E-books coming to Maple Ridge classrooms

Pilot project to replace paper texts in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

SRT English and Social Studies teacher Jeff Curwen with an e-reader.

Backpacks full of textbooks may soon be a thing of the past for students as schools around Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows experiment with electronic books.

Lisa Lawrance, vice-principal at Samuel Robertson Technical school, and says the new e-readers provide a number of advantages to students and educators.

“In this time of crunched learning resources, they are very cost effective way to go,”  Lawrance said.

The readers themselves cost $100, less than some science and math textbooks, and far cheaper than a laptop computer. Lawrance estimates that a digital version of a textbook is close to 60 per cent cheaper than the physical version, and can also be updated online as new editions of the text are released.

“We used to have to buy a whole new set of books,” Lawrance said.

Instead of having to be responsible for several textbooks, students can use a single e-reader. Should the e-reader be lost, stolen or damaged, the purchased texts can be reinstalled free of charge onto a new e-reader.

What’s more, many classic works of literature, whose copyrights have long since expired, are available for free.

“The free books come in very handy, the students can access them at their fingertips whenever they want,” she said.

Lawrance said the e-readers are also an environmentally-friendly alternative, replacing tons of paper and cardboard.

A Grade 9 English class at SRT is currently taking part in a pilot project introducing the e-readers to classrooms. The school purchased the e-readers and provides them free to students.

So far, the response has been positive.

“The kids are excited,” said Lawrance. “The e-readers are much lighter than textbooks, so they don’t have to lug around all those books all day.”

Lawrance said she wouldn’t be surprised if e-readers completely replace paper textbooks in classrooms within three to five years.

David Vandergugten, the district’s director of instruction for K-12, believes putting technology in the hands of students will enable them to have a more interactive learning experience.

“I think the kids are happy we are doing this,” he said. “They’re ready for it.”

While the basic e-readers offers a more passive experience, similar to that of reading a book, advanced tablet computers offer the ability to write notes within the textbook document, as well as link to content online.

“You can even embed videos into the text,” said Vandergugten, adding the district is looking into developing its own content that can be distributed to students to accompany the texts they download.

The school district also recently modernized its library system, allowing students to scan through book titles and covers on their tablet computers just as they would scroll through songs on iTunes.

“There’s all sorts of possibilities for teachers with this technology,” he said.

While a classroom without physical books may be a difficult concept for some parents to grasp, Lawrance notes that the content is still largely the same.

“It’s just a different way of delivering it,” she said.

And while the technology may seem intimidating, for children who have grown up around computers and smartphones, it’s second nature.

“It’s not an adjustment at all for kids,” she said. “They use technology all the time.”

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