Over the next four years, students in North Carolina public schools will trade in their traditional textbooks for digital devices as the state shifts how it funds educational materials.
Last week, Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law a bill that calls for public schools to allocate more money for devices such as digital textbooks and iPads. The legislation is one of four bills designed to address the changing landscape of public education because of the growing use of technology in schools.
“This is where we have been going the past couple of years,” said Cumberland County schools Superintendent Frank Till Jr. “Textbooks are becoming an antiquated way to learn. This puts a stake in the ground that says textbooks are passe.”
School systems have until 2017 to align curriculum with digital devices and make the transition to digital instruction, the law states. A similar mandate to move toward digital instruction by the 2015-16 school year exists in Florida, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called for all U.S. schools to move toward digital learning within five years.
The use of digital textbooks and devices can “raise the level of academic performance of the state’s students” and provides students with “high-quality, up-to-date information that can be customized for individual students throughout their educational experience,” according to North Carolina’s new law.
“The thinking is that there are many school districts moving to digital learning,” said Neill Kimrey, director of digital teaching and learning with the state Department of Public Instruction. “There are a few districts that are resistant to change. This bill draws the line in the sand.”
School systems will have flexibility to use state money designated for textbooks or local money for technology. The legislation suggests using additional funding sources, such as private grants and parental contributions. Schools can adopt a “bring-your-own-device” policy that allows students and teachers to use their own technology in the classrooms.
The bill does not allocate state funds for digital devices. However, legislation is pending that would allow lottery funds to be used for technology.
Cumberland County officials are not optimistic that the state will allocate additional funds for digital devices, and there is little local money to divert from textbooks.
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