Digital Classrooms Making Textbooks Old School

teen girl with laptopEducation, like everything else, has its way of evolving. From tablets and scrolls to desk-top chalkboards and then textbooks, the evolution continues in the digital age with laptops. Even for those graduating from high school in the past few years, hearing that textbooks are a thing of the past seems out of place. While they’re not altogether gone just yet, laptop computers are pushing them out in several schools.

More and more school districts are making the progressive move away from the tried-and-true textbook to using more open source, free and relevant resources from the Web. It’s a move being promoted by Governor Schwarzenegger in California that could save his and other states hundreds of millions of dollars a year in furnishing classrooms with textbooks.

“In five years, I think the majority of students will be using digital textbooks,” says William M. Habermehl, superintendent of Orange County schools. “They can be better than traditional textbooks.”

How so you might ask? A number of reasons. Cost savings to the districts to start. The information is more timely, current and constantly updated. Plus, you’re reaching students where they already are – online. This is the most digitally engaged generation and to keep their attention and young minds growing, you have to work with them on a level that is most familiar to them.

“Kids are wired differently these days,” Sheryl R. Abshire told the New York Times, chief technology officer for the Calcasieu Parish school system in Lake Charles, La. “They’re digitally nimble. They multitask, transpose and extrapolate. And they think of knowledge as infinite.

“They don’t engage with textbooks that are finite, linear and rote,” she continued. “Teachers need digital resources to find those documents, those blogs, those wikis that get them beyond the plain vanilla curriculum in the textbooks.”

In an effort to equip instructors with the best resources and information available, and to provide students with cutting-edge, engaging instruction, some schools might beat others to the punch. As with anything, cost becomes a factor. So while some schools can readily afford to provide students with laptops, other schools struggle to pay for textbooks as it is, much less upgrading technology.

Some districts and some schools will be on the forefront of this revolution. Maybe this is an opportunity for Corporate America to help supplement classrooms with the modern tools they need to teach and learn. Maybe a reconsideration of the One Lap Top Per,  Child movement, to help kids right here in America.

More at NYTimes.com








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