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Will EdTech Ever Replace Books?

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Technology has changed the way students learn in the classroom. With new technology like mixed reality offering immersive learning experiences, there are more opportunities for collaboration and engagement in the classroom than ever before. The new tools of edtech are exciting for many educators and parents but unnerving for those who want to preserve the old-fashioned "book learning" that has proven itself for generations. What's at stake when knowledge emerges from a computer or mixed reality station instead of a textbook? The answer to that question should put even the most traditional among us at ease: Books aren't leaving the classroom but instead complementing modern teaching styles and techniques.

Students Still Enjoy Books

E-books were perhaps the first widespread evidence of a shift from paper to virtual information sources. But despite the prevalence of online booksellers hawking electronic copies of classics, a 2010 New York Times report discovered students still prefer paper textbooks because the inability to flip pages, write notes in margins and highlight sections created a preference for printed pages. Although the latest E-book readers offer digital versions of these bookish habits, the report's consensus is that kids will not use technology just for technology's sake. There are times when printed versions are more practical, portable, and easier on the eyes.

Looking at History -- Literally

It's often forgotten that book learning itself replaced an even older form of transmitting information: oral history. In generations past, history was understood through the stories of elders and not dry descriptions in textbooks.

While many classrooms do integrate storytelling, especially at younger ages, modules are still largely paper-based, requiring students to sit still and absorb written information. Edtech can integrate stories with multimedia components like sounds to enrich the narrative and create a long-lasting, memorable impression of time-honored fables and tales from cultures around the world. When stories and fables are more active and alive, students are more likely to retain not only the moral lesson learned from them, but the vocabulary and other elements as well. They can then transfer their knowledge into their own creative work, such as writing haikus or planning out a hero's journey.

Teachers Accommodate Diverse Student Needs

Today's classrooms and curriculums accommodate students with diverse social needs and levels of learning abilities, an issue with which teachers and parents have long struggled. The good news is that these barriers to learning are weakened when stories, lessons, and activities are constructed not only of paper, but also of virtual tools that helps students of all kinds visualize and interact with the material they are reading. A zSpace case study on elementary students in the San Jose, CA area showed that virtual reality stations helped bridge the divide between English and Spanish. When a story about a volcano is paired with the hands-on learning experience of exploring one virtually, a new equality is established that doesn't minimize traditional paper-based learning.

Not Just a Fad

Fundamentally, educational technology is about learning. It is a tool teachers can use to complete a predefined curriculum. In order for the use of technology to enhance learning and not just provide a distraction, it must be connected to a specific purpose, such as to learn about the bones in the human hand or to experience key points on a timeline of historical events.

The augmented learning opportunities of edtech open new doors for all students by adding a fourth "R" -- reality -- to the traditional trio of "reading, writing, and arithmetic." Books are not forgotten but carried into a new era of education, one that shows, tells, and realizes more potential than ever before. So slip on a pair of 3D glasses and let yourself see how mixed reality technology strength-trains the brain for new frontiers in thought and progress.

Want to see how one school district is using mixed reality technology to complement their existing curriculum? Check out this short video

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