iRevolution or iStrain?

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ELLEN HOFFMAN/THE HIGHLANDER

An Amazon Kindle welcome screen.

Hilliary Hoover, Reporter

As the world blossoms and grows in the age of technology, so many new advancements have been made to make lives faster, more efficient, and more convenient. How do these changes affect college students who are the future agents of change and the innovators, scientists, and doctors of tomorrow?

The Physical Therapy Department mandated that students buy the e-Reader Version of their textbooks to make sure students have the highest level of technology and learning. This change prompted students to buy tablet devices.

According to department chair Dr. Susan Barker, this won’t prevent readers from getting lost in a heavy book. She has praise for the eBooks, which put the material quite literally at the learner’s fingertips. This new format allows students to highlight and write notes like they would in a hardbound textbook, but that information can be shared with any device connected to the Internet.  “If an instructor permits, students can access an instructor’s notes and highlights,” she said.

Barker provided a long list of the benefits of electronic books. The cost and weight of e-books is significantly less than that of paper textbooks. Students can access their e-books anywhere they have Internet access, including off-campus clinics.  They are also searchable, so finding content and images is easy. “E-books provide a mechanism for students to readily develop individualized study materials that can be shared easily with fellow students,” said Barker.

Graduate students in the program save about $200 when they buy the e-Book textbooks. First year DPT graduate student Amanda Peslak is aware of how tight money is for many students. “Everyone has to find an apartment or house or someplace else to live [next year]. You have your food on top of that and your normal bills like a cell phone or car insurance. Money just keeps piling up and of course you will have your larger loans you are going to take out because grad school is more expensive.”

With this leap into the future, it is very common to see DPT students around campus with tablet devices such as the Kindle Fire or iPad. This allows the student to always have textbooks and notes with them, which makes pulling it out for a review session quick and easy. These slim devices can hold thousands of books and have a wireless connection to the Internet so students can access e-MU and Blackboard for assignments.

However, these devices are not price lightweights. A Kindle Fire from Amazon.com is $199, and an iPad 2 from the Apple Store starts at $499.

“[I paid] about $1,300 just for the books and my tablet was another $300 because it is way cheaper than the iPad,” said first year DPT student Danielle DiLorenzo.

While not all of the books are in e-Book form, it may make more “cents” to buy the less costly version. The catch is that publishers of the e-Book bundle that physical therapy students are required to buy are only compatible with the Apple iPad devices. Students who choose to buy a less expensive tablet must stream their textbooks from the Internet rather than download the books directly to their tablets.

This is difficult for DiLorenzo because she bought the less expensive HP tablet to save money. “You have to worry about if the Internet connection is working and if it isn’t working fully it won’t load the pages entirely. [If you had] a textbook you have in front of you, you don’t have to worry about technology not working right.”

Barker said she is unaware of any retailer affiliations that may help cut costs for students.

Peslak doesn’t have a tablet. She streams her textbooks from her laptop, but she is in the market for one. “I might get one because it is easier, especially during class. Professors don’t post everything on time, so even for power points and stuff it’s great for people who have their e-readers in class because they pull it up in class and not have to worry about the lecture notes. If you don’t understand something and you need to refer to a picture or page in the textbook, you can just pull it up right then and there.”

A 2009 study by the Council for Research Excellence found that adults spend 8.5 hours a day in front of a computer screen, and in the past three years, many new technological devices have become available to consumers such as the recent upgrades to the iPad, Nook, Kindle, and other tablet devices.

Danielle DiLorenzo uses her tablet, “every minute that I’m awake because if I’m not using mine for the textbooks, I’m using it for the Power Points. In class, I’m pulling up the textbooks to reference them and at home I am reading from the eBook and my computer to type up my notes.”

DiLorenzo finds some problems with long-term use. “It is way more difficult to study. You are looking at a computer screen all day. Everyone is getting headaches and their eyes are tired from reading their online textbooks all day.”

The transition from hardcover to e-Book has been hard for those who have never before been exposed to the electronic format. Peslak would rather have the hardbound version of her textbooks for some classes. “I think it’s a hard decision because I know personally, I would rather have a hard copy book in front of me. I know especially for Kinesiology I would want a paperback book because I thought that it would be much more simple. Reading it online, looking at all those pictures and diagrams, and trying to learn from that is hard… You’re pretty much thrown into this option, you weren’t given a choice, so for people who have a more difficult time learning without being able to highlight all over the place and stuff like that; it may be more difficult for them.”

DiLorenzo agrees. “It is so much harder to work to try to get stuff done on the tablet.  If you hadn’t had any experience with them, they are hard. It is not like a textbook where you are looking at the words and right next to it is the pictures. It’s not organized as textbooks.”