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The Textbook Debate

October 13, 2012

Outlandishly heavy and rather more outlandishly costly, textbooks are losing an acceptance contest to their digital opposite numbers.  The decision became moderately official last week when U.S.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan commented that textbooks should shortly be out of date in the North American college system.  Duncan and other digital fans believe such a digital revolution is required, not only to stay abreast of technology, but also with the rest of the globe.

In his speech to the Nation’s Press Club, he discussed South Korea, that has expounded plans to withdraw textbooks by 2015. The US is doubtful to get shot of its textbooks in 3 years, notwithstanding all of the grumbles against them.  But some states are closer than others.  California’s Gov.  Jerry Brown lately signed legislation that would provide fifty digital textbooks utilized in core lower-division classes in California universities online freely.

But an October nine op-ed in the NY Times cautions against chucking away the books yet. In spite of the innumerable benefits, Justin Hollander, an aid professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts  School , wrote in the document that a hasty switch to digitally based media might have surprising and unattractive consequences further down the line.  “Secretary Duncan is promising to light a bonfire to a tried-and-true technology good old paper which has been the bedrock for one of the greatest instructional systems on the planet,” he writes.  “And while e-readers and multi-media may appear appealing, the concept of replacing a good learning platform with a widely hyped but still unproven one is intensely dangerous.” There’s much more that digital textbooks can do.  They offer an opening to reimagine the education system, so it is personalised to the individual student.  Explanatory videos, customised quizzes, and interactive features could transform how scholars learn.

Though   conventional textbooks have been integral to that process so far, it’s time they’re joined by their lighter, more cost effective opposite numbers.

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