Even in economic crisis one state is looking at ways to shift to paper-less and save money.
California is moving toward mandated Internet support of the classroom, including electronic books. Governor Schwarzenegger would prefer for all students to have their textbooks on a flash drive or available on demand on the Internet. It would save the system billions of dollars and make California the first state to move in what most educators believe is the direction textbooks will be going. Of course California is currently broke and many poor students still have poor or no access to computer use off campus. California Secretary of Education Glen Thomas feels that these are obstacles that can be overcome. The truth is that knowledge, information and standards are changing so rapidly most school districts are having problems keeping up with updates, changes and use of existing text books. Where once people read books and felt more comfortable with paper and binding, today’s students read less, and what they read tends to be on-line or on their smart phones. The cost and use of books readers, the number of text available on-line or in pdf or other downloads is increasing exponentially. Google and others are digitizing public domain and by permission texts, photographs and videos while Barnes and Nobel and other companies are increasingly releasing books that are only published digitally or come out first in digital at a lower price than any print edition. While it may be hard for you or I to get use to, reading from a Kindle or other e-book reader is the future, at least with the current technology.
California has ten digital textbooks approved for K-12 starting next year, open source, free and available in multiple downloadable formats.
Textbook costs are escalating rapidly, just as information flows faster than books can be written, published, distributed and sold.
With textbooks, time sensitive non-fiction or commentary and daily news source increasingly offered on-line or as e-books, what will be the future of paper and pen, ink and binding?
Digital readers, the Internet and smart phones have many writing the obituary of paper books, magazines and newspapers, yet Star Trek The Next Generations’ Jean Luke Picard and the original Star Trek’s Captain Kirk still preferred to savor vintage well bound books, with Kirk using vintage eye glasses to read.
Xerox may have lunched the information age and with it geometric growth in the use of paper and in the overall literacy of the generation now known as Baby Boomers, the largest generation in the history of mankind. The same information explosion sped the erosion of rainforest, Canadian old wood forest, global warming and filling of open once abundant landfills. Today 40% of pages are thrown out the day they are printed, ether through errors or through short-term use.
Next generation electronic readers are near ready to market, with thicknesses and consistencies about the same as actual paper, completely reusable and producing the clear, easy on the eyes full color range of actual paper printing.
Scanning, skimming ahead and smooth flow of the eye are more difficult with e-readers than with ink and paper publications.
A lack of funds in this new economy may reverse the trend to hire more and more teachers, perhaps making it a much more difficult profession to enter or stay in. Proponents argue that a technology assisted and redefined education system that is less reliant on number of teachers and more on quality and content may be beneficial and a real improvement. In one model not only is the internet used extensively, but a laptop (and/or reader) for every student, more time put into physical activities, less time in the classrooms and the use of skilled, but lower paid, assistants and helpers whose jobs do not even exist yet, much less have been defined, may lead to a much stronger and lower overall cost learning system to the labor intensive and costly traditional classroom.
Just one of many changes the economy may be forcing on our society.
Is it for the good?
Will the end users accept the change?
Can you get the same knowledge, feeling, experience from on-line or e-books as you can from paging through a book?
-This blog entry First posted 8/17/09