Online Content Is the Future and Is Free: It Takes Real Leadership to Move in This Direction

By Norris, Cathleen; Soloway, Elliot | District Administration, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Online Content Is the Future and Is Free: It Takes Real Leadership to Move in This Direction


Norris, Cathleen, Soloway, Elliot, District Administration


ONLINE CONTENT IS THE FUTURE. Textbooks are finite; they have a beginning and an end. Online content is, for all practical purposes, infinite; learners can feed their interests to their hearts' content. Online content is current; textbooks can be years old. Online content is global; students can access content from the BBC, The Times of India, and, with a bit more effort, read the news from France, Sweden or Nigeria. How cool is that? Online content is, for the most part, platform-independent: desktops to smartphones, Apple OS to MeeGo--everyone can see and hear the same content.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Oh, did we forget to mention the price? Free. Though, down the road, that will change; we will pay for content. But the networking costs and the computing devices needed to access the content will be free.

Someone does have to put forth some effort to find that content, and Google's simple, keyword-based interface is growing increasingly more tired by the day. No problem--from the venerable NetTrekker to groundbreaking Wolfram Alpha, finding relevant content is becoming easier.

Some may argue that textbooks provide more than content; they provide instructional materials. That is certainly true, and that element may well still cost something, but nowhere near as much as 30 copies at $50-$75 per copy. Moreover, the open education resources movement is growing daily. Visit Curriki, OERCommons, or Thinkfinity for super lesson plans.

The Other Shoe Drops

Schools are charged with preparing students for the 21st-century global workplace, and they must teach 21st-century skills such as teamwork, self-directed learning, problem solving, information gathering and analysis. We simply can't teach 21st-century skills and content using 20th-century tools.

But there is no new money for going to one-to-one. These are hard times, and bonds are failing across the land. …

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