In a Digital Future, Will Textbooks Disappear? BEG_Dec_2013 By Tamar Levin Published in the New York Times Education section LD August 9, 2009 1. 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 2. 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.” QUESTIONS__________________________________________________ 1. 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 schools. c. To encourage teachers to use textbooks instead of Power Point presentation. d. To claim that computers are used instead of books in science lectures only 2. 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 3. 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.” 4. “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 5. 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. QUESTIONS___________________________________________________ 3. What are the reasons for replacing textbooks with digital versions in California? 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 _____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ 6. 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. 7. 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 8. 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.” QUESTIONS___________________________________________________ 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? It____________________________________________________________ 9. 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. 10. 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. 11. 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 textbooks.” 12. 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. QUESTIONS___________________________________________________ 8. “The good part of our flex books is that they can be anything you want.” List 3 advantages of such books: a.____________________________________________________________ _______ b.____________________________________________________________ _______ c.____________________________________________________________ _______ 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? _____________________________________________________________ 11. 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. b. To report on the CK Foundation efforts to develop free flex books. c. To show that digital textbooks will eventually dominate the educational system. d. To publicize Governor A. Schwarzenegger's democratic initiative.