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Digital books-Bringing technology into classrooms

Digital books-Bringing technology into classrooms
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By: M Ahmad

Bringing technology into classrooms has had a positive impact on the quality of education delivered. Students and teachers unanimously agree upon the benefits of using eBooks in education. The aim of eBooks is to simplify and enhance the overall learning experience. Digital Books make the learning process more interactive and engaging. Instead of listening to one person continuously talking, students can now actively participate in the learning process.

Integrating eBooks into classroom teaching makes learning a fun and engaging experience. Gone are the days when students had to carry a bag full of books every day to classrooms and back home. With eBooks entering the educational domain, one device is enough to include the entire year’s syllabus. These digital books can be introduced to students at a very young age, right from kindergarten to university level, ensuring that learning never becomes boring for them. An effective learning system must ensure that students are actively involved in the learning process.

eBooks have brought about an educational reform which helps students to learn better and faster. Ebook (which stands for electronic book) refers to a digital copy or a soft copy of the book that can be stored and shared using electronic mediums. They can be stored in digital devices like mobiles, computers, tablets, etc. Also, they can be read directly through such devices.

Some of the advantages of using eBooks in education are-

Study Anywhere and Anytime: An eBook is easy to carry around. Instead of carrying a bag full of books, it is easier to carry a mobile device that supports eBooks. Most students these days always carry a mobile-based device. It could be a smart phone, a tablet or a laptop. The portability of an eBook allows students to refer to their notes and course materials anytime they want. Instead of carrying multiple books, students can now have everything in one place.

Offline Access to eBooks: Over 50% of the world’s population has access to the Internet. Yet we all sometimes have trouble with connectivity and network issues. In order to ensure that the Internet connection does not hamper the learning process mobile devices, these days, offer offline services. Students can now download any content they want and save it on their device and go through them later at their convenience.

Multiple Interactive Features: eBooks are not just plain reading materials, they have all the right tools to help students make notes and highlight content. eBook reading devices have a lot of interactive features, like annotations, pen tools, page zoom, search option, read aloud etc. The search tool is the most favored tool because of its ability to find words and topics in an instant. The search tool avoids the time-consuming process of turning pages after pages to find a particular topic or phrase. They can bookmark pages and chapters. The online dictionary helps them to quickly find meanings of words. Besides, the user can also change the font size and style and adjust the brightness of the device as per what suits their eyes.

Save Printing Costs: eBooks do not require paper. Authors can submit their work in a PDF format, which can be converted into electronic books. Paper does not come into the picture. So, it saves all your printing related costs, right from purchasing printing paper, designing the layouts and hardcover etc. It even saves the environment by eliminating the need for printing.

Provide Updated Content to Students: In traditional paperback books, if there’s some updated information that needs to be included in the syllabus, you’d probably have to reprint new books. But with eBooks, all the learning material is stored on the cloud. This means, eBooks can be updated anytime you want, and it will be reflected in all eBooks. So, you can always ensure that your students have up-to-date information with them at all times. This again saves your reprinting costs.

Interactive Assessments: eBooks include self-assessments for students to test their knowledge. It does away with the traditional style of giving a quiz at the end of the chapter. eBooks are embedded with quizzes and exercises throughout the chapter and also after the chapter ends, to ensure that students retain the information that they are reading. It helps measure whether the student has understood the concepts properly. eBook assessments can provide instant results, so students can immediately view the test results. Not just students, the teacher can also view test results and provide immediate feedback.

One Device, Many Books: eBooks are portable and lightweight, making it easy to carry around. Instead of carrying multiple bulky books, one eBook reader can hold thousands of eBooks. It saves a lot of space- in your home and in your bag. One doesn’t have to worry about the storage limit.  Here’s our list of 9 Best Cross-Platform eBook Readers. A single device is enough to read any number of books you want. Students benefit the most out of it as they do not have to carry a bag full of books every day. It allows the user to store plenty of books on the device, way more than anyone can read in their lifetime.

