Monday, May 11, 2009

California Initiates Digital-Textbook Drive

Governor Schwarzenegger has asked his state director of education to create digital textbooks for math and science, available by fall. If successful, the California digital textbook could open up millions of dollars statewide that districts would have otherwise spent on paper textbooks, money that can be spent on extra teachers, training, and equipment.

More importantly, digital textbooks are an impetus for a digital classroom, with every student having a computer. That digital information can not only be accessed easier than a book with digital search capabilities, but it can stay current, allow for several approaches in teaching without creating more clutter, and best of all, gives students content they can more easily use in their own work.

While the official website doesn't allude to any, there is some pushback from more than just textbook companies. Some teachers are skeptical of the rigor that these materials might have, as well as the cohesiveness and the ability to address their state standards. Such skepticism is to be expected, as traditional textbooks are a comfort for some teachers. Unfortunately, any criticism distributed here can equally apply to textbook companies. Perhaps the chief concern for California is how will they get students the computerized access, which are necessary for the textbooks to work?

Developing a digital textbook alternative is exactly where Iowa should be looking. It would be excellent to accompany rolling out the Iowa Core--a digital textbook that articulates how it addresses the Core's critical concepts. Moreover, it would be more than lipservice to how serious the state is about adopting "21st century education". And, it could be an economic savior to many districts feeling the crunch... that is, if they have the computers for it.

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