CA digital textbooks initiative falls flat

Here is California's review of digital high school textbooks. As AP reports, Gov.

Here is California's review of digital high school textbooks. As AP reports, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been promoting the idea that schools would use these free texts as a way to save money and bring education into the 21st century.

First, it's interesting to note that it's nonprofits, not the textbook giants, who are producing the best books. The state looked at 16 titles and found that 10 of them met 90% of the state standards. Only four met 100% -- and three of them were produced by the nonprofit CK-12 Foundation. CK-12's other books all scored at least 94%.

By contrast, Pearson Education's Biology text scored a lousy 42 percent. On the other hand, Wiki-oriented groups like Curriki didn't even come close to meeting the California standards; obviously they weren't writing to the standards.

On San Francisco KQED-FM's Forum, Cal. Sec of Education Glen Thomas side-stepped the fact that schools don't have any budget for the laptops or PDAs that would allow student to interact with digital textbooks. His answer: Teachers can print out the books, or chapters, if the students don't have laptops. This initiative, he said, doesn't address the hardware issue.

Hardware's not the only problem with implementing digital texts, school districts say. Here's a report from southern California:

There's a number of steps that need to take place before we can implement digital textbooks," said Tim Ward, Chaffey Joint Union High School District's assistant superintendent of instruction. "We haven't been able to broach those things yet because we're still struggling with our budget."

It's an interesting idea, and it would be something the districts will take on in the future," said Tim McGillivray, spokesman for Pomona Unified School District. "It's not a good time to for some school districts to take this on at this time, especially because of budget cuts. "I would say digital textbooks are a luxury at this point and that very few California school will be using it."

Hmm, no funding for hardware, no funding for teacher training, no requirement to implement. Sounds like pissing in the wind.


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