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California To Move To Online Textbooks

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the let's-keep-some-things-written-down-though dept.

Education 468

Hugh Pickens writes "Last year California spent $350m on textbooks so facing a state budget shortfall of $24.3 billion, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has unveiled a plan to save money by phasing out 'antiquated, heavy, expensive textbooks' in favor of internet aids. Schwarzenegger believes internet activities such as Facebook, Twitter and downloading to iPods show that young people are the first to adopt new online technologies and that the internet is the best way to learn in classrooms so from the beginning of the school year in August, math and science students in California's high schools will have access to online texts that have passed an academic standards review. 'It's nonsensical — and expensive — to look to traditional hard-bound books when information today is so readily available in electronic form,' writes Schwarzenegger. 'As the music and newspaper industries will attest, those who adapt quickly to changing consumer and business demands will thrive in our increasingly digital society and worldwide economy. Digital textbooks can help us achieve those goals and ensure that California's students continue to thrive in the global marketplace.'"

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OLPC? (5, Insightful)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264363)

So are they gonna provide students a method of using these electronic resources, like a OLPC?

Re:OLPC? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264397)

Of course not - teachers will merely go to these online aides and hit the "Print" button.

What can go wrong?

Re:OLPC? (5, Interesting)

GreenTech11 (1471589) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264631)

And the schools will charge the printing costs to the California Government, costing $360 million. Problem solved.

Re:OLPC? (2, Interesting)

Mr_eX9 (800448) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264419)

I know that there are publishers that make their textbooks available in a web-based format, such as Wiley [wiley.com] ...but Wiley's textbooks have gotten pretty terrible, at least at college level. Hopefully California will be able to find a better product in this vein.

Re:OLPC? (5, Insightful)

uncledrax (112438) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264443)

Yeap.. I was just going to post the same thing.. we as /. users are definitely on the tech side.. but lets remember not everyone has or can afford Internet access and the things to go with it (like a computer).

So really one must weight the cost of those dead-trees verses limited access mitigation like enhancing computer labs at schools, offering after-hours lab time, or even like you said, buying inexpensive netbooks for school (which you -know- will end up getting lost/damaged often so will need to be replaced.. plus who is gonna run the tech support for them when they get full of virii (or if they are linux, doing something like "rm -rf /")).

I'm very much for progress and technological evolution.... but we just got to realize there are still issues with doing it.

Re:OLPC? (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264729)

doing something like "rm -rf /"

Come on! It was just the one time, I was drunk and curious at the time, I swore I'd never do it again.

Re:OLPC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28265019)

Schools have computers, and for the freaks who want to study in their spare time, libraries have computers to. The "Not everybody has access to the internet" argument works in 3'rd world contries, but not in the USA, Everybody DOES have access to the internet, even those who don't have access to a fancy laptop.
Crying out for laptops is like crying out for hardbound books, the papereditions will do quite fine.

Re:OLPC? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264559)

Or OSPC.

(one Skynet per child)

Now all we need is (-1, Flamebait)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264385)

Now all we need is for them to come up with a suitable set of "Intelligent Design Approved" e-books, giving an "unbiased" account of how the WASPs civilised the Native Americans and continue to spread democracy and freedom in Iraq to this day.

Re:Now all we need is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264455)

Slow down there sparky, one step at a time! Besides, there will be "bootleg" e-books with the real information in them that won't burn at 451 degrees. God forbid the government find out about magn..er..nevermind

Textbooks (-1, Redundant)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264393)

Cue rants (well-deserved!) about textbook monopolies, planned obsolescence, and so forth, in 3 ... 2 ...

Re:Textbooks (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264475)

Cue rants (well-deserved!) about textbook monopolies, planned obsolescence, and so forth, in 3 ... 2 ...

A better rant would be the rant of a California resident wondering why the special interests were allowed to drive the state into insolvency to begin with.....

And I thought New York was messed up.....

Re:Textbooks (1)

ricosalomar (630386) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264703)

I left CA in 2008 after 20 years. The special interests of which you speak are actually part of the CA statute, and have been since 1978. See Prop 13 [wikipedia.org]

The proposition's passage resulted in a cap on property tax rates in the state, reducing them by an average of 57%. In addition to lowering property taxes, the initiative also contained language requiring a two-thirds majority in both legislative houses for future increases in all state tax rates or amounts of revenue collected, including income tax rates. It also requires two-thirds vote majority in local elections for local governments wishing to raise special taxes. Proposition 13 received an enormous amount of publicity, not only in California, but throughout the United States.

Re:Textbooks (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264805)

The special interests of which you speak are actually part of the CA statute, and have been since 1978

Actually I was thinking of the public sector unions more than anything else. You are looking at the funding side of things but not at the spending side.

Re:Textbooks (2, Interesting)

ricosalomar (630386) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265061)

If there is another system that hasn't had to raise spending in 30 years, I'd like to see it.
Gas prices have gone up, but the state can't raise taxes to pay for them, so they cut transportation services.
Costs of living have gone up, but the state can't raise taxes so they fire teachers.
CA has a system that is guaranteed to fail. I lived there for a long time, taxes are incredibly low, and services are incredibly shitty. Education is lousy (CA is below average in per-pupil spending, though above average in per-capita income), infrastructure is dangerously inadequate (CA is dead last in funds spent for transportation).
While the rest of the country was booming in the Clinton years, CA could'nt raise any revenue, and now they're paying for it.

