, I. (2012). Print Books vs. E-Books: Comparing

Parent-Child Co-Reading on Print, Basic, and Enhanced E-Book Platforms. The Joan

Ganz Cooney Center, New York, NY. Retrieved from


Ciampa, K. (2016). Motivating Grade 1 Children to Read: Exploring the Role of Choice,

Curiosity, and Challenge in Mobile Ebooks. Reading Psychology, 37(5), 665-705.


Drzał-Grabiec, J., Snela, S., Rachwał, M., Podgórska, J., & Rykała, J. (2015). Effects of

Carrying a Backpack in an Asymmetrical Manner on the Asymmetries of the Trunk and

Parameters Defining Lateral Flexion of the Spine. Human Factors, 57(2), 218-226.

Maragioglio, J. (2012) iPads Boost Math Scores, Benefit Education.

Mehta, R., Makani-Lim, B., Rajan, M. N., & Easter, M. K. (2017). CREATING ONLINE



Business & Behavioral Sciences, 29(1), 116-133.

Perry, E. H., & Pilati, M. L. (2011). Online learning. New Directions For Teaching & Learning,

2011(128), 95-104. doi:10.1002/tl.472


Prasertsilp, P. (2015). Effective teacher training for tablet integration in K-12 classrooms (Order

No. 3740039). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global: The Humanities

and Social Sciences Collection. (1750074296). Retrieved from https://search-proquest-