Possible transition to digital textbooks

School librarian Dana Adams imagines a world without textbooks: when students no longer trudge around with 50 pounds on their backs, a day when they stop falling because the books in their arms are stacked higher than their line of vision. This day could soon become a reality for CVHS students if our school transitions to digital textbooks.

Adams has been discussing the possibility of online textbooks with Assistant Principal Jesse Hansen for upcoming years, with the main goal of making the lives of students easier.

Currently, Adams is compiling a list of the most-used books. The next step would be to contact publishers and see if online versions are available and what the costs would be to access those.

“At this point, we do not fully know the costs or savings from making this transition,  but we are in the process of researching. Computer access is obviously crucial if we are going to make this move,” said Assistant Principal Jesse Hansen.

As a member of the Castro Valley Technology Committee, Adams said there is a three to five year plan in the making, but more research is still being done.

The online textbooks would hopefully be accessible on any device, and it would be to the teachers’ discretion whether they would allow in-class usage of phones to view the books.

If the transition is implemented, it would have the greatest impact on the Class of 2021 in three years.

“With total honesty, I haven’t taken a textbook home this year at all because they’re too bulky,” said freshman Christine Xu. “But I’d rather use physical textbooks, just because I like having something to flip through.” Aside from the extra effort it would take to find the right page in a digital textbook, she thinks that students would definitely like the change and benefit from it.

Although the change wouldn’t affect current juniors and their last year at CVHS, they still have valuable input after three years of experience with the textbook load at our school.

“In my personal experience, I study better with a physical copy of a book, but having access to a digital copy would be extremely helpful as well,” said junior Angel Lee.

Xu and Lee’s preference for hard copies of books reflects majority of students, as observed by teachers.

Carmelina Frasca, a government and psychology teacher, says that although the online resource has its benefits, such as special homework and reading aloud options, students rarely use it and prefer hard copies by large. Although the content is the same, and online accessibility of the book has been paid in advance for four years, government teachers have slowly stopped using it.

Math department chairman Tommy Maloney says that the online Integrated Math textbooks are wonderful and loved by students. He likes that they have the option of either book versions, but he would not appreciate it if he only had the digital book to teach from. “Let’s be honest, if kids were on chromebooks, they would all be on YouTube,” said Maloney.

Based on varying teacher and student perspectives, it’s clear that digital textbooks definitely have their advantages and disadvantages. How soon digital textbooks can be implemented at our school depends on budgeting, as costs as still unknown, but hopes are high that backpacks will soon be weightless!

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