Utah to Introduce E-Textbooks to Meet Obama’s Target

Utah is set to offer free online textbooks in math, language arts and science for junior highs and high schools, in line with President Obama’s target to get an e-textbook in every student’s hand by 2017.

Once the e-textbooks are available, schools and students will be encouraged to use them online for free or print them at a cost of about $5 a book or less for schools, writes Lisa Schencker at the Salt Lake Tribune.

As well as allowing students to access videos and utilize interactive features, the e-books work out to be comparatively cheap.

Sydnee Dickson, teaching and learning director at the state office, said:

“Rather than just reading a flat text, kids get to experience learning with multiple media in the book itself.”

State officials will be inviting school districts and charter schools across the state to meetings and trainings about the new, open textbooks, as teaching philosophies shift towards using more 21st century technological tools.

This comes as the inaugural Digital Learning Day saw nearly two million students and thousands of teachers in hundreds of school districts were encouraged to embrace innovative learning technologies that provide students with a rich and personalized educational experience.

A pilot scheme in the state of Utah saw teachers at Lakeridge Junior High in Orem use online textbooks in the classroom and were said to be thrilled with the results, said Rhonda Bromley, Alpine District spokeswoman.

“According to our teachers that have been using them, they don’t feel like they would ever want to go back to a regular textbook.

“It’s interactive with students, where they can go in and edit and add things to it and create things, so it’s more collaborative than just a regular textbook.”

The Nebo District also participated in the pilot, and Nedra Call, Nebo curriculum director, said that it created “a positive learning experience.”

“What the students liked best was the ability to access online resources,” Call said.

The pilot program was led by David Wiley of Brigham Young University’s David O. McKay School of Education. His findings will be published in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.

Wiley believes that the state is making the right decision in choosing to develop the texts.

“I believe we can find a way to use the money saved by purchasing open textbooks to purchase a device like a tablet or netbook computer for each child, which opens the doors to interactive, personalized digital curriculum.”

The books will be developed by professors and experts in the subjects, ensuring relevant and thorough material.