Textbooks to Tablets

Lauren Williams's picture
Thursday, January 31, 2013

For years, there’s been an ongoing discussion about the digital divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.” As technology has advanced, so has that gap, which is driving fundamental changes in how we work, learn, and live.

Administrators, educators, and nonprofit entities nationwide have been trying to lessen that gap over the past decade. With newer, lighter technologies like tablets and ultra-light laptops like the MacBook Air, some schools are considering getting rid of textbooks altogether and going digital.

“This is a long time coming; we’ve been talking about digital education for many, many years,” says Aaron E. Walsh, director of Boston College’s Immersive Education Initiative (iED), a nonprofit international collaboration of universities, districts, research institutes, companies and other entities, that are working toward a digital education world. “The iPad was the catalyst of this because the potential a tablet has to replace a book just makes sense. The price point is reasonable, it’s durable and can be dropped or put in a backpack. Plus, there is a lot of immersive content online now that is highly interactive and useful for education.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education and recent studies by the National Training and Simulation Association, technology-based instruction can reduce the time students take to reach a learning objective by up to 80 percent. Last year, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan jointly unveiled a five-year challenge and the “Digital Textbook Playbook” to help transform American classrooms into digital learning labs by modifying the textbook adoption process, by allowing K12 schools to use taxpayer funding once reserved for printed books to be used on iPads, Kindles, and other devices, as well as software.

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