Sunday, January 31, 2010

Digital Textbook Initiative Enters Phase II

Last year, Governor Schwarzenegger of California initiated a digital textbook plan, and the process began for implementation of digital books in science and math classes. This year, as the initiative reaches phase two, the push is for adding social studies and extending the number of online resources to meet a variety of math and science content areas. Check the Digital Education Blog, “California Expands Digital Textbook Initiative.” In Phase I, teachers reviewed online textbooks for alignment with the state curriculum standards. The report, Digital Textbooks, Phase Two, sponsored by California Learning Resource Network, provides links to the state standards and the process for submitting suggested resources for review.

For background on the topic, read the earlier Digital Education blog, California Faces a Curriculum Crisis, as well as a number of blogs posted to “Computers in the Classroom” about digital textbooks. (See below for a list of three of these blogs.)

As California is often a forerunner in reform, do you think the concept of digital textbooks will spread to other states? One respondent to the Digital Education blog California Expands Digital Textbook Initiative wonders if New Jersey will follow California’s lead. What about other states, or do you think the initiative should be a national one?

What do you see as the pros and cons of digital textbooks? Do you think the shift to online books is inevitable? If so, what do we, as educators, need to do get prepared? What are the pedagogical benefits, the financial factors, and other variables to consider?

Here are three other blogs on "Computers in Classroom" that I have posted on the topic of digital textbooks:
"Textbook Graveyard" (September 16, 2009)
"Digital Media Replace Standard Textbooks" (August 9, 2009)
"No More Paper Textbooks" (May 30, 2009)

For some public, local opinion on the initiatives in California, check the "Sacramento Scoop," from which the graphics in this blog was obtained: Governor Schwarzenegger Wants School Textbooks To Go Digital.


bryan said...

Im am torn on the idea of eliminating textbooks in school in favor for digital texts. I believe this initiative can both expand and hinder students ability to learn. As technology advances and more and more students grow up with such devices as cell phones, laptops, tablet pc's, P.C.'s, and mp3's that entice and engage students in a number of ways the applications of more convential methods of information gathering are lost on this younger generation.
I am a firm believer that education should adapt to the times and it is the teachers responsibility to utilize as many technologies available to reach an everchanging student base. However, with that said, students should not ignore the conventional way of doing research and studying.

In my own expereince reading from a text book and reading manuals online are like comparing apples and oranges. I prefer to have the paper in front of me so I am free to mark up and note the pages as needed. Reading online for me takes more time and I do not feel as comfortable working with the texts. This is not to say that all students and or teachers are of this position but the argument can be made that getting rid of textbooks in the school systems may hinder some students ability to effectively interact with texts. I truly believe students need to be educated and become skilled in both the use of online and traditional reading.

Amy R said...

How much money can we save by switching to digital textbooks? Kids are spending a great deal of time in front of their computer. It makes sense that a digital textbook would be practical in the following ways:
1. Save printing and paper costs
2. Save weight in backpack
3. Kids are on computers anyways.
4. Can be more interactive, ie. videos, audio clips, etc...

People are reading books and newspapers on their computer. Why not download a textbook in this same manner!

Jacquelyne said...

I agree with Amy that it seems practical for this group of students. These children don't know a world without computers. I do agree with Bryan though because some students can read better with highlighting a text and writing on the margins. Also it could be difficult for some students to read on the computer screen. However, there are now programs that allow you to highlight text and create sticky notes that could help readers that need to take notes.

I think that as educators we would need to be flexible. The other problem is that will each student have a laptop in classes and will they be provided by the state? How will that save money?

Melissa said...

I too am torn at the idea of using digital textbooks. I strongly feel that my textbooks are out of date and need to be updated. That being said I also see that the district can not afford new books. If we had digital textbooks students wold be allowed to view current events and up to date history/science topics.
On the flip side I am not sure if I like the students-young students having lab tops at there needs. You can't always see what they are doing and if they are in the right place. Can you?
I have questions, who will pay for all of this? It comes down to money.

AlexaGVSU said...

As I encounter many articles about our students today, there is a statement that I always come across: Students of today have grown up around computers. They do not know any different. The idea without mobile devices is unimaginable.

With saying that and knowing how advanced technology gets on a daily basis, I think that digital textbooks in school systems is the next step to advance students. Some pros would be that the school would be saving on money on buying textbooks, less weight of textbooks, students will find this convenient, saves time and will result in a better understanding of using digital classroom materials. There are also cons. Like Bryan said, I prefer textbooks that I can write in and make notes while I go through the reading. What if the computer has technical problems and the ebook is not backed up? This I see as a problem as well.

States are going to look to California as a reference and example based on their ability to use digital textbooks and how it has helped their schools. I do not see this failing in our schools. The truth of the matter is that it will cost the school money and depending on the schools location this could pose an issue.

As an educator, we have to know technology on a greater level than our students and that doesn't seem to be the case today. Students are coming in with the outside knowledge of technology that is way beyond some teachers comprehension. It's all about learning and teachers have to be WILLING to learn the ropes of technology because if not, using the digital books in the classroom may be setting the students up for failure if the teacher isn't going to take the initiative and learn.

Dave C said...

As a technology fan, I am all for switching from paper texts to digital texts. In many ways, they are easier to use, easier to update, easier to access (I can access on a Kindle all my e-books anywhere there is 3G or WiFi access, depending on the Kindle type). Unfortunately, with the cost of the technology to access them, it is often cost-prohibitive to educational institutions to get the readers/iPads/iPods/tablets or for all the students to get them.

One day, we can go fully paperless with textbooks, but I feel that the costs will need to go down first. eBook readers have gone down in price, but tablets are still expensive. Maybe tech companies can move away from their profit-motivated business models and move towards a more education-centered model which will support them in the future.

Mary Beth Cadieux said...

I love the idea of digital textbooks. I hear students groan anytime book work is assigned, because they then have to "lug home" a big, heavy book. If they have homework in multiple classes, those books add up quickly. When I was student teaching in a middle school it was not uncommon to see a sixth grader with a backpack so full it looks as big as they do. I also think there is a potential to utilize the possibilities of access through technology. More specifically I think that there could be an availability of resources that would make the materials attainable for all students is a wonderful feature of incorporating technology. For instance, it would extremely easy to include, audible versions of the text, differentiated reading levels and dictionaries at the push of a button. These features would all assist our struggling readings. Furthermore, students who required more of an academic challenge could have access to supplemental material. The potential to branch out from a traditional textbook and venture towards individualized learning is an exciting thought!