OLPC (1)

BumbaCLot (472046) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264427)

I haven't lived in California since 2001 but can someone tell me if they already supply every child with a laptop? If not, how do ebooks work for those without?

ha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264487)

Nope. Not even close, largely thanks to prop 13 [wikipedia.org] .

Which is not to say that there weren't reasons for tax reform in CA. Just that prop 13 was a really lousy way to do it, especially given the idiotic ballot initiative process that happily produces spending mandates and/or tax cuts without any accountability.

The whole state needs to have it's government scrapped and replaced.

Re:ha (1)

jbolden (176878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264611)

If they go into Bankrupcy they get a Federal Judge that has the power to scrap / change / modify the law. Prop 13 is very likely one of the first to go.

Re:ha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264825)

Yeah maybe. On the other hand, it is a constitutional amendment in CA, so I doubt it.

It's kind of incredible that 50% +1 of the population can change the fucking constitution of the state, but a budget takes 2/3 majority in the legislature to pass a goddamn budget annually. The place is ungovernable.

Re:ha (1)

jbolden (176878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264917)

The California constitution governs what the legislature can do not what a federal judge can do. A judge isn't subject to the constitution.

Re:ha (2, Informative)

Majik Sheff (930627) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265033)

A federal judge isn't subject to a state constitution.

I think that's what you meant, though Harry Blackmun etc may agree with your original statement.

Re:ha (1)

egamma (572162) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265053)

The California constitution governs what the legislature can do not what a federal judge can do. A judge isn't subject to the constitution.

The US Constitution is what gives judges the authority to judge, the legislature the authority to enact legislation, and the president the authority to execute that legislation. Are you saying that California has a different system, where judges aren't subject to the constitution? If that is true, then those judges can pretty much do anything--pass laws, murder people, collect taxes, etc. Anyone care to elect me as a California Judge?

Re:ha (3, Interesting)

jbolden (176878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265163)

No you are confusing two documents:

1) US constitution which sets out the authorities of branches of the federal government
2) The California which sets out the authorities of branches of the federal government

A federal judge is governed by the US constitution but not the California constitution even when ruling in California (I'm oversimplifying a bit here). We were discussing this in terms of a bankruptcy of California which means a Federal judge would be ruling hence prop 13 is not binding on him/her.

Re:ha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28265069)

Well, one, I don't think a sovereign entity like the State of California can actually go into bankruptcy protection. They can default on their bonds, etc., but I doubt they can or would file for bankruptcy - they're not an individual or a corporate entity.

But even leaving that aside, do you honestly think a federal bankruptcy court judge can mandate changes to a state constitution? It's one thing to modify terms of contracts, and quite another to make fundamental legal changes, and still another to arbitrarily rewrite a state constitution. It cannot and will not ever, ever happen.

Re:ha (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265005)

that's ok. All the people who they increase the tax on will just declare bankruptcy themselves and have their judges scrap/change their obligation under the law.

Seriously, you're saying that if they go bankrupt, a judge can just declare "ok, your employer has to pay you more. end of discussion." I believe it. I'm terrified by it, though.

Re:OLPC (5, Insightful)

murdocj (543661) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264549)

The whole reason the Gubinator is talking about online books is because CA has a budget deficit that is bigger than the GNP of a lot of countries. It's a pretty safe bet they aren't buying each kid a laptop. And before someone trots out "oh, it's only a one time expense of $250 or $300", remember, the books are neither going to be free to buy or freely redistributable, and you are dealing with children who are pretty good at losing stuff, forgetting stuff, and trashing stuff. This is one of those "look at me I'm tech savvy" feel good initiatives that is either going to go absolutely nowhere, or is going to further the gap between the haves and the have-nots

Go Arnold! (5, Insightful)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264437)

As the music and newspaper industries will attest, those who adapt quickly to changing consumer and business demands will thrive in our increasingly digital society and worldwide economy.

Is it just me or did anybody else parse this sentence as "Let's not fail in life like the music and newspaper industries and actually use internet for our gain instead of hopelessly fighting it"? Is he giving the music/news industry attitude!? :D

Re:Go Arnold! (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264753)

That's what I'm assuming. To cliche it, that's like asking buggy-whip makers to attest to the success of automobile accessory industry.

Re:Go Arnold! (1)

beowulfcluster (603942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264883)

I nearly fell out of my chair parsing it as him giving the music industry as an example of someone who HAS adapted quickly. I think the newspaper industry in general has been pretty good at it(?).

No its not... (5, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264439)

'It's nonsensical -- and expensive -- to look to traditional hard-bound books when information today is so readily available in electronic form,'

Yes, but online textbooks if they don't come with a hard-bound textbook are a bad idea. Already in schools whenever there is an internet outage, virus outbreak, etc. The school basically shuts down in the fact that teachers can't enter in grades, etc. But now the teachers couldn't teach. Then what happens if for some reason these textbooks are not cross platform? What if they restrict access to only Windows machines, or Windows and Mac? What happens whenever a student's computer breaks so they can't do the assignment or if they can only afford low-speed internet or that is all that is offered where they live? What happens if their computer is too old to properly render the site? What happens if the computer lab's hours are inconvenient for said students (for example an after school job where they usually work with their physical textbook during down time)? Take the old saying "my printer broke" and multiply it by a few thousand and thats going to be the result of this program if they do not mandate having a physical textbook.

