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Digital Textbooks

April 30, 2010
There is a lot of buzz right now in the educational community regarding the availability and use of digital textbooks.  In Saline, the conversation initited with questions about saving our limited resources and looking at digital materials to replace purchasing expensive textbooks, but it has led to conversations about how would our students access the information.  (Yes, a few students and staff have volunteered to try iPads…)  The large scale use of digital materials still involves limitations before it we can say that we are a proclaim we will never purchase textbooks again.

However, the conversation has shifted.  It’s no longer a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.  Many of us are now very comfortable reading on a screen, something that our students take for granted.  The large publishing companies are starting to shift their business model, but as you can imagine holding onto a $7 billion a year textbook market makes shifting less than motivating for many of the big companies.

The direction is to focus on digital content, but with an eye on “open source” instructional materials.  This would mean we do not purchase digital textbooks, we simply use the internet to gather free resources.  The downside with this model is that it can be time consuming (labor intensive) to develop effective lessons to meet the State mandated standards, however, it would eliminate the initial content costs.

The bottomline – we are in the midst of a significant shift and deciding how to use our limited resources.  The process will be difficult at best.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Megan permalink
    April 30, 2010 12:33 pm

    How much is spent on textbooks every year in the Saline District?

  2. SHS Dad permalink
    April 30, 2010 5:36 pm

    This is such a great idea! Our kids lug 50+ lbs. in their backpacks every day. Actually for the classes that my daughter has had on-line text books, she has used them exclusively and done much better in those classes than the ones she has had to log the books around.

    The sooner the better. On-line additions can be updated yearly with no additional cost to the school district.

    Thanks for thinking out of the box!

  3. April 30, 2010 5:59 pm


    Last year we spent about $200,000 on textbooks.

  4. cpsm permalink
    May 1, 2010 4:10 pm

    Please don’t get rid of textbooks completely- there is something totally satisfying of reading a paper page, highlighting and being able to shuffle through the pages, better focusing on the written word rather than glued to an electronic screen (of which pediatricians only recommend less than an hour a day of onscreen time), and not having to decimate an entire forest of printing the materials. Have any of the publishing companies considered rather than 20 pound tomes of information, to have portion of books available, ie a few chapters at a time?, that could be combined in notebooks along with the class notes? Just a novel thought that worked in graduate school.

  5. Brendhan Givens permalink
    May 2, 2010 11:40 am

    As I write from my iPad, I am realizing many of the benefits of multimedia learning. I read sample books, listen to audio books, watch podcasts and lectures on iTunes U from some great teachers – all on this portable iPad device with a long battery life.  Everything is downloaded to this machine almost immediately.  However, I am very concerned that Saline Schools possible move to digital learning in the not-too-disrant would be short-sighted because this alternative is presently risky.

    Learning is difficult even for the brightest students. If anything, it should not be made more difficult.  A roadmap to digital materials would need to be overwhelmingly convincing that it would enable kids to learn more easily. While that may be very possible, obstacles stand in the way. 

    Some of the biggest hurdles for gaining my acceptance of digital textbooks include (1) how open source materials are used and (2) how universal access is gained. In addition to these primary concerns, other concerns exist.        

    (1). Good textbooks cannot be replaced with open source.  At the very most, open source materials are supplemental.  

    Good textbooks – whether digital or not – are extremely valuable resources.  I have looked closely at some of my kids’ text books and been impressed with the subject matter and especially how the subject matter is presented.

    While open source materials are sometimes beyond excellent, the overall quality assurance is not there. For example, while Wikipedia is an amazing open encyclopedia, it has several significant drawbacks:  (a) Wikipedia contains errors and biases, (b) Wikipedia changes day-to-day, and (c) Wikipedia articles are not presented in a manner that is best for learning.  Wikipedia encapsulates the drawbacks of open source materials. They cannot be trusted to make learning easier.

    (2) Universal access to the learning materials  is necessary.  

    Universal access is easy with textbooks.  It is much harder with computers. 

    My daughter cannot access her some Moodle materials at my house. I own Apple products which use the Safari browser. This browser may not be fully compatible with Moodle. Hence, my daughter is stressed that she cannot read her online textbook for her algebra test this Tuesday. Fortunately, my girlfriend owns a PC with a compatible browser and will apparently save the day. 

    In general, these types of “digital frustrations” need to be avoided. 

    In conclusion, I appreciate superintendant Scot Graden’s openness about talking about such forward-thinking ideas as digital learning with an iPad-type device replacing paper-based textbooks.  Saline schools will make a wise choice about using digital materials at the right time and in the right way.

  6. Kelly Saiya-Cork permalink
    May 6, 2010 7:53 pm

    Since we spent $200,000.00 on text books last year, how much would be needed for computers, internet, IT support and electricity for each child to be able to utilize the digital textbooks?

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