In the first part of our Q&A with Milton Chen, author of Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in Our Schools, we discussed the importance of training teachers to take advantage of tech tools, exemplary schools that are embracing technology, and finding great content on the web.
Our conversation continues.
Q. What are some of the hurdles in transitioning to digital textbooks in California schools? Do you think the transition is inevitable?
A. Of course, the move to digital textbooks requires providing teachers and students with the computers to use them. There are models in which the "textbooks" are published online and then printed at district and school sites, but the real goal is to enable schools to access rich, multimedia resources online, rather than only content that can be printed. Calling these "digital textbooks" still implies print media, so I prefer the term "multimedia resources."
So, many districts are looking at both the hardware and software costs. It would certainly help if California and its foundations and corporations took a more unified approach to making sure that we have well planned and researched pilots in different types of districts.
Funding is one big barrier, but already many groups across the country, including teachers themselves, are publishing free lessons and course modules. These curricula don't map entirely onto all courses in K-12 right now, but it's a matter of time.