Re:No its not... (5, Insightful)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264469)

It's good to have a backup plan. It's bad to have a shitty backup plan. There are numerous ways you could maintain an electronic backup system without ever touching paper. So no, old ways aren't naturally fallback.

Re:No its not... (5, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264489)

You though assume that the school is going to have control over these books. Likely that is not the case, you would go to a third-party website, login and then choose your book from there. It is likely that the school has no rights to copy/distribute them.

Re:No its not... (4, Insightful)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264579)

A school has big consumer power. I bet there are publishers that settle for such backup systems. After all it would strictly be for the sole purpose of maintaining studies for students. If you run into a publisher that has no interest in this then I see no reason why you'd have any interest in doing business with them, even if they wrote the best book about the subject there is. Fact is that book will, in five years time, be as shitty as the other outdated data in the world. Plus by expanding to internet you've already eliminated the dependency of books. Information can be fetched in numerous ways. If you're a publisher this is rather alarming and thus the power shifts to the favour of the consumer. Still these are only hypothetical scenarios but nonetheless I doubt it's that impossible as you describe it.

Re:No its not... (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264721)

A school has big consumer power.

Large schools sure, but these large schools also usually have the infrastructure not to have internet interruptions, etc.

I bet there are publishers that settle for such backup systems. After all it would strictly be for the sole purpose of maintaining studies for students. If you run into a publisher that has no interest in this then I see no reason why you'd have any interest in doing business with them, even if they wrote the best book about the subject there is. Fact is that book will, in five years time, be as shitty as the other outdated data in the world.

You assume that there is no textbook monopoly, and that publishers actually care about the students. Honestly the textbook publishers are nothing more than the academic equivalent to the RIAA and MPAA. They just want to make a quick buck and if that means screwing taxpayers, they will do that, if that means screwing students, they have no problem with that, if that means planned obsolescence, they will do that too.

Plus by expanding to internet you've already eliminated the dependency of books. Information can be fetched in numerous ways. If you're a publisher this is rather alarming and thus the power shifts to the favour of the consumer.

You have to remember these are organizations with as much sense as the RIAA/MPAA, their response to competition is to raise prices, sue competitors for little to no reason, and decrease quality.

Re:No its not... (1)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265085)

Large schools sure, but these large schools also usually have the infrastructure not to have internet interruptions, etc.

Naturally the benefit is larger for larger schools, thus the solution goes kind of hand in hand with the problem. Still you're arguing that small schools are slaves to the publishers. I don't buy that.

You assume that there is no textbook monopoly, and that publishers actually care about the students. Honestly the textbook publishers are nothing more than the academic equivalent to the RIAA and MPAA. They just want to make a quick buck and if that means screwing taxpayers, they will do that, if that means screwing students, they have no problem with that, if that means planned obsolescence, they will do that too.

You assume that textbook is the only way. There are many sources of information. What stops the school from buying the service of a certain class from another school? Or any other method that internet allows. Your problem is this [wikipedia.org] .

You have to remember these are organizations with as much sense as the RIAA/MPAA, their response to competition is to raise prices, sue competitors for little to no reason, and decrease quality.

While there are such organizations, far from all are this way. You have no proof of what you're claiming, because it's impossible to proove that all publishers are RIAA whores. I can prove to you that not all music labels are. They aren't as big as Sony or Warner, but they're labels nonetheless. What makes it impossible for publishers to do this as well?

No sir, your problem is fallancy of the single cause. Don't worry though, I recently read a case study where test subjects more often tend to defend their initial theory even though they've been proven wrong during the argument. Human behaviour at its basic form.

Re:No its not... (5, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265011)

As someone with real experience of working in a school, please let me say this:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

No chance.

I'm not exactly clear what Schwarzenegger is trying to achieve here. Publishers will still charge per-copy, and probably not drastically less for the electronic copy versus the dead tree copy. Even if they do, you've got to budget to buy every child a kindle (or similar device) and budget to replace a certain number of these per year as they wear out or get damaged.

Unless the plan is to eliminate the concept of books altogether and use teaching material delivered over the school network - no, what about homework?

OK, deliver the teaching material online?

You think the publisher is going to charge significantly less for the material if it's delivered online? The cost of textbooks is high largely because they take a lot of time to write, you need a certain number of skills to get a complex subject across effectively and you don't have anything like the economies of scale seen in the latest John Grisham so if you need to pay the author $X, you have fewer customers to spread that $X between.

None of these things change with using a different distribution model.

OK, how about skip textbooks altogether and have the teachers put together their own material based on what they can find online? Good luck with that. You'd be doubling the average teachers' workload overnight. Not the way to win friends and influence people, particularly heavily unionised people.

Re:No its not... (2, Interesting)

jbolden (176878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264661)

California can buy rights to whatever they want. If the state is taking control they are a huge market. This problem is not insolvable.

Re:No its not... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264791)

Most states (not sure about California, never leaved there never want to) allow individual school boards to make decisions while the state has the curriculum covered. For example the school might require science to cover basic elements of biology, chemistry, geology and anatomy for 5th grade science. But the actual decisions are made by the school board in which textbooks to buy, how to cover it, and then the teachers usually have a say in the way the material is presented (labs, lectures, essays, etc)

Re:No its not... (3, Insightful)

jbolden (176878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264987)

Its the same in CA. My point is that if they go to a digital curriculum that's one thing that might have to be centralized. The state might very well want to provide a library of online texts. They might offer some degree of choice to teachers and districts but setting up a full fledged digital document delivery and management system doesn't make sense to do at the district level.

Re:No its not... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264553)

stfu. No seriously, stfu. what's always focusing on the downside of things? Reading your post almost made my head explode in rage.

Re:No its not... (2, Funny)

jbolden (176878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264633)

Spare notebooks. There is no reason to have a 1-1 ratio and not a 1.1-1 ratio. As for things like internet outage, the students can have local data and/or the school can have a redundant internet.

Re:No its not... (1)

speciesonly (1194865) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264697)

Poor underprivileged and poverty stricken students. No computer, no degree, no hope.

I suppose hippie kids fall into the "no computer" category on some counts as well. But California doesn't have many of those right?

Re:No its not... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28265031)

Add to that the inability to make decent notes in the online material, or fix errors.

Bait and Switch (5, Insightful)

ruhri (1480067) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264453)

OK, here's what's going to happen: initially, the publishers will charge low bulk rates to get everyone to switch over. After that, they'll introduce higher, per-student access fees. Oh, yeah, and don't even think about mixing and matching online books from different publishers. Fees for a single book will be so exorbitant, that the only way you'll be able to afford this is to buy the whole K-12 package. Just ask any university librarian about that business model...

Mod parent up (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264621)

That is exactly what is going to happen, and the era of reusing textbooks year after year will come to and end. With some subjects, it makes sense to get the most up to date material each year -- geography, politics, etc. -- but with others, it does not -- math, basic physics (not college level QM), etc. Why should schools be forced to pay for new subscriptions every year for material that is not changing?

Re:Bait and Switch (4, Insightful)

DannyO152 (544940) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264657)

Plus, the publishers will sell, not the books, but the licenses, which means re-purchase every two or three years, on the publishers' schedule and not the district's. No money? No books and no just getting by one more year with last year's texts.

I'd also worry about the costs of the reading appliances. Some will wear out. Some will be sold black market. Some will have soft drinks spilled on them. I hope the solution isn't that all reading is done strictly in the classroom.

Re:Bait and Switch (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264873)

This is exactly what happened in one of my classes. The professor thought it would be a good idea to switch to an on-line version of the text book, then some smart-ass started asking the sales rep from the publisher hard questions.

How much does it cost? $95 (the paper one was $100)
Can I re-sell it at the end of the year? No
Will I have access to the text after the class has ended? No

I didn't convince everyone, but about 10% of the other heads in the class were nodding as the publisher's castle of wishes and pretty clouds was blown away. Of course, the professor took me aside and said that I needed to "quit interrupting the class and undermining his authority."

Publishers have had it too easy (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264467)

The way textbooks are pushing above $100, I'm not surprised. Publishers have made a mint and have tried their best to hamper the second hard market. This is a positive change.

Re:Publishers have had it too easy (2, Informative)

anonymousbob22 (1320281) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264687)

The way textbooks are pushing above $100, I'm not surprised. Publishers have made a mint and have tried their best to hamper the second hard market. This is a positive change.

How is this positive? With DRM now they can charge what they want, and all you get is a PDF that expires in a year, that you can't read without lugging a laptop and charger wherever you go.
Also, has anyone actually tried to read books on a computer? It's pretty painful after a while.

I am skeptical (4, Insightful)

raddan (519638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264867)

As someone who works for a textbook publisher, I can say without a doubt that this issue is not as simple as it seems. It seems like a good idea, a big cost-savings win for the state. But you also need to consider:
  • The longevity of a paper textbook. You can pass this down for at least a decade. A $100 textbook amortized out 10 years essentially becomes a $10 textbook.
  • You can't pass down electronic textbooks, unless the state has some really great dealbrokers. There's just NO WAY any of the publishers I know will allow this-- in fact, they're all drooling at the idea of e-books (while simultaneously dreading it-- go figure) because it eliminates the used book market.
  • Maybe CA negotiates a site-license kind of deal, so that they can redistribute books as they see fit. Also seems like it might work, but in our experience, this is still a huge profit center for the publishers-- look at journals like Nature. IIRC, Nature charges something like $10K annually for their electronic subscription. This is NOT cheaper than the paper copy! But it *is* more flexible, because you don't have to worry about where to store those paper copies, while simultaneously making them available to an entire campus, and that's the reason libraries do it. Not because it's cheaper.
  • If you can't get the rights to pass down books over the years, do you roll your own textbooks? California probably has enough talented people, and worldwide there are probably enough talented people to do this, but at the moment, there isn't a lot of high-quality free information out there. Wikipedia is wonderful, but it is not teaching-quality material. You have to PAY people to produce stuff like that, and it takes time. Having the state commission free works is a great idea, but the publishers will crank up their campaign contributions to stop it, I can assure you.
  • Who buys the e-readers for the students? If you expect everyone to have one, you need to expect the state to buy it. Is this REALLY cheaper? I'd like to see some real figures, because I am extremely doubtful.

