At Empire High School in Vail, Ariz., students use computers provided by the school to get their lessons, do their homework and hear podcasts of their teachers’ science lectures.
Down the road, at Cienega High School, students who own laptops can register for “digital sections” of several English, history and science classes. And throughout the district, a Beyond Textbooks initiative encourages teachers to create — and share — lessons that incorporate their own PowerPoint presentations, along with videos and research materials they find by sifting through reliable Internet sites.
Textbooks have not gone the way of the scroll yet, but many educators say that it will not be long before they are replaced by digital versions — or supplanted altogether by lessons assembled from the wealth of free courseware, educational games, videos and projects on the Web.
“Kids are wired differently these days,” said Sheryl R. Abshire, chief technology officer for the Calcasieu Parish school system in Lake Charles, La. “They’re digitally nimble. They multitask, transpose and extrapolate. And they think of knowledge as infinite.
“They don’t engage with textbooks that are finite, linear and rote,” Dr. Abshire continued. “Teachers need digital resources to find those documents, those blogs, those wikis that get them beyond the plain vanilla curriculum in the textbooks.”
In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this summer announced an initiative that would replace some high school science and math texts with free, “open source” digital versions.
With California in dire straits, the governor hopes free textbooks could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
And given that students already get so much information from the Internet, iPods and Twitter feeds, he said, digital texts could save them from lugging around “antiquated, heavy, expensive textbooks.”
The initiative, the first such statewide effort, has attracted widespread attention, since California, together with Texas, dominates the nation’s textbook market.
Many superintendents are enthusiastic.
“In five years, I think the majority of students will be using digital textbooks,” said William M. Habermehl, superintendent of the 500,000-student Orange County schools. “They can be better than traditional textbooks.”
Schools that do not make the switch, Mr. Habermehl said, could lose their constituency.
The Latest on: Open source textbooks
State to study open source materials to lower textbook costs
on August 30, 2017 at 4:20 pm
A statewide council is working on how to increase the use of open educational resource materials in colleges to address the high cost of textbooks. The council plans to create a digital repository of ... […]
Calibre 3.4 Open-Source eBook Manager Makes Exporting of Books a Lot Easier
on July 14, 2017 at 1:54 pm
Calibre developer Kovid Goyal released today a new stable version of his popular, open-source and cross-platform Calibre ebook library management software, Calibre 3.4. Calibre 3.4 is here only one we... […]
University of Missouri to push cheaper textbook plan
on June 21, 2017 at 5:45 pm
The University of Missouri will move quickly to use open source and other cheaper alternatives for general education textbooks, building on initiatives already in place, system President Mun Choi said ... […]
Open Source Textbooks Contribute To College Affordability
on May 24, 2017 at 1:26 pm
Keeping college education affordable is a guiding principle at Dalton State, and one key way faculty members contribute is by collaborating to create open educational resources for their students allo... […]
Open Source Textbooks Could Save Students a Bundle
on March 9, 2017 at 4:00 pm
COLUMBIA, Md. (March 10, 2017)—As the cost of college has skyrocketed, students and parents could soon get relief on expensive textbooks under the Textbook Cost Savings Act of 2017 that would provide ... […]
Digital and open-source options have advantages over books
on January 25, 2017 at 4:54 am
Once the guideposts for most classes, textbooks are increasingly being pushed to the side as digital technology expands its reach. In Jennifer King’s seventh-grade math and science classroom at La Cro... […]
The crazy price of college textbooks is pushing more US universities to adopt an “open-source” solution
on September 27, 2016 at 7:12 am
which has roots in the open-source software movement, it says. Open licenses allow for content to be shared, unlike traditional textbooks which limit the use of their materials. Culatta remembers teac... […]
Report: Students Can Save Thousands By Using 'Digital, Open-source Textbooks'
on September 8, 2016 at 6:33 am
A report related to a state pilot program has declared that college and university students from Vernon and across the state can save thousands with the use of "digital, open-source textbooks." The re... […]
'Open source' textbooks provide many benefits
on January 21, 2015 at 1:57 pm
When Professor Jonathan Tomkin went looking for a textbook to use in his introductory Earth Systems class, nothing was quite right. He couldn't find a book that he felt was worth the high price tag fo... […]
New Hope For Open Source Textbooks
on February 19, 2012 at 10:37 am
Editor’s note: Verne Kopytoff is a technology journalist who lives the the Bay area. A college textbook can cost a staggering $200. Over four years of study, students can easily spend thousands of dol... […]
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