He has pledged to do away with printed the books in the coming years in favor of digital editions, much like South Korea who has vowed to use only digital versions of textbooks by the year 2015. “The world is changing. This has to be where we go as a country,” Duncan said.
On the plus side there would be tremendous cost savings for e-editions, up to 60% over printed versions.
Opponents of eBooks point out the trade offs in the switch. Less cost for the purchase of printed editions (which can be as much at $1,000/year for college students), but greater cost to universities to supply wiFi and sufficient bandwidth to meet the needs of the entire student population. This could be cost prohibitive for smaller colleges.
Those are the technical and cost issues associated with digital books. No one is talking about the ideological possibilities of fully digitized education materials.
One of the benefits to the written word in the electronic ether is that it is so easily changed. If you want your students to have the most up to date information on a topic, you want some way to provide that electronically. A student's science text could be updated daily or weekly to capture the latest knowledge in the field. Think how beneficial this would be for planet/dwarf planet Pluto in an astronomy class. Even the number of planets in our solar system is changing based on our exploratory technology. An e-text for an astronomy class could keep the students from learning outdated material.
On the other end of the spectrum is the e-text for a history class. The benefit of an ever changing text book here is more debatable. In fact, the mere though conjures lines from 1984. Have history texts always contained the bias of their authors? Sure. But at least you could highlight a section of text on Napolean, then go back and compare it to some other text and know that what you read yesterday is still the same as it is today. With books that may update overnight, that assuredness goes away.
Are history texts likely to change overnight or even over the year in a particular class with digital textbooks? Not likely. Those kinds of changes would require a flexibility on the part of the teacher that is unheard of. They would render a syllabus almost useless. It would, however, elevate the importance of original documents. Unfortunately, future generations won't be able to read those documents because Common Core does away with teaching cursive writing. I hope Google Translate is working on a way to make the fancy writing in old documents readable.
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