In a Digital Future, Will Textbooks Disappear? BEG_Dec_2013

In a Digital Future, Will Textbooks Disappear?
By Tamar Levin
Published in the New York Times Education section
August 9, 2009
At Empire High School in Vail, Arizona., students use computers that
are provided by the school to get their lessons, do their homework and hear
their teachers’ science lectures online. At Cienega High School, students who
own laptops can register for “digital discussion groups.” A Beyond Textbooks
Initiative encourages teachers to create and share lessons that incorporate
their own PowerPoint presentations, along with videos and research materials
that they find on reliable Internet sites.
Kids are wired differently these days
Textbooks have not gone the way of the ancient parchment scroll yet,
but many educators say that it will not be long before such books are
replaced by digital versions or by lessons from free courseware, educational
games, videos and projects on the Web. “Because kids are wired differently
these days,” said Sheryl R. Abshire, chief technology officer for the Parish
school system in Lake Charles, Louisiana, teachers need digital resources to
find those documents, those blogs, those wikis that get them beyond the
boring curriculum in the textbooks.” She adds, “Kids multi-task, transpose,
extrapolate and think of knowledge as infinite. They don’t engage with
textbooks that are finite, linear and rote.”
What is the purpose of the examples in paragraph 1?
a. To show how students do their homework using digital technology.
b. To illustrate the various ways in which computers are used in
c. To encourage teachers to use textbooks instead of Power Point
d. To claim that computers are used instead of books in science
lectures only
Complete the following sentence (no more than SIX WORDS)
Teachers need digital resources to extend the boring curriculum in the
textbooks, since___________________________________________
The California Initiative
In California, former-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger replaced some
high school science and math texts with free, “open source” digital versions.
With California in dire financial straits, the governor hoped free textbooks
could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year. In addition, since students
already get so much information from the Internet, Pods and Twitter feeds,
digital texts could replace “antiquated, heavy, expensive textbooks.”
“In five years, I think the majority of students will be using digital
textbooks, which can be better than traditional textbooks,” said William M.
Habermehl, superintendent of the 500,000-student Orange County, California,
schools. Schools that do not make the switch, Mr. Habermehl said, could
discover that their students have chosen a different method of education.
“We’re still thinking that school is only a building with classes of 30-studentsto-1-teacher,” Mr. Habermehl said, “but we need to get out of that framework.
The new common learning environment will be 200 or 300 kids taking courses
online, at night, 24/7. The digital world is a threat to schools in Orange
County. Online, out there on the Internet, someone will offer brilliant $200
courses in French or in geometry by the best teachers in the world and
students will opt to study digitally and not in the classroom.”
There is still a large digital divide
But the digital future is not quite on the horizon in most classrooms. For
one thing, there is still a large “digital divide.” This means there is a gap
between people with access to digital and information technology and those
with very limited or no access. Not every student has access to a computer,
an electronic reader device or a smartphone, and few school districts are
wealthy enough to provide them. So digital textbooks could widen the gap
between rich and poor. For example, in California’s 24,000-student Chaffey
Joint Union High School District, where almost half the students are from lowincome families, a large portion of the kids don’t have computers at home,
and it would be too costly to print out the digital textbooks.
What are the reasons for replacing textbooks with digital versions in
Check [√] three.
_____ to save the State of California a lot of money
_____ to require students to bring laptops
_____ to reduce the number of students at school
_____ to benefit from the opportunities offered by online courses
_____ since digital textbooks might be better than printed books
4. Paragraph 5
The use of digital textbooks is already widespread in schools.
[Circle one]
True / False
Quote from the text to support your answer
5. Complete the following sentence:
The author mentions California's Joint Union High School to illustrate the
idea that
At the same time, elsewhere in California, education authorities are
reviewing 20 open-source high school math and science texts. They will
announce the ones that meet state standards so teachers can begin to use
them now. "Digital textbooks let students and teachers use the best lessons
taught by the most dynamic teachers,” according to John A. Roach,
Superintendent of Schools in Carlsbad, California. "Nonetheless, they’re not
going to replace paper texts right away,” he adds.
