4 Things That Totally Suck About Using Technology In School [Opinion]

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I’ve read that e-books are the future of books, and it’s not a matter of if they’ll surpass print books but when.  Being still in college, I wondered if that was the case for e-textbooks. There’s certainly more buzz on e-textbooks as they’re cheaper and it means that students don’t have to break their backs with heavy physical books. But are they better? Is going all digital better?

This whole semester I’ve been dealing with e-textbooks and using just an Android tablet (Acer Iconia A500) to digitize all of my schoolwork to answer these questions. It’s not even the end of the semester but I can conclude that it’s been more of a hassle than a convenience. The tablet itself is great, but using technology in school isn’t quite the same. Remember the Kno tablet? While I thought it was revolutionary, the concept didn’t seem to be picked up by schools. Universities, professors and students simply (some may be but most) aren’t ready to embrace digital textbooks, and not all professors make it easier for students who want to use their laptops or tablets to replace pen and paper.

Have An e-Textbook? You Will Fail An Open-Book Test


The argument of e-books versus traditional textbooks books goes beyond whether you prefer the look and feel of an actual book to the more unnatural book-on-a-screen experience. In terms of practicality, there are many obstacles and opposing forces to replacing physical books with digital versions for good. For instance, even right now when tablets have been hot for at least a year since the iPad 1 came out and there are quite a few people who can afford them, none of my professors at my apparently-expert-in-social-media school so far have declared that they prefer digital textbooks. One of my Computer Science professors reasoned that you can easily cheat on a test, go online on your web-enabled device and easily call or email your mom and ask her to look up the answer in a textbook for you. You could also simply Google the answer.

Having e-books and web-enabled devices also limit forms of testing, which is a just a headache for instructors. They’ll probably hate you for making them figure out a way you can’t cheat on the test and giving them additional work. This is true when the study material is as difficult as figuring out the answer to some obscure logic riddle, and some professors might prefer to give open-notes and open-textbook tests. Right now, since there are some students with the physical books and some with the e-books, those who purchase the digital versions of the textbooks end up disadvantaged.


Students could solve this by printing segments of their textbooks for the exams, but this is usually not permitted per the textbook publisher. How do I know this? My classmates who buy the (cheaper) digital textbook end up going through hoops of inconvenience to secure a remotely decent grade during these open-textbook exams. That usually includes having to figure out a way to bypass the limitation the textbook publisher has imposed for the e-book – you can only print 10 pages at a time. So the unpleasant options you have when you buy the digital textbook are to either print 10 pages at a time, harass a classmate to make photocopies of their physical book or buy the textbook anyway. I swear this is happening in one of my classes this semester.

Have An e-Textbook & Are Majoring In The Sciences? Your Book Will Confuse You

Another downside I have seen when traditional textbooks are replaced is that not all the text in a specialized textbook will be compatible with the rendering engine of an e-reader or tablet. I am NOT kidding. I’ve seen this first hand when one of my classmates who got the Kindle textbook ended up being totally confused with a formula. The way the formula was displayed on the Kindle involved a delta triangle instead of the correct symbols.

Talking about incompatibility, here’s an example of something equally confusing from my actual Logic class notes on my Android tablet.


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I’m pretty sure those squares up there in the screenshot were meant to be curly braces, but that is just a guess.

Stylus Or Not, Hand-Writing On A Tablet Will Suck (& Be Slower Than If You Just Freakin’ Use Pen & Paper)

Right now, iPad and tablet owners have probably thought it best to try a stylus in the hope that they can replace paper. I know I have. I used Bamboo’s Stylus for iPad, which is supposed to be one of the best styluses out there, on Autodesk’s SketchBook Pro, which is probably the best drawing app on the Android Market right now. Though both were good, no matter how long I tried to get used to it, I have found that using a stylus on a touchscreen just isn’t as pleasurable as it is using pen and paper.

It’s probably too much to ask for the stylus experience to be similar to what you get with a pen, I reckon, but it’s the precision and extra pressure you need to add that put me off. Want some proof? Here are my actual notes, taken with a stylus. Does this look legible to you?


Parts of my hand-writing aren’t so bad; some other parts look like hieroglyphs. If you own an iPad and have experienced something different, let me know in the comments. For me, no matter how much I try to like a stylus, it just doesn’t cut it for me.


As you can see here in my actual Logic class notes, another problem I’ve experienced is that if you’re focusing somewhat hard on making your notes legible, guess what, it’ll take you longer than usual and perhaps the professor will have moved on and erased the tidbit of information that was meant to copied quickly.

There are also problems when your tablet doesn’t actually support palm rejection or requires you to write really big and you have to keep zooming in and out. There have been some newer tablets that hold promise and seem to solve some of these problems, like the Noteslate (which seems to be vaporware), the HTC View and the Lenovo Thinkpad tablet. If you have these tablets, please share your experiences in the comments.

Now if we’re talking about a graphics tablet (like a 12’’ Cintiq), it might be a whole different ball game, but you’ll have to lug around both your laptop and the graphics tablet to school, and set up your little office during every single class, provided you have enough desk space…

There’s No Way To Sync Last-Read Points In Your Study Material


You like having your leisure books synced on the Kindle, Kobo, Google Books, etc. apps, right? Imagine having to study books and slides (especially PDF slides and Powerpoint presentations that professors use so much these days) and not having a way to sync these across your computer, tablet or phone. It becomes increasingly annoying when there are more and more instructors relying on these slideshows and there’s always a need to either print them out (countering the purpose of saving paper in the first place) or re-figure out again where it is that you last read.

