Florida Schools Must Trade Paper Textbooks for Digital

The rising cost of textbooks is a problem for students at all levels of education, with college students having seen costs rise over 800% since their parents were in school around 1980. Although elementary and high school students in public schools don’t pay for their own books, these books too have gone up; a single book can be more than $100.

Now Florida educators face a challenge to change all textbooks to digital books in only two years; state legislators mandate that by 2015, all textbooks will be on digital devices. At the Florida Education Technology Conference this week, they’re talking about how to make this happen.

The current technology for replacing textbooks is the e-reader device, including the popular brands in the consumer electronics market: iPad, Kindle, Nook and others. The cost of one of these devices will be at least as much as one textbook, but one device can carry all of a student’s necessary books in a digital library. Math, social studies, science, spelling and even trade books assigned for English can be carried in an array on the same device. Students will have much less to carry, and many students are already familiar with the touch-screen technology that these devices use.

The changeover to using entirely e-reader devices will be costly, even if it saves money in the long run. Estimates run as high as $1 billion. Clearwater High School has already been supplying its students with the Kindle device, and it reports that each device costs $70. Schools that are already strapped with inadequate budgets worry whether they can keep up with the cost of implementation. Florida schools have dealt with deep cuts over the last few years, although the state has tried to restore some funding. Even with an increase of $273 per student this year, it won’t be easy to fund a huge new technology leap.

One question discussed at the FETC conference is whether students could use their own personal devices or only ones provided by the school district. Many students cannot afford to buy their own devices, but if the school provides them, and students are carrying them back and forth from home, will the devices be lost, broken, or even stolen?

The state mandate is not the only reason why conference attendees are determined to find answers to these questions. Clearwater High School, as a leader in the change to new technology, reports that the change has been positive in academic ways:

Clearwater’s principal said his students’ FCAT scores have gone up since the school embraced the digital age.

One thing is for sure, two years from now, Florida student backpacks will be a lot lighter.

The FETC conference runs through January 31 at the Orange County Convention Center. Online registration is still available.

Upcoming sessions include how to teach with 3D modeling, using mobile devices to keep in better contact with families, using the iPad in the classroom, integrating games into teaching, and learning about many other tech devices such as mobile phones, robotics curricula, e-books, and livepens. Other new classroom ideas like flipping classes, using the new Common Core, and allowing students to make movies will be discussed.

01 30, 2013
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