Textbooks dumped in favor of laptops

The idea of computers replacing text books has been talked about for a long time, but this article from the eSchool News caught my eye because of some of the thinking that has obviously gone on prior to the investment.
It’s all very well to get carried away with the ‘hype’ of the new technology, but the Vail School District appear to have done their homework, and a read of this article should provide some challenges for other schools in thinking through how they might move in a similar direction. Some of the things that it made me think about are:

  1. currency and relevance – the issue of currency of information, and keeping up to date with texts that reflect the latest in state and school district requirements makes access to online resources attractive. (Not to mention the ability to quote, incorporate, re-use etc the information once it is accessed digitally!)
  2. ubiquity – the ‘anywhere, anytime’ imperative is embedded into the district’s ethos that “technology part of the school’s DNA.” Many laptop initiatives have failed, in my view, because of a failure to support the use of the technology in this way.
  3. cost – the cost-benefit analysis has been worked out by being prepared to “abandon” aspects of practice from the past, and constructively look at how the use of technology is not simply a replacement for the print-based technologies, but introduces a whole new values proposition. Worth noting though… “In terms of cost savings, Lee said the laptops aren’t likely to save the school money in the near term, because the cost of the computers is slightly higher than what the school would have paid for textbooks. But down the road, she anticipates it will be much more cost-effective to invest in digital learning resources than to cough up the extra money for new textbooks year in and year out.”
  4. Teacher PD – the issue of teacher preparation is also addressed, with acknowledgement that not all teachers will be comfortable with this happening in their classrooms – and talk of Technology “boot camps” and ongoing PD to address this.

The only cautionary note came to me in the last sentence: “”I always tell people this is not a novelty or a gimmick,” Lee said of the laptops. “This is a way to deliver instruction.” – do I detect overtones of a transmission model of education, eg it is all about accessing resources?? What about the tools for collaboration and community building that are also enabled by this technology??

3 thoughts on “Textbooks dumped in favor of laptops

  1. The only thing the article didn’t mention, and it would be interesting to know, is the systems they are using to get the texts in electronic form. While most publishers these days would obviously have the texts in electronic form anyway, getting them to provide it in an easily usable format without overly binding/expensive copyright restrictions can be a problem – I would imagine they have this covered, but it would be nice to know how 😉

  2. I agree with you Derek there is not a lot in this article to inspire me a about the pedagogical thinking for the use of the iBook but what the hey every step towards independaant learning is good

  3. The blend of electronic, books, and other media for ecducation will be with us for a long time. Optimizing it is hard. The old way of publishers ramming new editions down students throats has angered students since moses had to look for new editions of the tablets! Making it easier and cheaper for the knowledge to be shared is the key. Passing used texts through to the next student quickly and cheaply using such services as bookalerts.com may help significantly. Application of new technologies must be done in ways that add real value to the students in their learning quests.

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