Digital textbooks pass review

Free digital textbooks are coming to California, writes John Fensterwald on Educated Guess.  Twenty-six math and science textbooks and one history book aligned to state standards have passed textbook review

What’s attractive are digital texts’ flexibility and interactivity. Teachers can mix and match content –  pick a chapter from one book and combine it with  another to meet individual and groups of students’  needs. Soon digital textbooks will incorporate videos and Internet links. And e-text readers – Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle – will be getting cheaper and more versatile.

CK-12 Foundation is leading the way by adding teacher editions and student activities.

It plans to embed hundreds of videos produced by Khan Academy’s Salman Khan, a former hedge fund manager and investment banker from Menlo Park whose self-produced instructional videos in math and science have made him an Internet cult figure.

In response to the budget crisis, the Legislature voted a five-year freeze on new textbooks for first through eighth grades.  When textbook adoptions resume, probably in 2017, printed textbooks may be passe.

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  1. Charles R. Williams says:

    Textbooks weigh too much.

  2. GEORGE LARSON says:

    Yes, but do they really need to?

    Are our children better educated now with heavy books compared to when they were lighter?

    Will digital textbooks be cheaper? I agree they should be but when we add in the costs of “computers” and suport will they be?

  3. Even if printed textbooks aren’t passe the flexibility of open source textbooks means that prices are a reflection of production costs and not of the fact that in public education a higher-cost text book is a better textbook.

  4. Most of the US K-12 Math textbooks that schools recommended for my classrooms weighed too much, cost too much, and contained far too many gaudy distractions. After three years in a classroom, I started composing my own worksheets.

    I love the portable, cheap, and concise Dover Math and Science paperbacks. One can only speculate what motivates school districts to the prefer ponderous and incoherent products of Prentice-Hall and Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt. Perhaps online products such as this will evolve to the point that schools may cast loose from hard-copy textbooks. I have my doubts.

    If you want students to read textbooks, these books must be cheap enough to lose or to ruin in the rain, otherwise students will leave them at home when they go to the beach or to the mall. Nobody will leave a $300 e-notebook wrapped in a towel at the beach, where it might get stolen or ruined in a squall.

    One large problem with Dover-style cheap paperbacks is that they do not lend them selves to the constant revision (planned obsolescence) through which publishers maintain their revenue stream. Publishers lobby State-level textbook selection committees to purchase products that sensible and informed parents would never consider. I suspect kickbacks play a large role here.

    As usual, “What works?” is an empirical question which only a competitive market can address with any accuracy.

  5. “Teachers can mix and match content – pick a chapter from one book and combine it with another to meet individual and groups of students’ needs”…how likely is it that the typical teacher–still less the typical school administrator–can actually do this and achieve a useful result? It seems that most college professors are unable to create and deliver a high-quality PowerPoint presentation, and the same is true for a depressing percentage of corporate executives.

  6. I’d love to see the day when everyone, from K-12 and college to people in the workplace, get their books through iPads (or some iPad competitor). Actual textbooks will still exist, of course, but as referencees in the library.

    Of course, this depends on iPads (or their comptetition) being cheap enough to, as another poster said, be lost in the rain without treating it like losing an engagement ring. And I do think that day is coming – in another 10-15 years.

    But I’m looking forward to it when it gets here! 🙂