My first impression from this is: Arnold is passing off a pro-industry decision as a pro-California one. I am skeptical.

Re:I am skeptical (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265133)

The longevity of a paper textbook. You can pass this down for at least a decade. A $100 textbook amortized out 10 years essentially becomes a $10 textbook.

Yeah, that's part of the current problem. For example, some kids are going to school with 10, 20, or even 30 year-old science textbooks. Science has changed a lot in the last decade.

You can't pass down electronic textbooks, unless the state has some really great dealbrokers. There's just NO WAY any of the publishers I know will allow this-- in fact, they're all drooling at the idea of e-books (while simultaneously dreading it-- go figure) because it eliminates the used book market.

Yet, it should be allowed. What needs to happen is legislation to enforce both fair use and the first sale doctrine. I expect it may happen sooner or later, at least as far as eBooks are concerned. The public is starting to push back HARD against DRM, and its only a matter of time before Congress realizes that they will have to follow the wishes of their constituencies or fail to be re-elected.

.... Who buys the e-readers for the students? If you expect everyone to have one, you need to expect the state to buy it. Is this REALLY cheaper? I'd like to see some real figures, because I am extremely doubtful.

The rest of your post between the last quote and this one: you can negotiate anything. Maybe the state of California will broker a deal where the eBook companies will pay for the the readers and get cheaper site-licensing, etc. All I know is that these questions can leave the textbook publishers looking like the bad guys, and if that's the case....well, never underestimate public backlash. Public backlash is what ended U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war.

On-line content needs to be leveraged accordingly (2, Insightful)

KnowledgeKeeper (1026242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264491)

Do not use computers just as substitute for books, use them to help with visualization not previously possible in books. I.e., animations, interactive materials, etc, etc. I know this is just a first step and too many features at once would delay the project, but it's just something to keep one's mind on.

Re:On-line content needs to be leveraged according (4, Interesting)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264587)

You mean like this?

http://www.mathcs.clarku.edu/~djoyce/java/elements/elements.html [clarku.edu]

Agree completely that ebooks (and readers) need to move beyond a static representation / recreation of a printed text (though in doing this they need to preserve niceties of fine book typography such as avoiding orphans and widows, preventing stacks, have decent justification algorithms (why isn't there an ebook reader program which uses TeX's algorithm) and use nice typefaces which are legible and readable).

Rather a shame Tim Berners Lee didn't use TeXview.app as inspiration for worldwideweb.app rather than TextEdit.app.

William

When I was a kid.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264493)

"schwarzenegger believes internet activities such as Facebook, Twitter and downloading to iPods show that young people are the first to adopt new online technologies "

That's right. I still use my Vic-20 with 300baud modem to dial up the magicians tower BBS. I'm too old to get into all those tubes and interwebs on the google.

Re:When I was a kid.... (2, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265165)

That's right. I still use my Vic-20 with 300baud modem to dial up the magicians tower BBS. I'm too old to get into all those tubes and interwebs on the google.


YOU HAVE A VIC 20? WOW. I ENVY YOU,
SITTING HERE TYPING AWAY ON MY
COMMODORE PET.

Buy once - use many. (5, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264503)

They're not expensive if you use them and amortized over quite a few years. I went to a Catholic elementary school. ALL of our books were hand-me-downs of Public school books and at least 2-3 editions old.

Unless I haven't been paying attention, Geometry, Calculus, WWII, the Roman Empire, Mitosis, etc hasn't changed much in the last few years. We were also required to have all books covered. They last quite a bit longer if you do this. I know that when I switched to a public school I had the EXACT same history book, it just happened to be 2 editions newer. Other than a few minor editorial changes, I didn't see anything different to my 7th grade mind.

The problem isn't that books are expensive, it's that they keep buying new ones when the old ones aren't obsolete. Moving online isn't going to help unless they use OSS textbooks. Book publishers are going to love this. Instead of buying a book every year for 120$ they're going to give you a wonderful discount of an online book every year for only 50$.

Use the books until covers are falling off. Mandate that book publishers MUST keep publishing an edition X years after it is first published. This will eliminate 'prebuys' to try and cover all books that are expected to be lost or damaged. It'll also let a school use the same book for 10, 15 years. A $100 text book over 15 years isn't too expensive.

Unfortunately 10-15 years is at least one election cycle and everyone will forget what the person they replaced did and it'll be all shiny text books for all "please think of the Children".

Re:Buy once - use many. (1)

mariox19 (632969) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264647)

I agree. From my understanding, California is one of those states where textbooks are chosen by a state board and used throughout the state. In other words, individual districts do not evaluate and choose their own textbooks. Do you have to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect an enormous amount of politicking? I think it's fair to say that books are swapped out long before they need to be more for the benefit of the textbook companies and the politicians they're in bed with.

Of course, they obscure this by developing all sorts of "innovative" curriculum changes that require "up-to-date" textbooks that employ "cutting edge" pedagogical methods. Sorry, but I'm not fooled.

Re:Buy once - use many. (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264859)

I agree. From my understanding, California is one of those states where textbooks are chosen by a state board and used throughout the state. In other words, individual districts do not evaluate and choose their own textbooks. Do you have to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect an enormous amount of politicking? I think it's fair to say that books are swapped out long before they need to be more for the benefit of the textbook companies and the politicians they're in bed with.

