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Should schools ditch textbooks?

Posting in Cities

First a library without books, now a city with textbook-free schools? What is this world coming to?! Tablet-centered education, if you ask one New York City mayoral candidate.

Christine Quinn, New York's city council speaker and a candidate to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg, believes that ditching textbooks in schools and replacing them with tablets would save money and improve educational opportunities.

"Thanks to the Internet, teachers in any given subject can share lessons and materials with colleagues around the world. They can organize those lessons into online textbooks, which their students can read on tablets in school and at home," she said in a recent speech.

"We currently spend more than a $100 million a year on textbooks. That's enough money to buy tablets for every student in New York City public schools, and cover staff costs," she said.

The assumption here is that tablets will improve learning for students. While the trend is moving toward tablets, with more students owning them, it's less clear if tablets will improve learning in the classroom compared with traditional textbooks.

One study by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt found that students who used the iPad version of an algebra textbook through a year scored 20 percent higher on a test than their traditional textbook-using peers. On the other hand, there are studies coming out saying that students have better content retention when they use traditional textbooks compared to tablets. That's, of course, a small survey of the different studies on the subjects. If you know of other studies share them with us in the comments below.

Either way, will "The Big Apple" soon take on a whole new meaning? (Note: Quinn didn't announce which tablet maker would supply the technology.)

Photo: Flickr/samsungtomorrow

— By on January 16, 2013, 3:00 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure