Digital Textbooks


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A summary of information found regarding digital textbooks.

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Digital Textbooks

  1. 1. Digital Textbooks<br />Traci Nissen<br />Fall 2009<br />
  2. 2. Cost Comparison – Traditional versus Digital Textbooks<br />Bailey Mitchell, the chief technology and information officer for the Forsyth County Schools in Georgia, states that she spends on average $81 per student on traditional textbooks. On the other hand, she spends on average only $19 per student on all of the digital content that is used for the district. <br /> <br />College textbooks are typically extremely expensive. A college student can expect to spend about $900 per year to purchase the necessary books. This is approximately 14% of the cost of tuition for the same institutions.<br /> <br />Della Curtis, the coordinator of the Office of Library Information Services for the Baltimore, MD, public schools, was able to purchase an entire reference library (with access for 51 schools in the district) for less than $100,000. The corresponding print formats of these volumes would have cost approximately $653,000.<br /> <br />In terms of cost, the information I found points to the fact that digital versions of textbooks – at both the high school and college levels – are considerably cheaper than print version. This is especially important now when budgets are being cut drastically. Often textbook budgets are among the first to be cut.<br />2<br />
  3. 3. What Makes a Good Digital Textbook?<br />Kathy Lee, the general manager of SAS Educational Practice provides excellent ideas as to what makes an effective digital textbook. Three items she points out are:<br /> <br />A digital textbook must stimulate the child’s brain.<br />The textbook should provide hands-on opportunities.<br />It should allow for time away from the screen to collaborate with other students.<br />3<br />
  4. 4. Arguments in Favor of Digital Textbooks<br />One argument in favor of digital textbooks is that the content, while often identical to the print version, offers bonuses in the form of rich media – embedded video, audio, and hyperlinks. This embedded content often allows students to see difficult concepts in action.<br /> <br />Outdated information is another reason for digital content. Often adoption of new textbooks is a very drawn-out process that can take years to fully implement. This antiquated process causes even new textbooks to have outdated information. <br /> <br />4<br />
  5. 5. Today’s students are digital natives – they speak the language of technology. An example of this comes from teacher Diane Hamstra who conducted an experiment in her classroom. She had students read and analyze text passages that were read online at their desks; their responses were displayed on a large screen in the classroom. She had the same students read and analyze using typical pencil and paper methods. In Hamstra’s opinion, the computer responses “were deeper than with pen and ink. The focus was really sharp … It’s psychological. It’s a generational thing”. Today’s students are more comfortable around technology than traditional textbooks. <br /> <br />With digital textbooks and using online content, teachers are able to mix and match content to find the best information for each subject. With traditional textbooks, teachers must use what is in the text, or search to find better content if a subject is not covered as well as they would like. Matt Federoff, director of technology in the Vail, Arizona school district says that good teachers may already be doing some of this: “Good teachers stopped using the books years ago, although they still put stickies on their favorite pieces from the 20 years of textbooks that were hanging around the school”. <br />5<br />
  6. 6. Arguments Against Digital Textbooks<br />Access to computers is the largest barrier against adoption of digital textbooks. Even if students have access to computers as school, home access is still a problem in many communities. Some would say that this argument against digital textbooks is declining simply because the cost of computers is dropping. <br /> <br />Another similar argument that teachers have is that, while they receive adequate training on basic procedures on the computer, they have not been taught how to integrate technology into lessons. <br /> <br />Many people say that a barrier to integration of digital textbooks is that there are too many different platforms. A uniform platform for all computers would aid districts in implementing digital textbooks. <br />6<br />
  7. 7. A Model of Online Education<br />The VOISE Academy in Chicago is a new high school. It opened with the 2008-2009 school year with 150 eager students. The Virtual Opportunities Inside a School Environment model is a hybrid school where students have both face-to-face time with a teacher and time online. Students are each issued a new laptop computer and computers are even supplied for home, as necessary. Internet access at home is still lagging behind though, as over 90% of the student body qualifies for free and reduced lunch. To accommodate, the school stays open later in the evening and is even open on Saturdays. Although class sizes are relatively small, a lot of school time is taken up teaching appropriate online behavior to the students. <br />7<br />
  8. 8. Conclusion<br />Digital textbooks are the future of textbooks. Until the format is perfected, perhaps a hybrid model is a better approach. Teachers should be allowed to deviate from the textbook when they are able to find better content online. <br />8<br />
  9. 9. Sources<br />Josh McHugh, Connecting to the 21st Century,, 9-26-05<br />Lauren Barack, Digital Textbooks for Digital Natives, School Library Journal, February 2006<br />Naomi Dillon, The e-Volving Textbook, American School Board Journal, July 2008<br /> <br />Textbook Deathwatch, Tech & Learning <br />Dan Macsai, Digital Textbooks Gaining Favor, Business Week, November 4, 2008<br />9<br />