In a digital future, textbooks are history

Textbooks have not gone the way of the scroll yet, but many educators say it won’t be long before they are replaced by digital versions, reports the New York Times — or supplanted altogether by lessons assembled from the wealth of free courseware, educational games, videos, and projects on the web. "Kids are wired differently these days," said Sheryl R. Abshire, chief technology officer for the Calcasieu Parish school system in Lake Charles, La. "They’re digitally nimble. They multitask, transpose, and extrapolate. They don’t engage with textbooks that are finite, linear, and rote." In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this summer announced an initiative that would replace some high school science and math texts with free, open digital versions. With California in dire straits, the governor hopes free textbooks could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The initiative, the first such statewide effort, has attracted widespread attention, because California, together with Texas, dominates the nation’s textbook market. And many superintendents are enthusiastic. "In five years, I think the majority of students will be using digital textbooks," said William M. Habermehl, superintendent of the 500,000-student Orange County, Calif., schools…

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