Textbooks go digital

by Audrey Payne | copy editor

After arriving back on campus for prep days, students have noticed a large decrease in the number of textbooks that were issued to them.

“I only have two books this year, instead of five or six from last year,” sophomore Angelica Vlach said.

The school district has made the decision to decrease the number of textbooks each student receives at the beginning of the year, choosing instead to give students textbooks that are available online.

“Years ago, the state allowed the school districts to be in charge,” assistant principal Stuart Guthrie said. “They realized textbooks are really only used for maybe 10% of the time. They decided to use use their money for other things and use online textbooks.”

The school publicized the change via email.

“Mr. Melbrech sent out an e-blast to our community to explain why some students didn’t get a lot of books, and what the thought process was for using class sets and online materials more.”

Most of the students’ textbooks will be online this year, but the students have to access them in different ways.

“Some may have actual online books and some may have different materials, so the students have to ask their teachers,” Guthrie said.

This decision has benefitted the school, who has to pay for textbooks lost every year.

“All the textbooks that we have are a little over $1 million,” Guthrie said. “At the end of the year, when it comes time to picking up textbooks, I’ll have 99% of our books back, and I’ll still have an outrageous sum of money that we owe…I anticipate from a financial standpoint that that amount should go down.”


Stuart Guthrie is an assistant principal at Johnson High School.
Stuart Guthrie is an assistant principal at Johnson High School.

Despite the benefits for the district, switching to online textbooks has created a transition stage for students and teachers.

“I logged in, and it got me into the website to where I was supposed to be able to see my books on the dash area, but nothing showed up,” Vlach said. “I refreshed the page, and a few books showed up, but they were not my books. They were sixth grade books. I refreshed it again, and they were gone.”

Some students have been assigned homework out of the textbooks, but have had issues with accessing them.

“We needed to [access the online textbooks] for an extra credit assignment, but we needed the password so I couldn’t get into it,” sophomore Marco Ravelo said. “Everyone in our class has had that problem.”

Ravelo did acknowledge that it was probably just a password issue. According to Guthrie, he has only heard positive remarks about the change.

“It seems to me like everybody’s kind of coming to grips and understanding how the textbooks didn’t really match up with the curriculum,” Guthrie said. “I’ve had nothing but positives, aside from a few people at the very beginning that were curious why they weren’t getting books.”

Chemistry teacher Alisa Strandmo is looking forward to the advantages of having online textbooks and relying on the technology.

“More learning tools…will be available to students and teachers, like videos, animations, and in the future, probably tutorials, electronic homework, quizzes, and tests,” Strandmo said. “So this is kind of like a road to future technological advances in education.”

The online textbooks are a way to save money to buy materials that teachers need, according to Guthrie.

“Most teachers I think are excited about the opportunity to get other materials rather than just relying on the textbooks so far,” Guthrie said. “They’re thankful that they money’s being spent for the materials.”

There are advantages for parents and students as well, Guthrie continued.

“For the most part, parents and kids are very happy because they don’t need to keep track of a book all year long,” Guthrie said. “I have parents that will say that they don’t have a reliable online access …for the kids to get the books at night and in those situations, maybe they can get a loaner textbook or a copy of the material for them to read.”

Vlach believes the switch from physical to online textbooks will both benefit people and put them at a disadvantage.

“It saves a lot of money, and lots of kids are more likely to probably just go to one page instead of open a book,” Vlach said. “But at the same time…there might be problems with the Internet or the website, like now, which puts a stop to all learning with textbooks in the first place, which is what they’re supposed to be for.”


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