It was only a matter of time before school districts began to realize how much money they could save by moving from printed text books to digital version, but will they have the money to make that large of a move?
Back in July, a think tank proposed that every student in the United States should be provided with some type of e-Textbook reader. While that isn’t the exact plan that is being followed, numerous school systems, including the entirety of California, are looking at moving to cheaper digital alternatives for teaching their students.
According to The New York Times, schools in Arizona are already offering digital classes to students, and one, Empire High School in Vail, Ariz., has gone so far as to provide laptops to its pupils so that every student can access the texts, homework and podcasts produced by their teachers. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced this summer that every school in the state would be looking at free and “open source” texts to replace math and science books.
The digital age is definitely upon us, but there is a problem in making sure that every students will be able to use the new texts. Tim Ward, assistant superintendent for instruction in California’s 24,000-student Chaffey Joint Union High School District, told The New York Times, “A large portion of our kids don’t have computers at home, and it would be way too costly to print out the digital textbooks.”
So, what are schools to do? A move to digital texts will allow a school district to save money, but every students must be able to access the texts, which will mean spending funds on laptops or e-Textbook readers. While it would be nice to move all of the students at once to the digital format, about the only possibility is to do it in stages. They will have to start with the students who already have computers, then take the money saved on textbooks from them and funnel that into helping lower income students with the purchase of some sort of e-Textbook reader, a laptop or even something as small as a Netbook.
This is not something that will happen over night, but the move is inevitable. California alone spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on printed textbooks, and with the state in financial crisis, it is going to have to do something to start saving money, and it’ll have to do it soon.
Beyond the potential financial savings, it will also be a way to allow textbooks to be updated on the fly with new information. Can you imagine the horror that ripped through science departments when Pluto was down graded from planet status? Printed texts would have to be purchased new, or teachers would be teaching with glaringly outdated books and having to explain to their students to just ignore the former planet. With a digital textbook, hit a button, updated texts and bye-bye Pluto.
No matter how you slice it, the age of the printed textbook is drawing to a close, and I am sure that millions of young spines will say “thank you” as they are saved from carrying around insanely have bags filled with all of that paper.