This frustration is something I’ve personally experienced and perhaps is not well-founded since you could try to figure out a way to remember the last checkpoints in your collection of slides, but I just don’t see why e-books can be synced so easily nowadays, yet digital slides, online tutorials, etc, aren’t so easy to organize.


That’s why I appreciate ideas like Ibis Reader which allows you to upload PDF documents and read them on the web with any device, but until the project is optimized for bookmarking last-read pages and so forth, it’s just for the casual reader that’s not in school.

Yes, Benefits Do Exist

I’ve encountered some inconveniences as you can see, but there are more good sides of owning a laptop , tablet or smartphone.


Not only do tablets (and smartphones too!) make good clocks, they also are just lighter than a pile of textbooks of course, offer excellent battery life, are great e-readers (not for school), can be your personal planners, etc.

The point of this post isn’t to bash tablets or laptops. This rant is just my opinion of the current state of personal technology in schools. There are many ways to solve or remedy these concerns, but as of right now, the notion of having digital textbooks and using tablets for school is fraught with many problems. The transition to digitizing schoolwork is just fractured in many places because some are enthusiastic about the old ways, and others are ready to touch the future (on their tablets).

Agree or disagree? Let us know your opinions in the comments below!

Image credit: karam Miri, Dmitry Lobanov, Digital Storm, Olaf Speier

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Comments (43)
  • Surface Fan

    Fast-Forward today, the Surface 3 is the best tablet to use for school! It’s digitizer pen is better to write than a finger. Sadly, Apple still hasn’t done better with their tablets.

  • Secret

    I agree school computers are terrible. I am in high school and all the school provided computers suck! They are way to slow, They glitch and are to restricted. What sucks even more is that the school knows they are not working but they still have rules like you must bring it to school, you must use it, You can’t use your own or you get a detention. WHAT! It is easier to use your own because you’ve got everything there. Schools should really find out what students think of it so they know if it is helping. Plus we are paying $4000 a year to use these crappy tablets. I prefer using books. Not because of being a young old fashion person it is just easier.

  • AjaanRob

    Many programs to sync your notes like Zotero in Firefox and MS based Readcube plus many others on chrome os. As for ebooks, in general continued development will occur just as the same development will occur with stylus and tablets. Specific ‘firewalls’ could be in place if the G3/G4 is disabled or scrambled during exams. Shift toward ebook tablets vs Ipad usage could also limit cheating. You must face it, one can always ‘cheat’ any system in place, so that behavior will not change with the modality being used in assessment. It is just how to prevent the ‘honest’ ones from temptation. 

    Finally, I would like the Book Publishers to open up and create a ebook standardization. Currently all book publishers are fighting the direction of going ‘paperless’…which is a losing position to be in. Yes, the smaller publishers may become extinct or the big Publishers failing to adapt may become fragmented over time, either way, I am for complete, free open access for research in all fields to assist in the global perspective in innovation and creativity.

  • KAte

    That said, I am also an aspiring fiction writer who, if I ever get published, will never allow my work to be “printed” in e-book form. There’s something just sacred about the feel, the soul of a bound book that can’t ever be captured in modern soulless machines.

    I may never be a billionairess like that B.S. sell-out J.K. Rowling-in-the-D’oh, but at least my words will be mine and never belong to the Internet.

  • Kate

    Whoa. Another point about technology in school: it makes dumb Luddites like me majoring in liberal arts seem stupid compared to the computer science majors with their fancy gizmos. I did textbook renting rather than buying the books straight out. I don’t have too much faith that anyone would buy them back on Amazon, so in previous years I just sold it back to the store. For the life of me I can’t figure out the textbook buyback thing, and the only person who could help me otherwise is my mom, who doesn’t get anything — and I mean anything — about the computer, not at all.

    In the end, for me it was a matter of convenience and space. Either sit with a $100 anthology of the most boring short stories ever written that make waterboarding seem like a real joyride, knowing you’ll never use it again, or rent it out of financial aid monies and save space in the house. Maybe I’m weird in that I went to community college and not a four-year university, but decided a Bachelor’s was too much hassle and a PWOT in terms of getting a job.

    Kimberly, I too, have something of an LD, but it’s dyscalculia (although I write slowly by hand, so maybe dysgraphia?). Dyscalculia basically means I’m a terrific writer who can’t do math, not even the basics, or understand computers, and therefore my job prospects are basically nil anyway. (That’s more than one percent, though, “amirite”?)

    • Jessica Cam W.

      I haven’t done online textbook buybacks either, but if you sell it back to the bookstore, that’s still textbook buyback (it’s just not online). Even if you sell them online, the prices the online store (e.g. Amazon) offer you are just as low as they’d offer at the store (which is why I don’t do them). Apart from that, I think the online stores usually pay for shipping. 

      The way I get rid of my textbooks is through http://www.half.com. It’s an eBay company that lets you set your own prices. I’ve sold many textbooks there. 

      With all of that, I still think textbook renting solves a lot of hassle. It might be a bit more expensive in some cases, but at least you don’t have to be stuck with a textbook that you might or might not be able to sell later.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.