Most of us can remember lugging heavy, textbook-filled backpacks home for nightly homework marathons, and it wasn’t fun. Perhaps you’ve even watched with guilt as your own young kids or students struggle under the weight of an overloaded book bag. Believe it or not, students of the near future may have little use for those cumbersome backpacks. Digital textbooks are noticeably creeping into classrooms, while traditional textbooks may be on their way out; five percent of all textbooks acquired by schools in the fall of 2011 were digital.
Often when we think of digital books, we think only of a book that is read on a computer or e-reader screen rather than paper pages. However, in the case of digital textbooks, there is much more to it than that. Although digital textbooks are a fairly new technology, they are evolving at a staggering rate. Not only do they contain the textual information found in traditional textbooks, they also feature multimedia components like embedded videos, animated graphics and hyperlinks to useful, reliable information on the web. Most recently, teachers are discovering opportunities to pull together material of their choosing and create custom textbooks for their classes (School Media Specialists can be a great in-house resource for teachers interested in creating textbooks.)
Of course, there are many questions that must be answered before digital textbooks become the norm in U.S. classrooms: How can access be guaranteed to all students? How is student performance affected by digital textbooks? Will schools take the leap by making such a drastic change to their curriculum? Some schools, like Clearwater High School in Florida, already have. During the 2010-2011 school year, the school spent $390,000 of its technology budget on Kindle e-readers and digital textbooks for every student. Other schools in Florida will soon have to follow Clearwater High School’s lead, as Florida schools are required to spend 50 percent of their textbook budget on digital materials by the 2015-2016 school year. This trend towards digitization stretches far beyond Florida, though. California and Texas are also actively working towards increased use of digital textbooks in their classrooms.
How do you feel about digital textbooks? Are you excited by the freedom they offer, or overwhelmed by such a big change?