Print Textbook vs. E-Textbook in the Classroom – Which Works for You?

Print Textbooks vs. E-Textbooks

With the recent rise in technology and increased focus on the 21st century classroom, most kids today have access to smart phones, tablets and the knowledge of how to operate them. It comes with no surprise that many schools have decided to switch from print textbooks to electronic textbooks (e-textbooks) for their classroom.

I’d like to turn this blog into somewhat of a discussion; exploring both textbooks and e-textbooks and letting you, the reader, decide which you prefer to use.


In a nutshell, e-textbooks are digital copies of books that contain the same information and arrangement as hardcopy versions. E-textbooks often include an audio component or full audio versions, closed captioned videos for the hearing impaired, and the format of many electronic files are compatible with adaptive or support technology. Some are made for online use only while others can be downloaded and placed on tablets (Kindle, iPad, etc.) or computers.  E-textbooks can also be interactive with opportunities for increased student engagement embedded with the text itself. This allows students and educators to utilize point-of-use videos, lesson tutorials, interactive exercises and other resources.

Print Textbooks:

According to TeacherVision, “Textbooks provide organized units of work; it (textbook) gives you all the plans and lessons you need to cover in a topic.”  In addition, it goes onto describe that people who read textbooks tend to comprehend and learn more. Textbooks don’t require power, so concerns regarding battery life on tablets or computers are eliminated.  Since they don’t require any special equipment (batteries, chargers etc.) they are completely portable allowing for students to take them home and complete assignments without worrying about owning or damaging expensive electronic equipment. In addition, textbooks also provide a normal progression of information and lesson difficulty. Finally, all the concepts in a textbook build on each other allowing for prior knowledge to help aid in the learning process.

Each delivery method provides students and teachers with access to the course materials, but there are advantages to each method that are not seen in the other. Ultimately, the decision to use e-textbook vs. print textbook boils down to personal preference and teaching style. Knowing the advantages of each delivery method is essential to making an informed decision for your classroom. Do you prefer to have your students get their hands on physical textbooks every day or have students watch videos that are embedded in their e-textbooks.

The choice is yours, what do you prefer? Let us know!


Why the Common Core State Standards?

It only makes sense.  For years in the United States, each state created their own standards for mathematics. Some had as many as 100 standards to be taught every year with no consistency across the county.  Shouldn’t math be the same in Maryland, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Arizona, and in fact throughout the country?

During the last 50 years it is no secret that the United States has been falling further and further behind in international testing. Finally, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers along with others created a commission to examine the state of math and language arts education in this country with the intent of improving the education of today’s young people.

Their Mission Statement (

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

The result is a set of standards that not only addresses what students learn, but how they learn.  Instead of trying to learn everything, every year, the Common Core State Standards  provide unique content standards for each grade level.  Every year fewer standards will be covered, providing more time for understanding the math instead of just memorizing it.  Each subsequent year students will use those concepts that have been previously taught to learn new concepts.  Students are responsible for what they have been taught year to year.

Along with the content standards, the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice indicate that we want students to make sense of the mathematics they study.  Students should be able to reason and support the processes they develop.  They need to know which tools to use and when they are appropriate.  Mathematics is all about patterns and students need to be able to recognize the patterns to further their understanding.

As we are educating today’s students for jobs that do not yet exist, we need to address their ability to understand what they have learned so they can apply it to the challenges of tomorrow.  The Common Core State Standards and the Mathematical Practices provide that opportunity to our young people so that they can compete in the global society of tomorrow.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

As most of the United States transitions to the Common Core State Standards and the Common Core Mathematical Practices, it will be necessary to administer assessments that align to the CCSS. In 2010, the US Department of Education chose to fund two consortia whose task it is to develop such an assessment. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is one of those.

By the 2014-15 school year, the consortium, comprised of educators, researchers, and members of community groups, will have built an assessment which will measure student readiness for college and/or careers. Currently there are 29 states who have agreed to join the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, either as a governing or as an advisory member.

In addition to being aligned to the CCSS and the CCMP, the Smarter Balanced Assessment will include more than just multiple choice responses. The test will also include short constructed responses, extended constructed responses, and performance tasks which will ask students to demonstrate and apply their knowledge to real-world situations.

The assessment will make use of CAT, computer adaptive testing, which will allow districts to get feedback much more quickly and accurately than current state tests allow, and will offer the ability to track student progress over time.

Because the test is being administered online, the Smarter Balanced Assessment will include technology-enhanced items, designed for the student to interract with the computer to solve a problem or mathematical situation.

Teachers will have the ability to give students interim tests throughout the school year as both formative and summative assessment tools. Included will be an online reporting system, which will give teachers, administrators, and parents feedback on student growth and achievement.

For more information about the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, visit

Watch Dr. Ron Larson on Lifetime’s The Balancing Act

Our Big Ideas Math author, Ron Larson, was featured today on the Parent Teacher Corner segment of The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television.

Click the Video Above to Watch Dr. Larson on the Balancing Act

The Balancing Act segment focuses on the recent educational curriculum shift to the Common Core State Standards.  To assist parents in understanding Common Core, Dr. Larson explains both the concept behind the standards as well as how they are implemented in the Big Ideas Math program.

The Common Core State Standards and the Mathematical Practices are ushering in a new way to teach mathematics. We are excited to be part of this movement with our Big Ideas Math series. Thank you to The Balancing Act for having us on your show!

A second airing of the entire The Balancing Act episode will air on June 20, 2012.