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Top Learning Tools to Use Instead of Textbooks

Janelle Cox


Textbooks have always been a staple in traditional classrooms, until now, when technology in the classroom has supplanted the importance of textbooks. Many schools are realizing that textbooks are ubiquitous, and with the way technology in the classroom is growing there clearly are better tools to help students learn.

Over the years, we have seen textbooks grow, some have more colorful pictures, while others are accompanied with multimedia CDs and DVDs. As relevant as textbooks are trying to be, nothing compares to hands-on and active learning that is afforded with technology in the classroom. In this day and age, students can learn firsthand what life is like in Africa by videoconferencing, or learn about the moon by going on Google Maps. There hasn’t been a whole lot of research on whether students learn best by textbook, but there have been many studies done that show students learn and retain information better when they are given multiple ways to learn.

Here we will take a look beyond textbooks, and see which learning tools are the best.

Beyond Textbooks

There are a number of learning tools teachers can use in the classroom that are beyond textbooks. Here are a few of the best.

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The opportunities for children to learn on an iPad are virtually endless. It is remarkable the things students can learn. An iPad can bring a textbook to life by making it interactive. What child would want to read a hardcover textbook when they can just tap their finger and watch the book come to life? Children can learn essential concepts by playing a hands-on game, or listening to someone read them a story. They can learn math equations and practice spelling words by a touch or a tap of their finger. An iPad can transform students learning and inspire and motivate them in ways textbooks could never.


Since the beginning of ancient civilization, manipulatives have been used to help people solve problems. An abacus (counting frame) was used to help merchants count. Today, teachers can use manipulatives to help students understand and learn basic math. Blocks and cubes can be used to show students the relationships among shapes. Candy, coins or any other small items can help students learn how to count or solve a problem.

Picture Books

Simple picture books can be a great starting point for any lesson, and you can virtually turn any picture book into a lesson. They are a great way to motivate young children, and older children as well. Novels can also be used to teach important concepts. Memoirs, comics, and nonfiction picture books are all great learning tools that can easily replace a textbook.


Remember back in the day when you had a book report due and you didn’t want to read a book so you watched the movie instead? Why is that so bad? Today, it is totally acceptable and considered a different form of visual learning. Documentaries, science specials and classic literature can all be educational as well as entertaining for students.

SMART Boards

SMART boards have been used in many classrooms to enhance teaching and learning. It has by no means been the main way children learn, but more of a supplement way to learn. They make learning fun by getting students involved in learning. Teachers love them because they bring the curriculum to life, and they are a great hands-on way to learn. A SMART board can easily replace a textbook especially with all of the new technology that is coming out to upgrade them.


Can you imagine when you were a child if you had the opportunity to talk to someone that lived in Africa instead of just reading about them in an old, torn-up textbook? In today’s world our children can! Videoconferencing is all the rage in classroom across the globe. Why read about life in Africa when you can just videoconference with someone that actually lives there?

In the near future, it is very possible that we will see textbooks slowly fizzle out. Just like handwriting is starting to be replaced with typing, textbooks will be replaced with technology in the classroom. But for now, they are here to stay, at least for a little while.

Which learning tools do you use in your classroom? Share with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators

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