Category Archives: Digital Divide

Benefits and Challenges of Digital Textbooks

In February of 2012, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled a new “Digital Learning Playbook” which is a roadmap for educators to transition American schools to digital textbooks by 2017. The transition is occurring in pockets, but is not widespread.


Currently, only a small fraction of total textbook sales are digital textbooks. Still, several states have enacted changes in recent years to make it easier for districts to go digital.  Florida was the first state to mandate that public schools spend half their textbook budgets on digital textbooks by 2015.

In addition to funding school connectivity through the E-rate program, the FCC is working to increase access to broadband at home for students and low-income families via Connect to Compete, a national public/private partnership. Broadband connectivity at home will allow schools to accelerate the transition to digital textbooks.

Benefits of Digital Textbooks:

  • Convenience
  • Updating digital editions is faster and more cost effective
  • Digital textbooks are more current
  • Students no longer have to transport heavy book bags
  • Richer content, including videos and links to other resources
  • Digital textbook content can be searched

Challenges of Digital Textbooks:

  • Not every student can afford a mobile device
  • Not every student has Internet access at home
  • Technological problems
  • Eye strain (computer vision syndrome)
  • Students can’t resell digital versions
  • Some students just prefer a print book


  • Wieder, B., States move slowly toward digital textbooks, (Washington, DC), (2012, April 23).
  • The Palm Beach Post, Digital textbooks will come with their own problems, (2013, February 11).
  • Federal Communications Commission, Fact Sheet, Digital Textbook Playbook, (released 2012, February 1).

“The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.”

–Thomas Merton

How is Technology Used in Today’s Classroom?

How Teachers are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms is a PEW Research Center survey of American middle and high school teachers. 95% of the teachers who participated in the survey teach in public schools.

The survey finds that digital devices are becoming essential in the learning process. 73% of the teachers say that they let students use smart phones in the classroom for assignments. However, these new technologies have also created new challenges for teachers, both in how they are used and who gets to use them.

The digital divide deprives many students and teachers of basic digital access to educational resources. There is disparity in access between lower and higher income students and school districts. There is also disparity in access from school versus access from home.


There are generational differences in how teachers experience digital technologies. It is not surprising that teachers under age 35 are more confident with using these devices than teachers age 55 and older.

Teachers expressed concern that students are losing basic research skills because of an overreliance on search engines.  Students “equate research with Googling” and are less likely to use traditional resources. Few students browse the library stacks for research projects. Only 12% of teachers say their students will use printed books in a research assignment. View the survey for many more teacher insights on how technology fits into today’s classroom.

“My favorite librarian is one who gave me a conspiratorial wink when she caught me sneaking out of the children’s room and into the adult stacks at the grand age of eight.” — Dave Donelson, Author