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Haven't you noticed how fat and long those text books are. If we condensed them and took out the unnecessary side stories, colored boxes and decorations and didn't write all the info in columns they'd actually be cheaper on he school districts. That saved money can make way for net books for every student in the classroom. Think about it, for the price of buying your kid a cellphone or paying the cable bill. We have to use more than just boring bulky text books, there's project learning, and reading books about the same subject areas but by different authors, videos, workshops, museums, and work experience. Freedom of choice, variety not uniformity. This is the USA.
I think this will only increase the digital divide, unless poorer school districts think outside the box. Schools need to be open later, longer, so students without technology in their homes will have access after school. I'm lucky to be working in a district that has a progressive superintendent who has wired up the schools with computers, smartboards and assistive technology for the teachers! The money is available to school districts with demonstrated need.
Yay! Brenda for having the courage to say that the Emperor doesn't have clothes. Digital textbooks do not decrease the technology divide. Those that we need to reach the most, those students who do not have homes filled with educational materials and a computer with a good internet connection, will be left even further behind. I have used digital textbooks in my graduate classes and as a reference they are difficult to manage and consume a great deal of computer time for each students. Families with more than one student will find that challenging to manage on school nights.
I think we can't limit the sky to certain districts because others have more challenges. We can't keep some down because others aren't ready, or don't have the resources. If we wait until everyone can, we will only be preparing the potential in our students for mediocrity.
Rather than not allow digital textbooks, school and the federal government should really be providing the funds to allow all to make that leap. We should use the technology that is ahead to motivate us to push us from behind.
I love the idea of having material available online. However, many students, as explained in the comments above, do not have adequate access to get the materials. The divide is too wide at this point for equitable access due to many factors. Until funding changes occur and priorities switch to more 21st century skills, digital materials are a great supplement to paper-based materials. Even with the cost savings, who is to say the districts would actually use the savings in technology when there are other priorities in their district?
I don't think we can be too reliant on the digital material as the only source, though. With ease of access and editing digital info, it would be too easy to alter the material to fit a certain purpose, bias, ideology, political or social slant. As with any material we bring into the classroom, it would have to be carefully vetted to make sure students are getting the most accurate and responsible material available, from a variety of sources.
If a system is to go digital it also must ensure that every child has a computer at home with Internet and if the child uses assistive tech, the switches and software used at school. Otherwise there can be no homework or projects to be done ouside of school. It would be wrong to put at a disadvantage the very children who are already disadvantaged.
And what about the homeless kids living in shelters and cars? Where will they read digital books? Don't say the library. They restrict time and do not allow downloads from outside the system. Printing out materials interferes with confidentiality. The others know if one child does not have a computer or has parents who fear technology. If you can resolve all these issues, go ahead and go digital. Otherwise it can be supplemental.
On the surface this looks good but the reality is that low income schools do not have computers. Most of the students do not have computers at home and the libraries are limited on computer time as well as open hours now. Our school district just adopted a math program that is computer based but our school and most schools do not have computers. The option was to use an overhead projector but only a few teachers had those. So what good does it do to buy computer based program if you don't supply the computers. The second part of this is if you do supply computers you also have to make sure there is a budget and people to maintain the equipment. We had computers 3 in a class for 4 years but they always broke down and no one would fix them. If you say teachers can make copies of the papers then who pays for the copies? Most schools limit the amount of copies so the teacher pays for them. A good idea has to have the resources to back it up and all schools must have the resources for it to be equitable.
I love the idea of digital textbooks, novels, magazines and newspapers--they can be updated easily, linked to other sites and be interactive. However, digital texts (whatever form we're talking about) do create another equity issue that this country and our schools will need to talk openly so we can make it work for all students. Many of my students do not have computers at home and cannot get to the public library on their own so digital anything without the supplying the equipment would keep them from benefitting. We need some way to get the materials into all students' hands so that all our kids have the resources to learn with.
Sure would like to see textbook publishers embrace the opportunity to think outside the box . . . provide both digital versions and the required equipment to interact with the "digital text." Notch it up by partnering with database/digital content providers such as Cengage, ProQuest, BrainPop, et. al. to put in the hands of all children a truly engaging and interactive learning resource. Repurpose costs inherent in the "paper-based delivery model" to support funding of the required equipment needed to realize the vision of a "digital delivery model' for children of the 21st century. Build a collaborative wiki environment around the content . .just imagine children having conversation and building meaning together where there are no boundaries.
I already see this as a problem outside of the classroom with my high school English students in northeast Florida. They're embarrassed to say that they don't have a computer or internet at home, so they say things like "My printer is broken", or "We're out of ink" or "We've just bought a new computer and it's not hooked up yet". They can't use school computers before school because they ride the bus and it doesn't get them there early enough. They can't stay after school because they ride the bus and they have to leave immediately. I require them to get a public library card so that they can have free access to computers/internet, but many of them don't have consistent transportation to the libraries, and the libraries have limited hours. Technology is great and it offers a lot to those who can afford it. Unfortunately, it's also the newest area where poor students don't have equal access to the best educational tools.