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Readers: Digital textbook implementation just a dream

By Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor
October 12th, 2012

“The digital divide will grow even larger without the financial support necessary to make this move a reality,” said one reader.

From calls to action from major education organizations, all the way to a mission set forth by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the higher-ups in education are saying it’s time to go all digital with textbooks.

But at the district, school, and classroom levels, is going all digital—which promises larger returns on investment and more interactive and personalized learning—as simple as it seems? And does going digital really put less strain on teachers and students?

According to readers, though digital textbooks sound good in theory, not all students would have access to these materials from home as well as school. Also, many schools just don’t have the funding, or infrastructure, needed to support these efforts.

Do you agree? Take a look at these arguments from readers and let us know! (Comments edited for brevity.)

Make it more than just a digital copy

“The iTextbook that students can have published is an educational milestone on several levels. The two that come to mind right away are (1) the learning they accomplished through the process and (2) the enhanced learning available to the users. This is an obvious example of [students] ‘owning’ the learning (the constructivist approach). With respect to the end user, the video and link enchantments take the usually plain eText format to a whole new level. While publishers have taken some steps to upgrade their texts from simple page-turners, it appears this publication goes way beyond that—making the embedded content the heart of the project. I do not think it’s pandering to the modern student to apply these kind of technological advancements to the educational environment. Rather, anything we can do to make education more relevant to our current technological environment is worth the effort.” —Tom Crawford, M.Ed. (Educational Technology), Instrumental and Exploratory Music, Emily Gray Jr. High, Tanque Verde Elem./Agua Caliente Elem.

“It is a great idea, in theory, but instead of just translating paper text to digital, one should embrace the capabilities of the technology and enhance the digital textbooks. Add videos, add audio, add experiments, … make it more interactive and engaging. Capture the way students learn, and then you will see added value and a growth in knowledge.” —Tryna King, product training coordinator, Winston-Salem, N.C.

The Koreans’ view of the digital textbook is much more than a digitized book. It is interactive content that can be leveraged inside and outside of the classroom. Since IMS [the IMS Global Learning Consortium, which has developed standards for the interoperability of digital content] is U.S. based, attending IMS meetings and/or keeping up on the IMS work is a great way to learn what the Koreans are doing. IMS standards are experiencing strong adoption in the U.S. now as well—but more from a bottom-up, district-by-district, and supplier-by-supplier approach. See [this] blog post on recent developments: http://www.imsglobal.org/blog/?p=124.” —rjabel

Not until everyone has access

“[Digital textbooks are a] good idea for many, but not so good for students [who] do not have computer/online access outside of the school. We have both hard copy and online [textbooks] available, which is how it should be until access is guaranteed [for] all.” —C. Smith, National Board Certified Teacher

“I am an administrator in the largest high school in Kansas—poverty level in the student population is around 70 percent—[and] the [idea] of textbooks being exclusively digital is far from practical. Students do not have the means to acquire the technology device necessary to facilitate digital content—[and] unless publishers have shifted their pricing structure, there is no cost advantage to going digital, while still paying the same price or an annual fee that is nearly the same.

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