Shareable Content: One can share the eBook contents with multiple users. The social feature on the ebook allows sharing and liking of content, which is not possible with printed books. We might share a printed book with one person at a time, but an eBook can be shared with many people at once. Students and employees can use this feature to collaborate with their peers.

Easy on the Eyes: eReaders these days come with features where you can adjust the brightness of the screen according to the time of the day and depending upon your preferences. Many eReaders even have read in the dark feature, with lights that won’t strain your eyes, and neither would they disturb others around you. Users can even change the fonts of the text. They can increase or decrease the size of the font. Basically, eBooks ensure that your eyes are taken care of.

Interactive Elements: Including interactive features in an eBook makes the reading experience a more engaging one. eBooks can be embedded with audio and videos. External links can be included to offer additional information. The user can even bookmark a certain page or find a word in a quick and effortless way. It also allows users to make annotations. There are multiple such interactive features which can be included in order to enhance the overall reading experience. Here are the top 9 Benefits of Interactive eBooks.

eBooks are Environment-friendly: They totally eliminate the paper printing process, saving printing cost for the publishers. Approximately 2.2 million books are published each year, using around 3 million trees. If these paper printed books were to be replaced with a digital book, it could save all those trees from being chopped down. Apart from cutting trees, it also adds to the carbon footprint by transporting the raw materials, production process in the mill, and the final shipping. Millions of trees are cut down each year to produce paper. Add to that the transportation costs, paper making costs, and all the carbon footprint it leaves behind. All this can be avoided if you switch to eBooks. This is also the reason why eBooks in education can be the best alternative than its counterpart printed books.

Multimedia format: Unlike your usual printed books, ebooks can contain not only text and images, but also audio and even video. This way, if the reader isn’t the type of person who likes to read paragraphs of text, he or she can choose to listen to the audio version. If your ebooks are of pdf formats and you want to read it as a text format, then you can convert pdf to text. It is east for ebooks. Some ebooks even have flash applications that allow the reader to “interact” with the contents (i.e., drag images around using the mouse). This is useful for kinesthetic learners. Videos make the learning process more interesting. Students can pause and rewind the video and watch it again. Animations are fun and entertaining and have more retention value.

Searchable:  A number of ebooks sport a Search button, which allows you to quickly jump to the page containing the word you’re interested in. Ever try opening a dictionary (the printed one). Try an electronic version and marvel at the speed of the search feature.

No Burden to Carry: When we purchase a paper book, we always have to carry it and take good care of it. Also, it can be destroyed in many uncertain ways, such as by coming in contact with water, storing for long periods of time, being eaten by insects, etc. However, in the case of eBooks, we do not need to do anything after downloading them from the internet, nor can they be destroyed by those means. Whenever we go somewhere with our smartphone, we also take our Ebooks with us, which is a big advantage as we don’t need to carry a heavy load, such as in the case of physical books. Let’s say you are at a wedding party and feeling bored. In that case, also, you can use your eBook and make good use of time by reading it.

In 1971 a student from the University of Illinois, Michael S. Hart, invented the first eBook with a Xerox mainframe computer in a university research lab. The first eBook was none other than the American Declaration of Independence–which was really more of a pamphlet.  After the 1971 launch of his first electronic publication, Hart launched Project Gutenberg to create eBooks and develop new technology. He created digital copies of the Bill of Rights, the American Constitution, and the Bible.

The introduction of eBooks in education has optimized the learning experience. It has turned learning into a fun and engaging event. Students no longer dread having to carry a load of books and sit through hours of lectures paying only half attention to what is being taught. eBooks ensure that students are proactively interacting with the learning material by way of videos, animations, augmented reality, changing displays, taking notes etc. Digital books provide students with a completely enriched learning experience and help them improve their academic performance.

(The author is an educationist and contributes regularly to ‘Kashmir Vision’)


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