Thursday, October 13, 2011

Students without shoulder strain -- digital textbooks

Would you be willing to go to a school without textbooks?
One idea discussed yesterday by David Wiley in the Change2011 MOOC (#Change11) was the idea of open-source textbooks that would be free, digital and up-to-date, a trend that appears to be rising in these digital times, with one example being Flat World Knowledge, publishers.  I wondered if there was any move in California to use digital textbooks in our classrooms.
It turns out that California has an initiative to rid our classrooms of those heavy, outdated textbooks.    Back in May 2009, Arnold Schwarzeneggar announced an initiative to go digital for some high school math and science textbooks, primarily as a money-saving device.  The governor’s plan was to have the new textbooks ready for deployment by fall of 2009.    I have noticed that our high school students are still lugging around 10 pound textbooks, so assumed that the initiative was dead, but it is not dead, just progressing slowly, for a myriad of reasons having the do with both the technology needed to access the books and the politics of textbooks themselves.
However, there is a group, the California Learning Resource Network, that reviews textbooks for alignment with the California standards and the books that they have been reviewed can be found on their website.  The textbooks on the list include more than math and science texts.  Even more exciting, nearly two years after the announcement of the initiative, the first schools are launching their programs under the initiative and so far, there is a lot of excitement about the digital textbooks.

Watching the video, I can imagine the students’ excitement for interactive text, the teachers’ excitement for increased student engagement and up-to-date information and the districts’ excitement for textbook money saved.  I can also envision the disappointment of technological snafus, the lack of adequate teacher support and hosts of unanticipated costs and push-back.  
My vision for education in the future surely includes learning that is not restricted by cumbersome textbooks adopted on a 6-year cycle.   My vision surely includes using technology in the classroom to access current information and high-quality text.  I’m willing to suffer through the growing pains to be in the forefront. 
Where do we sign up to be in the next group of schools to adopt digital textbooks?

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