Shift from Traditional Texts to E-Textbooks Continues

The shift from traditional textbooks to e-books and tablets continues to pick up speed in American schools, Yahoo News reports. Districts are becoming increasingly enamored with the new medium which they say not only allow quick updates and more interactive learning, but also brings down the costs of academic materials per-student.

The former New York City school chief Joel Klein is one such technology evangelist, saying that digital tools revolutionize the way students learn. Introducing tablets instead of textbooks allows teachers to personalize learning to the individual needs of their students, as opposed to sticking to a one-size-fits-all solution offered by traditional texts.

Klein is not a disinterested party in this debate. Since leaving his post in NYC, he’s joined the educational efforts of the company NewsCorp, which recently announced a launch of its own tablet Amplify that will come complete with a suite of software published by the company’s education arm.

News Corp. introduced their Amplify tablet during a breakfast Wednesday at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. Priced at $299, the 10-inch unit runs on a school’s wireless Internet system and comes with software for teachers to watch each student’s activities, offer instant polls and provide anonymous quizzes to gauge student understanding.
Orders placed by June 30 will be ready for the start of the school year in the fall, officials at Rupert Murdoch’s company said, adding yet another platform for schools to consider.

Merely a decade ago, a tablet for every student might have seemed like an unrealizable dream – but that was before the dramatic price drops that brought such technology within the means of many school districts. Google, which sells a stripped down notebook running its Chrome operating system priced at only $199 per unit, has already formed partnerships with several localities that put the Chromebook in the hands of more than 20 million students.

The more advanced the courses, the more likely is technology to play a part in them. According to a Pew Research Trust study, 40% of AP classes and National Writing Project classrooms use tablets, smartphones or laptop computers regularly in during instruction.

In coming years, growth seems to be the norm. Christine Quinn, the speaker of the New York City Council, has suggested replacing textbooks — they cost the city $100 million a year — with tablets. Schools in Los Angeles last month allocated $50 million to start buying tablets for every student; the project is expected to cost $500 million by the time it is completed. Schools in McAllen, Texas, distributed 6,800 Apple tablets last year at a cost of $20.5 million.