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December 18, 2012 • eBooks

Are eTextbooks Fully Baked Yet?

Digital textbooks always sound like a great idea on paper. They save money! And children don’t struggle under the weight of giant books! What’s not to like?

Well, there’s the medium for reading on them for starters. Kindles crashed and burned on the college level, and while iPads are great, they are also expensive and far more fragile than a spiral bound notebook. Some schools have managed to have pilot iPad and computer based textbook programs successfully, but it still leads to many questions: who pays for the iPads? Do you upgrade them yearly? What about textbook licenses, are they yearly as well? And most importantly, do you require students to have Internet at home to take advantage of these programs?

According to The Digital Reader, at least one school has discovered the Internet problem was a fairly big one. Not every student had a high-speed connection, and this made it difficult to use the textbooks purchased and assigned by the school. This has forced the school to return to paper books for now, but it does expose a major issue for public schools: how do you integrate technology without putting pricey financial expectations on students?

It’s a tough path, and one that isn’t going to be answered overnight. In this case, it isn’t just a matter of the right hardware, which is what helped retail ebooks take off. It isn’t just a matter of polished software. It’s a matter of figuring out how to create the software and the hardware in such a way that it’s cheaper for both schools and families…that day is coming, but not yet.

Do your kids have eTextbooks? How are they handled? Let us know in the comments!

 

One Response to " Are eTextbooks Fully Baked Yet? "

  1. Here in my school district in Austin, they started a pilot program two years ago for some students in the High School to have iPads. It was pretty successful, and now all the kids in Middle and High School have iPads. They all have the 16GB, WiFi only iPad 2s, and they ask parents to kick in a percentage of the price (it wasn’t much; like $50 or so) plus you can purchase “insurance” in case you kid breaks theirs, which translates to an $80 (rather than full) replacement cost when your kid, say, drops it getting out of the car. At the end of the year, the kids are offered the opportunity to purchase their (now used) iPads for a nominal fee–again, like $50 or something.

    As far as upgrades go, the program is too new for me to say. And I also don’t know what the school does as far as purchasing them–do they get a deal from Apple because they’re a school district? Can they get an iPad 2 much cheaper because of that? I have no idea.

    Internet-wise, the assumption that every kid in *this* district has high-speed access is pretty solid. However, the schools all have WiFi on-campus (restricted, of course). I haven’t heard of anyone being *required* to have internet at home, nor have I heard stories about anyone who doesn’t. Maybe the campus wifi compensates enough? I simply don’t know.

    As far as apps, the school purchases all the paid “required” apps, and then you can purchase “recommended” apps if you like. So we paid for the Declaration of Independence app for our son, because it was helpful for him.

    So that’s what we have. First year, it was only some high school students. Last year, all high school students. This year, high school and 8th grade. Next year, high school and middle school. So I guess it’s going okay. And just like you’d expect, some teachers are better than others in integrating it into their class. But on the whole, they really love it; I have yet to hear a teacher say, “Those damn iPads!” (Though I’m sure there are teachers who do!)

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