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Should Tablets replace Textbooks in K-12 Schools?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/7/2014 Category: Education
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,104 times Debate No: 48647
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
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"This will never be a civilized country until we spend more money on books than on chewing gum", as nearly quoted by Elbert Hubbard. Of course, who wouldn't want a tablet? While they do have so much to offer than the current, outdated system, I do contend that tablets, while a valuable resource, do not fulfill the promise as an enriched, textbook-oriented, K-12 education. I will argue towards build, maintenance, effectiveness, damage and theft. To avoid fallacies and misrepresentation, I may ask you to clarify your arguments. So, let's argue!


Hi Akash, being the pro I assume that I will make the starting arguments. To give a basic overview about what we'll be debating:

Build, maintenance, effectiveness, damage and theft

Build: I'm assuming you mean the physical characteristics of the textbook and the tablet, in which case the tablet is much more portable and efficient than the textbook. A student needs to carry textbooks for four or five classes and binders as well, while everything could be able to fit on a single tablet.

Maintenance: Note that it is always the student's responsibility to return the item in the same condition they borrowed it in. This is true for textbooks at the moment. If a student were to lose or abuse a textbook, they would have to pay the full price for a new textbook. This will be the same case for the tablet, obviously. The Nexus 7 tablet is able to last 8000 hours, so if we are assuming that students use the tablet for roughly 4 hours a day, although this is a scenario with exaggerated use, it will take 5.5 years before the tablet lifespan is up.

Effectiveness: The tablet gives students easier access to their learning materials, is more portable, and with the multitude of functions available on electronic versions of the textbooks, gives students more efficient access to the learning material.

Damage: This should go with maintenance.

Theft: Put simply, there is no need to worry about theft because thieves will almost definitely be caught. There are a great deal of cheap device tracking apps which will reveal the location of the device. Even if a thief purposefully tries to find the app, the app can be renamed and hidden, so it will be extremely difficult to steal the device without being caught.

That's all I have to say for now, best of luck to you! Sources are below.
Debate Round No. 1


I wouldn't be so quick to assume that those are the only arguments towards which I will be arguing towards. As we further into the debate, I would like to introduce new points that either provide strong reasons against YOUR arguments, or to further help establish my point in the debate.

To start, while a tablet is much more portable and efficient in a textbook, there's only so much they can offer compared to a much more bulky, informative textbook. Note, that only 30% of all textbook titles are readily availble as E-books. Certain E-book companies are contracted towards a small pool of tablet manufacturers. As for the national average, textbooks cost only 65$ compared to the more end-of-line $300-400, quality tablets. And times that by students and faculty, and well you can see math already.
The Association of American Publishers are setting new standards for textbooks, well in accordance to help reduce the harmful stress on students' backs. In terms of maintenance, I am not so much putting emphasis on responsibility, but on damage rather. Broken tablets, intentional or accidental, are still a liability to the school, a bigger burden on schools already with heavy budget cuts, and require experienced individual to fix it. Whereas, books are easily repairable by any person by common techniques adopted by librarians such as case-ins, or even some hinge tape could work as well. Replacing a textbook, even from websites such as Ebay or Amazon from quality buyers, would cost less than to replace expensive tablets.
In the study above, it was found that students generally read digital text 30-30% slower compared to its textbook counterparts. The following line was extracted from the article: "According to Carlson (2002), it is very tiresome for e-book users to navigate pages, and it is difficult for readers to advance to a desired section".
To conclude, look at another segment of the study: "The physical contact and the scent of the paper is important for readers. For this reason, rather than spending extended amounts of time looking at a monitor, readers prefer to read books that they can hold in their hands (Spencer, 2006). The results of a study by Woo (2005) on 2654 students found that 71.8% of the students preferred paper texts. The findings of a study by Shepperd, Grace, and Koch (2008) showed that 90% of students preferred textbooks, despite the greater accessibility and lower
cost of e-books.
Costly, software glites also hinder students from completing their assignments and thus slowing the learning process. Unlike tablets, books don't 'crash' or 'freeze', or require time consuming 'frequent updates'.

