Education Secretary Calls for Print Textbooks to Become Obsolete
As we briefly discussed in our comparison of the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire last month, the world of textbook publication is undergoing a dramatic change with the rise of eReaders. But now, the progression from textbook to eBook may be accelerating quite a bit after Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s pledge to do away with printed textbooks in the coming years in favor of digital editions.
“Over the next few years, textbooks should be obsolete,” said Duncan in an interview with the Associated Press earlier this week. “The world is changing. This has to be where we go as a country.”
The move comes not only as a response to growing use of tablets as a method of studying, but also as a means of staying competitive in the global education arena. South Korea, for example, is well-noted for it’s consistency in outperforming the U.S. in test scores, and has already pledged to only use digital versions of textbooks by the year 2015.
In addition to being more environmentally friendly, eBooks have the advantage of total immersion and interactivity. Coupled with online education, eBooks can incorporate built-in excercises and coursework, as well as providing video representations of hard to understand concepts that would greatly assist audio/visual learners when studying.
While this announcement is geared towards those in the K-12 education system, the shift in attitude towards how students learn is already having repercussions on those in the collegiate level. Earlier this year, Forbes reported that use of eBooks in college can be 60% cheaper than their print counterparts. With college students paying upwards of $1000 a year on textbooks alone, it has sparked a debate on whether college students should now be required to purchase eReaders. In doing so, professors could then begin tailoring their courses to better utilize this interactivity, and possibly incorporate more online elements that could be easily accessed by simply clicking on a link embedded within the text.
Additionally, as we discussed yesterday, the current lecture format for higher education has been often chided as being an ineffective model for teaching. By utilizing these eBooks in tandem with online coursework, a student could have audial and visual demonstrations of a concept without any work from a teacher at all, leaving class time free for discussion of concepts rather than instruction.
Opponents of eBooks, however, believe that the requirement of eBooks would put a strain on smaller universities and community colleges due to the initial cost of an eReader, and the amount of network bandwidth that would be required to have every student at an institution ostensibly online at once during school hours. While most colleges and universities do offer WiFi already, the prospect of such a heavy load could require much more expensive internet service than they can currently afford.
Regardless, the move towards a fully-digital learning experience is clearly in the works. So what are your thoughts? Should we continue using outdated technology in the face of funding concerns in adopting eBooks, or should concerns like these be treated simply as bumps in the road towards more engaging and accessible learning?