Speaking at the 2011 Techonomy conference, Sean Parker of Founders Fund made a strong case for the need to technologize education, commenting, “Literally anything you want to know from any perspective is available on the Internet, and I think the way to take advantage of that is to teach kids how to learn differently. Kids aren’t being taught how to learn in an environment where information is provided in a nonlinear fashion and it’s not condensed into a textbook.”
On Wednesday, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and Education Secretary Arne Duncan seemed to be reading from same pixelated page, as they challenged schools and companies to equip students with digital textbooks within five years. But there are obstacles. In its article “Lighten That Backpack: Obama Administration Challenges Schools to Embrace Digital Textbooks,” the Chicago Tribune reports:
Digital learning environments have been embraced in Florida, Idaho, Utah, and California, as well as Joplin, Mo., where laptops replaced textbooks destroyed in a tornado. But many schools lack the broadband capacity or the computers or tablets to adopt the technology, and finding the money to go completely digital is difficult for many schools in tough economic times.
While there are no specific proposals to address the cost of a transition from print to digital, the Obama administration “hopes that dollars spent on traditional textbooks can instead go toward making digital learning more feasible.” The Tribune article goes on to elaborate on the potential for digital textbooks to enhance learning:
Students can use the textbooks for video explanations to help with homework, they can interact with molecules, and they can manipulate a digital globe to see stories and data about countries, said Karen Cator, director of the Education Department’s office of education technology.