Houghton Mifflin Harcourt enters new chapter in textbooks

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the oldest publishers in the United States, plans to unveil the biggest deal in its history on Oct. 29: a $40 million, multiyear contract with the Detroit Public Schools. But this is not the typical agreement to sell a textbook to every student. Instead, Houghton will be providing a computer-based teaching system it developed with Microsoft Corp. that will connect teachers, students, and administrators, reports the Boston Globe. It’s a radical shift away from the classic textbook publishing model and represents an industry transformation, as technology supplants books. "The textbook is no longer the center of the educational universe," said Wendy Colby, a senior vice president at Houghton. The Boston publisher is selling some textbooks to Detroit, but most of the contract is for such software such as Learning Village–a customized, interactive classroom network. Detroit’s teachers will be able to prepare and assign homework through Learning Village and use its tools to measure how well students learn–even how well they understand a lesson taught earlier in the day. "I wanted one central portal that everybody can tap into,’ said Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief academic officer for Detroit Public Schools. The switch to electronic teaching tools is driven in part by school systems that want to prepare students for a digital world and partly by the availability of federal stimulus money for such programs…

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