Of course, they obscure this by developing all sorts of "innovative" curriculum changes that require "up-to-date" textbooks that employ "cutting edge" pedagogical methods. Sorry, but I'm not fooled.

20 year old textbooks are typical in CA public schools. Generally textbooks are used until a large fraction of them are falling apart. I went to a private school in CA as well where we had to buy our books. At the end of the year we could sell them back to the school for 90% of the initial value, though, and they were then sold the next year to a new student for the same amount we got for selling them. All of the textbook costs were thus handled by students, but the final "rental" cost per book was $5-10. Were students to actually read electronic textbooks on their computers, electrical costs could be in this same realm. Of course, the reality is that teachers will print out textbooks. If we assume $0.02 per copy, that's about $10 per book charged to the state, and if new books cost as little to the state as they did to students at my school, after 5-10 years this plan will actually cost the state more per student than a real book would.

Re:Buy once - use many. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264681)

Mod insightful++

Re:Buy once - use many. (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264989)

Actually in College the Stats class I took used a text book that was printed in the late '80s, the prof didn't see the reason to move to a new textbook. Well that's not true I was the last class that was going to use those books because it was getting difficult to find them

History gets longer every year (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265077)

Unless I haven't been paying attention, Geometry [...] hasn't changed much in the last few years

A proof of the Kepler conjecture [wikipedia.org] (face-centered cubic is the closest packing of spheres) showed up about a decade ago.

Calculus

There have been several different formulations of calculus in terms of different infinitesimal frameworks, in addition to the traditional limits framework.

WWII

History gets longer every year: Cold War (Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Apollo program, breakup and reunification of Germany), Woodstock, Bosnia, WTO, EU, World Trade Center, Afghanistan, Iraq. And we appear to be heading for a Korean War II. And there's still research into how each side won or lost.

Re:Buy once - use many. (1)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265155)

I agree with the premise that book publishers will milk this greatly. Unfortunately, I do not agree with the fix of mandating what a company must publish. If you are a big enough market, they'll publish it for you. There are better ways to deal with publishers and it usually involves collaborating with other consumers. If California bands with a couple other states, it wouldn't be terribly difficult to get a contract that included things like longevity of printing.

online lectures, not books (2, Interesting)

alegrepublic (83799) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264519)

Online books are not a very good idea. Books are still better for reading and studying, and the technology for ebooks is still not good enough to mimic all features of real books. Video, on the other hand, is already good enough to have online lectures. I know, because my university does it, and I took some classes where I only went to the classroom to take the tests. I watched all lectures at my own pace in the comfort of my room, and I feel it made no difference whatsoever. Actually, I am sometimes bored in a classroom lecture and wished I could just press the pause button on the teacher, go for a coffe and come back without missing anything. So, I find online lectures just as effective as live lectures but much more convenient, and the interactive aspect can also be taken care of by using email and online forums. So, I think the Governor should re-examine the issue and maybe get rid of schools but keep the books. I am not kidding.

Re:online lectures, not books (1)

Nosher (574322) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264775)

So, I think the Governor should re-examine the issue and maybe get rid of schools but keep the books. I am not kidding.

Ah yes, great idea - because isolating an entire generation in their own rooms [ok, more than usual], with no real human contact, will really help to foster sociability and reinforce social cohesion. "Other humans: yes, we've heard of them..."

Re:online lectures, not books (5, Insightful)

ocdude (932504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265013)

This is actually starting to happen on my campus. Right now we have one set method of providing online courses through a learning management system (moodle) and a pilot of streaming the video and slides or providing downloadable audio podcasts of lectures. We are piloting another system this coming fall that should be more scalable.

The problem is a bit two-fold. My department has been tasked with managing and supporting all of these applications. We have a skeleton staff as it is, and with the budget cuts it's getting harder to justify the money to hire student assistants (even through financial aid). Right now I've been placed in charge of mapping out our help desk for these applications with three students and myself doing the support work for 1,700 faculty and way too many students (about 30,000? I don't remember the number). College departments are coming to us to put materials online because they cannot afford paper. They have no interest in actually progressing and moving into the 21st century, but are forced to digitize materials due to lack of funds. If it were up to some of these departments, we'd still be using chalk on slates.

The other part of the problem is actually maintaining the systems. We have three system administrators who have to balance time with supporting the servers running the applications and our internal office networks. These people, unfortunately, also get "borrowed" by whatever department on campus needs to supplement their IT staff (or lack thereof) when doing academically related projects. All of this with a shrinking budget and absurdly high expectations from the University.

All this talk and movement of materials online is great. It provides more access to students exactly in your situation that would prefer learning at his or her own pace and time. Our campus is a major commuter school and apparently 80% of our students work on top of full loads of classes, with something like 60% of those working full time. Being able to do course materials (for the most part) without coming on to campus is a big plus. However, people also need to realize that doing this also shifts the pain of funding books monetarily onto departments that are already stretched to capacity.

Good initiative, may take time to be efficient (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264533)

I think it's a wonderful initiative.... and that we should move towards a way to have all human knowledge available to the collective in such a way that anyone from anyplace can learn about anything... with a global competition to provide the best compilation of knowledge.

