Magazine article District Administration

Textbooks Are Finished: It's Time to Trade Them for Computers

Magazine article District Administration

Textbooks Are Finished: It's Time to Trade Them for Computers

Article excerpt

THERE WAS A TIME WHEN TEXTbooks added value to K12. In the old days, (1) content was truly scarce, and age-appropriate content was scarcer still; (2) teachers came to rely on the instructional resources such as the lesson plans and assignments that accompanied textbooks; and (3) students spent a significant portion of the school day, upwards of 50 percent, with their noses in textbooks, absorbing content.

But in the Internet era, the first and third of those three value propositions are no longer true. First, content is readily available on the Internet. "I do not use the textbook in my class, because everything I would use from the textbook I can find online," says Derek Burtch, a high school English teacher from North Union, Ohio. Second, in classrooms engaging in project-based/problem-based learning, students spend no more than 5 percent of their time absorbing content; rather, they are using their computing devices nonstop, creating and sharing content.

Not surprisingly, teachers still need instructional resources--but these resources could be purchased online from educational publishers. While publishers could produce such materials as software or applications at a fraction of the cost of a comprehensive textbook, it's not clear that doing so would make for a healthy business for publishers, who are accustomed to selling high-volume, high-priced textbooks with a high profit margin.

In the United Kingdom, for example, Pearson has become a leading provider of a computer-based "learning platform"--a BlackBoard-like application geared expressly for primary and secondary education. Pearson is clearly anticipating where its future revenues will be coming from--and it's not going to be from paper textbooks.


Textbooks for Computers

"The money saved from not buying those comprehensive textbooks, then, can be used by schools to purchase networked computing devices that provide access to Internet-based content. A number of states (Texas, Indiana, Florida, Virginia, Arizona, Iowa and Tennessee, in name a few) have already made it legal for schools to purchase technology with monies originally earmarked to purchase textbooks.

Indeed, the only way schools will find the money to buy computing devices is if they no longer buy textbooks--a fair trade-off given that, in the 21st century, a computing device is certainly more important for education than a textbook. …

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