Five or ten years ago, it might have sounded unthinkable. No school books to take home each night. No textbooks to lose, write in, or get in trouble with the teacher, because you left it at home. But the unthinkable is becoming reality as the world of education goes digital. And textbooks may soon be replaced by an iPad or other portable electronic device.
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At a recent education conference at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Bill Decker a school superintendent in Iowa gave his thoughts on the digital transformation.
"You know there’s a spectrum of if you go back a number of years, nobody had computers and everybody had books and I think you know the other end of that spectrum is everybody’s going to be doing it electronically and there probably aren’t going to be a lot of books."
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Scott Drossos, president of Pearson's K-12 Solutions division, works for a company that specializes in digital classroom materials. He powered up his iPad and showed me how an entire Biology textbook can now be read by touching an icon.
"I open my book. I go to the beginning of my chapter. I get a really interesting cool video of a guy talking about what the chapter is going to be about in an engaging way that creates intellectual curiosity for the kid, for the students."
Not only does that thick biology or Algebra book we all remember fit on the iPad, Drossos says they can actually double the content, whether it is more pictures or words. And there’s no need for the teacher to show a video about the subject because it’s right there as well. All you have to do is touch or click.
"If a page was 8 1/2 by 11, traditionally and that was going to be the structure every single page was going to be the same way in the book. Well now that you’re dealing with digital, you can put animation and 3D Models and things in the actual curriculum or in the content and then put as much text as you think is ideal for that particular aspect of learning, that particular lesson."
For some people, going to school without books just may not seem right. But superintendent Decker says that’s something people will just have to get over.
"I know there are people that like to hang on to that past, but if you’re dealing with a school district where the budget allows you to only purchase books on a cycle, you can be dealing with books that are seven or eight years old in a subject, and in this world, seven or eight year old information isn’t really good information."
So instead of the dog at my homework — will future students say the dog ate my iPad?