To further continue, I don't neccessarily mean to imply 'physical theft' as so much do I mean 'copyright theft' and 'plagarism'. Introducing tablets into the K-12 system, will inevitably begin a chain of plagarisms in schools. Although I can see the argument made that schools can implement tighter and more secure firewalls to such sites, it seems to me that given an average student's experience and use with more and more tablets, they can find loophole in the system. While downloading a more visual and descriptive content might improve the student's test scores, authors who rightfully own the content will break off the existing contracts with tablet industries. There is only so much a school can provide, even finding an intentional, physical theft will deem to be time-consuming, and a guarantee of apprehening the ACTUAL thief further proves my point of the disadvantages of tablets in the public school system.

Good luck to you too!


I"ll spend my arguments refuting the points my opponent made.

First of all, once schools switch over to using tablets, textbook manufacturers will focus on providing more available electronic titles. Plus, college students currently have the choice of electronic or print textbooks, meaning that a vast quantity of textbooks are already available electronically.

On top of that, electronic textbooks are much cheaper than regular textbooks. It costs $104.31 to buy a new copy of David P. Clark"s Molecular Biology, while the electronic version is only $39.99, less than half the price. Using my own school as an example, the average student has five textbooks. If we use the previous example, that means that if the textbooks are bought in print, it will cost the school roughly $520, while the electronic version will only cost $200. That"s a $320 difference, enough to buy one of the con"s more "end of the line" quality tablets. The con says that repairs will cost a great deal, but as I already pointed out, it is the burden of the student to pay if he or she damages the device, just like it"s the student"s burden for print textbooks right now.

Now I"m going to paste the study that the con cited below:

The purpose of this study is to compare primary school 5th-class students" electronic text reading
performance, reading speed and reading comprehension with tablet PCs and printed books. This
study examined a sample of 20 students. The students were randomly divided into two groups, a
control group and a treatment group. The control group students read ordinary printed books, and
the students in the treatment group read the same text on an electronic tablet PC display. Both
qualitative and quantitative data collection tools were used for the study. Qualitative data were
collected on the reading speed and reading comprehension skills for both groups of students.
Statistically, there was no significant difference between the groups in reading speed or the level of
reading comprehension. Students" opinions on tablet PCs and recommendations for future studies are
also discussed.

From the abstract, it appears that the study explicitly states there is no significant difference between the groups in reading speed or comprehension. When discussing student preference, it"s pretty clear that the material students are more used to will be the one they favor. It will take time before students can get used to tablets, but there are so many benefits, such as quality, tools, and cheap book prices. Furthermore, students can use textbooks to access the internet, so they can view documents the teacher has put together easily and more accessibly. This would prevent students sitting in the back of the classroom from being hindered because the board or projector is too far away.

I asked the con to clarify his reason why people will be more inclined to plagiarize while using electronic textbooks, since they have the capability to plagiarize with a regular textbook as well. The con hasn"t answered, though, so I will have to wait for him to make his point in the next speech. Furthermore, any stolen devices would be reported to the police. Since the con and I both agree that it is easy to track where the tablet"s location is, it will be easy for the police to find and apprehend the burglar. Naturally, the burglar will have to pay for any damages done to the tablet. Any stolen tablets should be treated like a regular crime case.

And with that, I"ll pass it back to you, con. Good luck, and PLEASE PLEASE clarify why plagiarism will increase because of electronic textbooks.
Debate Round No. 2


AkashOne forfeited this round.