Many educators expect that the number of digital textbooks and online
courses will start small. Stepinac High School for Boys in White Plains, New
York, is perhaps the first to let go of expensive, heavy, environmentally
unfriendly and instantly outdated books in favor of online textbooks in all
subjects. At Stepinac High School, all textbooks were replaced by a "digital
library" in September, 2013. To convert to this fully digital world cost the high
school nearly 1 million dollars. The students pay an annual fee of $150 for
access to the books in the digital library rather than $500 - $600 they had paid
to buy seven textbooks each year. "We went digital because it makes
learning better" says Frank Portanova, vice principal at Stepinac. "This is the
way kids learn today. And the online content is a lot richer. You've got
assessments, you've got virtual labs, you've got blogging." Indiana University
has been buying digital textbooks in bulk directly from the publisher since
2009. According to an article in the New York Times, the school has been
offering textbooks at an average of $25 per book and saving $100,000 across
the university. Other schools are trying this out, including the University of
California, Berkeley and Cornell University. Some educators think that digital
textbooks should be optional, since not everyone -- both teachers and
students -- can or will want to use them. But all agree that teachers need to
learn how to integrate the technology and use these tools in a very creative
way. The technology is only a tool.
A Threat to Traditional Textbook Publishers
Whenever it comes, the online attack —the competition from open-
source materials — poses a real threat to traditional textbook publishers. To
cope with this, Pearson, the nation’s largest textbook publisher, has four texts
already available online. California can use them as free supplements to their
texts, according to the publisher. Stepinac High School officials worked for a
year with Pearson, the education company that has long dominated the
textbook world, to design and create a unique digital library that is bound to
be studied by other private and public schools. "No one else in the country
has this," Lisa Alfasi, an account manager at Pearson who led the project,
told teachers last week as they sat down for training. “Pearson believes the
world is going digital, so they provide digital and print, and see what our
customers want.”
6. What can be inferred by the examples of Indiana University and Stepinac
High School teachers and administrators?
[Circle the correct words to complete the sentence]
While supporting / opposing the inclusion of digital textbooks,
they have not raised / not lowered the quality of educational
opportunities for their students.
7. Paragraph 8
a. What does Pearson have to cope with?
b. How does the company deal with this?
CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit group that develops free “flex books”
that can be customized to meet state standards, and added to by teachers.
“The good part of our flex books is that they can be anything you want,” said
Neeru Khosla, a founder of the group. “You can use them online, you can
download them onto a disk, you can print them, you can customize them, you
can embed video. When people stop demanding textbooks as the only
legitimate teaching tool, they’ll see that there’s no reason to pay $100 for a
textbook when you can have the content you want free.” Most of the digital
texts submitted for review in California came from this nonprofit group.
The move to open-source materials is well under way in higher
education. President Obama has proposed creating free online courses as
part of his push to improve community colleges. Around the world, hundreds
of universities, including M.I.T. and King Fahd University of Petroleum and
Minerals in Saudi Arabia, now use and share open-source courses.
Vail’s Beyond Textbooks effort in Colorado has moved in that direction.
In an Empire High School history class on elections, for example, students
created their own political parties, campaign Web sites and videos. “Students
learn the same concepts, but in a different way,” said Matt Donaldson,
Empire’s principal. Our teachers have identified whatever resources they feel
best covers their courses, such as a project they created themselves or an
interesting site on the Internet but they generally do not take chapters from
For all the attention to the California initiative, digital textbooks are only
the start of the revolution in educational technology. “We should be bracing
ourselves for many more interactive, many more engaging videos, activities
and games,” said Marina Leight of the Center for Digital Education, which
promotes digital education through surveys, publications and meetings. But
given the economy, many educators and technology experts agree that the K12 digital revolution may be further off. But it is really going to happen.
8. “The good part of our flex books is that they can be anything you want.”
List 3 advantages of such books:
9. a. What is President Obama's attitude toward digital education?
[Circle the correct word]
President Obama encourages / discourages digital education.
b. Quote from the text to support your choice.
10. (Paragraph 11) “Vail’s Beyond Textbooks effort in Colorado has moved in
that direction.”
What direction does the author refer to?
What is the writer's purpose in writing this article?
a. To prove that digital technology will widen the gap between poor and
rich students.
To report on the CK Foundation efforts to develop free flex books.
To show that digital textbooks will eventually dominate the educational
To publicize Governor A. Schwarzenegger's democratic initiative.
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