El Paso students, teachers have switched to digital textbooks from the CK-12 Foundation


El Paso teachers developed three digital textbooks this summer, for high school biology, chemistry, and physics.

El Paso Independent School District took the first step in eliminating printed textbooks when high school science classes switched to digital textbooks last week.

District officials say EPISD is the first large school district in Texas to move to all-digital, teacher-edited digital textbooks.

“It’s our opinion at EPISD that this is inevitable,” Superintendent Juan Cabrera said on Oct. 7.

District officials say the move to digital textbooks will save money and give them more flexibility in teaching students.

Students and teachers received the digital textbooks Oct. 9 after a morning press conference announcing the change.

EPISD will have to buy tablets or laptops for students to access the digital textbooks. The content is free from California nonprofit CK-12 Foundation.

Teachers in about 30,000 school districts across the country use CK-12 content, but only a handful are personally working with the nonprofit, like EPISD is, CK-12 Executive Director Neeru Khosla said.

EPISD officials approached CK-12 looking to create cheaper and more flexible digital content.

School districts buy new textbooks on a five- to 10-year cycle set by the state. This summer was the year to purchase science textbooks for EPISD, and Cabrera decided to look at electronic alternatives.

“I thought this was the best time to use our own resources and develop [digital] textbooks,” said Cabrera, who has worked in education technology.

Khosla, who holds master’s degrees in molecular biology and education, founded CK-12 in 2007 after recognizing how expensive—and profitable—the education industry is in the United States.

Spending on grade school instructional materials totaled more than $8 billion nationwide in 2011, according to the Association of American Publishers. Texas allocated more than $405 million to schools for instructional materials for the 2014-15 year.

Seeking to tackle the high costs of textbooks, Khosla and her team, backed by her billionaire and venture capitalist husband, Vinood Khosla, began developing digital ones.

(Next page: More info about CK-12’s digital textbooks)