By not responding, the con has effectively conceded all of the points I made. To sum up, tablets provide more functions, are the same price (if not cheaper) than buying regular textbooks, allow students to have better access to the material provided by the teacher, and are much more portable. Please note that because it is the final round, the con's failure to refute my arguments means that he admits his loss. Thanks for the debate, Akash!
Debate Round No. 3


The lack of arguments posted does not mean I forfeit the debate. I was merely busy with coursework. To answer the question that has long been bothering you, and to make up for lost time in the debate, I would now like you to read the following article:
If the article fails to provide the answer you are looking for, I would gladly furthur explain it, or find a different article. A vast quantity may already be available, but we're getting there. This transition cannot be immediate, it will have to be gradual, and will require few schools to first 'experiment' with giving tablets to students, and evaluate the results. Keep in mind, not all schools have equal budgets. Rich school districts have a much bigger pool of resources to get the tablets, while those who are much poor are much less inclined to even implement this sytem. Also consider, if the school doesn't have a wifi hotspot, they have to get one along with teaching faculty how to handle unfamiliar functions within the tablets. Students often cannot afford to pay for 400-500$ tablets. While the quality is inarguably beneficial, its the TABLETS themselves that are expensive, excluding the fact as you pointed out costs for the online book for atleast standard 6 classes that the average student takes.

Even then, they aren't even a necessity. Other than the points you mentioned above, both still provide the same content, the same basics, the same information. A lot of students will feel withdrawn from using the tablets because, again of the same problem, unfamiliarity with the device. Add to that technology issues, damage, and incompatibility of some pictures or programs to be displayed on some tablets (take for example, apple doesn't support flash. So if you have to show an important document that ABSOLUTELY has to go through flash, tough).

Shifting the focus, this will also increase the number of excuses. Students nowadays find lazy excuses about how "I forgot my book", "I left it in a different class". The same will go along with tablets: "I didn't know how to access that" or "I couldn't find the charger". Have you seen the new "Find" options when you open up an e-book, and you can instantly find the answer to the passage or the question. This brings a heavy toll on comprehension of the subject, since your just doing it because you have to. With the book, you will actually have to read the passage and sometimes analyze the information to answer. Also, remember when you (I would like you to take the perspective of a 16-year old, such as myself) have to look at tablets long enough, and then your vision gets blurred, your eyes and head hurts. Take a look at the following page:

According to the AOA, you can be susceptible to CVS (computer vision syndrome), and many chiropractors claim that spending too much time bending over to use a tablet is associated with problems such as neck strain, 'text neck', carpel tunnel syndrome (as another article points out). Do we really need all of this? Do we really want a distracted, flappy-bird addicted classroom, putting education in the back seat of the car? Surely, parents will disagree.

To shift again, look at this one:

Companies such as Apple (not that I'm accusing other companies of being anti-environment) fail to pay attention the effects of putting harmful chemicals such as bromine and antimony into their phones AND TABLETS. If you STILL have doubts on cost, I would advise you to look at this:

To conclude, surely at times like this, we also have to look at the impacts tablets have on the environment. After all, we are conserving them for the future generation, are we not?
The following excerpt is from the article above:
"According to The New York Times, one e-reader requires the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals, 79 gallons of water, and 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels, which result in 66 pounds of carbon dioxide. But is there a point, even with the negative environmental impact, where it makes more sense to purchase a tablet instead of a physical textbook? The Times concluded, "the adverse health impacts from making one e-reader are estimated to be 70 times greater than those from making a single book."
While textbooks are noticebly damaging, you have to look at the overarhcing 'net impact' as I'm calling it. Surely, I would have to concede the many points you have made, but, nevertheless, that doesn't change the principle that more gain should come from implementing tablets in the K-12 system. What you are arguing for are minor benefits, when compared to the disadvantages I have aforementioned, that clearly outweigh your arguments. Thank YOU so much for the debate! Good luck!


sonicdrake forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by sonicdrake 4 years ago
I went first though, so it's unfair for me to do a fourth round when you can't
Posted by AkashOne 4 years ago
I don't think we agreed that round 3 was the final round
Posted by sonicdrake 4 years ago
Sorry, forgot to write 'no round as agreed upon'
Posted by sonicdrake 4 years ago
Hey Akash, can you clarify for me why plagiarism will increase because of tablets? Thanks!
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