That said, it'll probably take a while...
1) to change people's mind about e-books
2) to get it in a form suitable for people to read.. with promising alternatives appearing such as flexible displays, e - ink, etc
3) to organize the knowledge with the efficiency of your local library... yes, you can google, but nothing beats browsing the shelves of a library if you're looking for material... and it's nowhere as neatly organized (in most libraries at least)

That's supposed to be a good idea? (2, Insightful)

_merlin (160982) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264551)

So how do you take the approved textbook into a restricted-text exam? How do you make notes in the margin? Are you supposed to print out relevant parts and bring them to use in class? When you're finished with it, can you re-sell it if you don't need it? What if you want to keep it? Have you bought it, or does the license stay with the school? I'd still rather stick with paper textbooks. It's great to have access to online reference material, but that's not what a textbook is for.

Re:That's supposed to be a good idea? (2, Insightful)

ProfM (91314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264723)

So how do you take the approved textbook into a restricted-text exam?

At levels lower than High School, there probably won't be a need for this. Heck, even at the High School level, there probably isn't a need for this.

How do you make notes in the margin?

Use Notepad (or better yet, Notepad++)

Are you supposed to print out relevant parts and bring them to use in class?

Yes, or have the teacher print out relevant part ...

When you're finished with it, can you re-sell it if you don't need it?

Only at the college level does the student own the book ... the license to the book should stay with the school.

One more thing, if the book is online, and several states go for the same idea, you could have a truely open textbook standard that could impact the entire nation, allowing every school district in the US the same materials.

Re:That's supposed to be a good idea? (1)

_merlin (160982) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264839)

Only at the college level does the student own the book ... the license to the book should stay with the school.

Really? I here we buy textbooks and then resell them if they aren't of the consumable variety.

One more thing, if the book is online, and several states go for the same idea, you could have a truely open textbook standard that could impact the entire nation, allowing every school district in the US the same materials.

Nooooo! Variety and choice are good things! One consistent set of materials for everyone will provide one consistent set of flaws for everyone! It would also be very difficult to propose alternatives when "everyone else uses it".

Re:That's supposed to be a good idea? (2, Informative)

tarlss (627609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264771)

Uhmmmmm...this just in, kids in gradeschool/highschool AREN'T allowed to make notes in the margin, resell or keep their text books, whatsoever. What you're talking about is college text books. And yeah, since you can't do anything like that, an online textbook is indeed, the right solution. As to writing notes in the margin, I've never done that. I don't understand why people do that. Just write it on a piece of paper like everyone else.

Re:That's supposed to be a good idea? (1)

_merlin (160982) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264793)

The margin is the perfect place to put cross-reference information. You know, that "see also" that refers to the other book (among other things).

Re:That's supposed to be a good idea? (4, Insightful)

edumacator (910819) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264857)

As a high school teacher, I can tell you the most common "notes" a student puts in the margins are "Roger kills Piggy," "Lennie kills George," and "Gatsby dies."

But they're so much less easy to use (2, Insightful)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264557)

Though the screens are getting better, many people find it much easier to read off paper than a monitor, including people who've grown up with computers, so I don't think it's a habit thing. And all my textbooks are full of annotations, I can't imagine there's a piece of software that makes it easier than quickly scrawling/drawing in the margin of a book, without me having to go out and acquaint myself with a tablet of some sort.

Re:But they're so much less easy to use (1)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265179)

I would guess since the state is sponsoring the books then it is K-12. We were never allowed to write in the K-12 texts because they would replace the texts with writing in them and it was expensive.

Unfortunately (3, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264583)

The information which today is so readily available in digital or electronic form is usually worth exactly what you pay for it. Schools need access to unbiased, objective information that isn't simply being paid for by commercial shills.

If California wasn't basically broke I might believe this hype (not really), but a better solution might be to set up a cost effective textbook publishing operation. Publishing is one of the areas where you are dependent on heavy fixed plant which has well defined operating costs. Therefore, competition can tend to raise prices because of the costs involved in marketing, sales, administration and (ahem) kickbacks, which are multiplied across every entrant. How about competitive tender to write textbooks, and competitive tender to print them? And, when the concept is proven, competitive tender to make them available on-line?

Re:Unfortunately (3, Insightful)

krou (1027572) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264851)

Unbiased? Maybe it's different in the States, but when I left school in South Africa and did some "real world" reading, I quickly realised just how biased my state education actually was. From what I can tell, the same is true here in the UK, albeit a bit more subtle. My history education, just for starters, was a pile of garbage, maintaining the State view of "black people were completely useless until the white men came", while even learning a language like Zulu was skewed: the only things we learnt was crap like "Clean the windows", and "Make me tea", emphasising the attitude of master-servant.

The Eyes Have it (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264585)

And with National Healthcare looming on the horizon, the kids will be able to get new prescriptions for the glasses that they'll need every year!!

Am I the only one ... (5, Funny)

krou (1027572) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264597)

... who find is very suspicious that a robot from the future that pretended to be our friend is now pushing through legislation to increase our dependence on machines and technology?

It's a trap!

Good idea (1)

MoldySpore (1280634) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264599)

I actually think that this is a good idea. I have long wondered why all schools don't use hard bound text books. Most colleges have some form of online text books available to all students. I attended RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) and most of the time, the text books we needed for class were available for free in an online version through our school's library, in addition to being available for purchase in a hard copy.

