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US education, FCC officials push for digital textbooks

updated 12:40 pm EST, Thu February 2, 2012

Obama adminstration calls for five-year goal

The Obama administration is urging both schools and companies to make a transition to digital textbooks within five years, says the Associated Press. The message was delivered by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski on Wednesday. Switching to digital is said to be a way of not only providing interactive learning, but potentially saving money and updating the content of textbooks faster.

"Do we want kids walking around with 50-pound backpacks and every book in those backpacks costing 50, 60, 70 dollars and many of them being out of date? Or, do we want students walking around with a mobile device that has much more content than was even imaginable a couple years ago and can be constantly updated? I think it's a very simple choice," says Duncan in an interview. The US government has also released a 67-page guide for schools, not only promoting the textbook plan but offering guidance on how to implement it.

"When a student reads a textbook and gets to something they don't know, they are stuck," says Genachowski. "Working with the same material on a digital textbook, when they get to something they don't know, the device can let them explore: It can show them what a word means, how to solve a math problem that they couldn't figure out how to solve." Jay Diskey -- the executive director of the school division of the Association of American Publishers -- notes that textbook makers have actually been working on digital textbooks for about five to eight years, but that the main obstacle may be schools, which either can't or have yet to adopt the necessary technology, such as tablets, notebooks, or sufficient broadband. Budgets and lengthy textbook adoption procedures are principal obstacles.

The announcement comes relatively quickly after an Apple event where the company revealed its own digital textbook format, as well as a dedicated iTunes U app with full online courses. The Obama administration has not made any reference to Apple efforts, but may have had them in mind, given the company's prominence and its support from several textbook publishers.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. iphonerulez

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Nov 2008

    +3

    It looks like a great opportunity

    for Apple now that there is an least an initiative. I know the iHaters and Obamahaters are going to try to throw a monkey wrench into the initiative, but at least there's something for Apple to aim at in some form. Hopefully, Apple will be able to lower the cost of educational iPads or whatever digital tablet will be used. Apple seems to have so much already in place to help jumpstart any programs. Apple has to absolutely take advantage of its present top position in the tablet market. It could represent a huge amount of product growth for Apple if they could get iPads into schools K-12 and above if possible.

  1. facebook_Sandy

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Feb 2012

    -9

    Go away Nanny State

    Obama and the FCC should stay the heck out of this business. We haven't needed their "help" up to now. We'll do just fine without them.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -1

    OK....

    How in the world is this any of the FCCs business?

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -7

    Re: It looks like a great opportunity

    for Apple now that there is an least an initiative. I know the iHaters and Obamahaters are going to try to throw a monkey wrench into the initiative,

    And the Apple fan-boys, as well as android-haters, will be flooding the inboxes and verbally attacking any person, district, or whatever, who picks an android tablet over the iPad, as they would do when any school district dare choose Dell or HP over Apple.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -4

    False dreams

    Switching to digital is said to be a way of not only providing interactive learning, but potentially saving money and updating the content of textbooks faster.

    Saving money? Well, if you consider spending an additional $300 per student 'savings'. The only savings is if you can get the publishers to agree to license their content per device rather than per student (so the book can be handed down year after year, like a current book is).

    And they're making the irrational assumption that those textbooks will be really cheap in digital form (rather than understanding the cost comes from the editing and the 'fact' checking and review, not from the publication, which is cheap for most text books). The price of a digital textbook isn't going down 50%.

    And updating 'faster'? Yeah, except that implies "updating faster and for free" rather than "updating to revision 2, another $50/copy please!". And what content needs updating in text books anyways? The only books going 'out of date' in any quick manner is something discussing current events or current life. (A social studies book with information on present day Czechoslovakia, for example). But it isn't like science, math, or english books need re-writing every year.

    Just another over-hyped technology drive (because, as we know, our schools have just gotten so much better with the addition of computers, but are just being held back by all those hernias the kids are getting with their 60 pound backpacks!)

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