Obama to Push Schools on Digital Textbooks

While President Obama has called for greater technological literacy among young people in the country, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and Education Secretary Arne Duncan recommended to industry and education officials that state legislation must change to allow K-12 schools to use taxpayer funding once reserved for printed books on iPads, Kindles and software.

It is thought that Obama’s goal is have an e-textbook in the hand of every student by 2017, writes Greg Toppo at USA Today.

Online resources are being promoted by the Administration as a way to help students learn more efficiently and give teachers real-time information on how well kids understand material.

Genachowski said:

“We spend $7 billion a year on textbooks, and for many students around the country, they’re out of date.”

In five years, he predicts, “we could be spending less as a society on textbooks and getting more for it.”

While tablet computers may be expensive, moving from paper to digital “saves a ton of money” in the long run.

“We absolutely want to push the process.”

The transition is essential, says Matt MacInnis, founder and CEO of the e-textbook company Inkling.

“There is no future for American education unless we figure this out. There’s no segment of any industry anywhere in the world anymore that doesn’t rely on technology to get its job done.”

The Core Knowledge Foundation promotes a “coherent, cumulative and content-specific core curriculum,” and Robert Pondiscio, a spokesman from the nonprofit organization, says that he’s dubious that just shifting material platforms would improve schools significantly.

“I wish there was even 10% as much thought as to what is going to come through these devices as in getting them into kids’ hands,” he says.

“It’s not a magic bullet. We need to worry about what is on these tablets while they’re sitting in kids’ laps.”

Karen Cator, the U.S. Department of Education’s technology director, believes that the move from paper to devices like tablets gives students the ability to do research, check their work and get feedback from teachers.

“One of the opportunities to extend the school day is by providing students with interactive and engaging environments outside of school,” she says.