School systems in Tennessee should look to lighten the load many students carry every day. Schoolchildren are going to classes in this country carrying backpacks that are often loaded with textbooks, notebooks and other school supples.
Studies show many students are carrying 10 percent to 20 percent of their body weight in those backpacks. Medical research shows these heavy loads may cause spinal discs to compress. That means as the weight of a backpack increases, so may the degree of disc compression.
There are ways to help students avoid back pain. One is to carry only what is necessary. Another is to use a backpack with padded shoulder straps and to make sure students use both straps when they wear them.
The best way to tackle the problem is to replace bulky, expensive textbooks with an affordable digital reader that is both easy to carry and user friendly. School districts in California are now experimenting with the idea by replacing algebra books with digital notebooks that can also download electronic textbooks.
Tennessee is one of the first two states in the nation to receive federal “Race to the Top” funds. Part of those dollars must be spent on innovating teaching techniques. Digital readers may be the innovation needed to lighten the backpacks of students, while holding down the costs of updating textbooks.
It’s time for school systems in Tennessee to look to the future and begin phasing in digital readers. The prices are sure to come down and the competition for supplying both digital readers and e-textbooks should be beneficial to taxpayers, educators, parents and students.