Santa Monica’s Need to Digitize Textbooks


Textbooks have been used as an education tool for many years now. They provide great sources of research and valuable additional information to what is already being taught in classes. Therefore, textbooks are helpful for a productive classroom environment. However, do they really help students’ physical health and well being? At John Adams Middle School, each student is supplied with their own home set as well as a classroom set of textbooks. In contrast, some schools, such as Santa Monica High School, do not have class sets of textbooks and require students to bring their own personal copies on a daily basis. This forces students to carry their heavy backpacks throughout an eight hour school day, inevitably causing excessive back stress.

We investigated this issue further by conducting a survey to learn about student’s opinions on textbooks and the amount of back pain they feel caused by the heavy loads they carry each day. In our survey, taken by 52 Santa Monica High School students, we learned that about over 50% of students carry one or more textbooks on a daily basis. Because an easy alternative to carrying all your books is to put them in your locker, we asked how many students actually use their locker, and found out that only about 23% do. For the 77% of our participants who did not use their locker, we asked them to explain their reason for not utilizing them. Their answers varied, but the most common were that their lockers were out of their way, they had no time to go in between passing period, or they were never assigned a locker. The outcome of this leaves students no hope but to continue hauling their backpacks like pack mules.

Studies have related overweight backpacks to early back pain in youths. According to a study by The New York Times, 1 in 4 students reported having back pain for more than 15 days during the entire school year. Our survey verified these results as 78% of our participants stated that they experienced back pain on a regular basis. The amount of weight from a backpack adds stress to spines of teens and children. The large quantity of items they carry exceeds the healthy amount and continuing to carry around this heavy load every week only makes matters worse.

The solution to this problem is to promote digital textbooks for students. It will give students the same benefit of a regular textbook, while also eliminating back pain. In fact, there are many free online textbooks that are accessible with simply a username and password. In addition, these websites may also include helpful links and resources.

If all of this is available for students, then why haven’t these actions already been taken? The answer is simple. Students and educators aren’t exposed to them; therefore, they continue to operate with outdated traditional methods. As technology is advancing, shouldn’t teaching also evolve?


Daniela Escobar and Eldana Befekadu are students at Santa Monica High School