There were many times throughout my schooling where this kind of thing would have been helpful. For all the people out there, think about not having to carry a LOAD of books to school anymore, and only have to bring a laptop or have all your classes held in a computer lab (or, heaven forbid, the school springs for computers in every classroom [showmedaily.org] ). Also, I can't even count the number of times a text book got lost, left somewhere, or simply got destroyed (such as getting wet). These are issues that would not really be an issue if all text books are online.

While getting rid of the option for obtaining a hard copy of a text book completely isn't gonna be for everyone, I think this is a really forward looking idea, and Schwarzenegger should be praised for it. It's just too bad that it took this terrible economy and a state budget deficit for this kind of thinking to surface and take hold.

Good Idea, Bad Timing (2, Insightful)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264615)

This is a good idea, but it won't save any money, this year at least. Now you have to undergo a major project to source ebooks that are suitable, find the proper distribution method, ensure all schools have the technical capability to allow every student to access these books (at the same time no less - so no sharing computers/internet connections). Teachers might all be teaching out of new books, with new errata, and a new "feel". There are a ton of things to think about.

I like the idea, but the thought that this will be a money saver in the short term is, well, short sighted.

Children with learning disorders or disabilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264677)

I think that this is a step in the right direction but, being an adult with ADHD, I can't help but think that this will be a problem for hyperactive or inattentive children. When I sat in a room with just my books, it wasn't as hard to concentrate. Unfortunately, medical school was a bit different. We often used digital textbooks (because they were required, free, or we "obtained" them for free) and online learning aids. I cannot tell you how distracted I was, though. I would surf porn, read Slashdot, play games, anything but what I was supposed. Today, I'm a successful doctor, but let me just say how hard it was getting here. I still buy textbooks when I need to because digital versions just don't work for me and my style of learning or ease at which I get off track. We use computers at the hospital for almost everything we do. I'm actually on-call right now, but I got side-tracked while writing some discharge notes.... Argh!

The Cost is the Copyright, Not the Printing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264725)

Producing soft-cover books (I've never made a hard cover) is trivial. The cost of these books isn't the printing cost, it's the copyright. Use Open Source textbooks.

Textbooks are a big business. And a dirty one: just see Richard Feynman's experience [textbookleague.org]

This should be on a course-by-course basis (2, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264745)

There are some courses, like literature, where the primary textbook is something best read curled up in a chair.

There are others, such as some sciences, economics, and anything involving current events or current technology, where textbooks are obsolete before they are printed.

There are still others, like PE, some fine arts, and most vocational training, where traditional textbooks were never an issue.

I can't be the only one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264767)

Who read that tag as "one kind leper child".

Excellent (1)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264789)

1 laptop capable of reading etext along with basic word processing running on an ARM processor will cost you about $200 bucks.

The school, per student, will spend about $30 dollars PER BOOK, PER STUDENT.

The average high school student has 9 book.

9 x $30 = $270 dollars

Each student will cost the school, on average, in print outs, copies, and other non-book related costs and addition $50 a year per student

$270 + $50 = $320 dollars

Now factor in electricity costs and I am will to say that "Doing this would probably cost the same if not 10% more then books. Initially."

That said the quality of material the student has access to is greater along with videos, presentations, and multimedia learning tools that students can watch to assist with their studies.

If student attendance increases just 5% that overall this reduces costs as an un-used text book is a waste of money.

From a licensing standpoint then, a digital publisher, with non-existent manufacturing costs, can license a professionally written textbook at a cost of $5 a student rather then $30. Assuming the laptops are usable for 5 years the cost saving are INSAINE. We are talking slashing at least $200 dollars PER STUDENT PER 5 YEAR PERIOD.

Pro-rating that is $40 PER student savings per year and can ELMINATE the space and need for a computer lab! Giving the student the opportunity to buy the laptop at the end of the year you could even break even then.

This has to be one of the smartest ideas I've seen come out of california in 20 years...

Re:Excellent (2, Insightful)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265111)

From a licensing standpoint then, a digital publisher, with non-existent manufacturing costs, can license a professionally written textbook at a cost of $5 a student rather then $30.

They can, but will they? Hint: an e-book for the Kindle costs as much or more than the paperback edition. Why? Because they can. (Unless the California state actually employs some people to write public domain textbooks. That would be great. But don't hold your breath.)

Assuming the laptops are usable for 5 years the cost saving are INSAINE. We are talking slashing at least $200 dollars PER STUDENT PER 5 YEAR PERIOD.

So that would be $40/year/student out of budget of $10,000/year - savings of 0.4%, even in the wildly optimistic case that all of these e-book readers will need no paid personnel to maintain it and will last 5 years in the hands of 10-year-olds... Not that enticing, I'd think.

LOLBooks!!!! (2, Funny)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264803)

I cann haz siense?

Kindle and its ilk... (1)

edumacator (910819) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264807)

I'm a teacher in a state far away from California, but I am interested in moving away from paper novels and eventually textbooks. Right now it's not economically feasible to do so, but I wonder if economy of scale would eventually drop the prices significantly to make it worth the initial investment.

I'm curious what hindrances/benefits the /. crowd sees in moving in this direction.

I'd like to see how it works (2, Interesting)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264809)

While it sounds good, the logistics of providing access will be a nightmare. Simply expecting kids to have internet access / laptops won't cut it; that's a lawsuit waiting to happen. Books, while not cheap, are much more durable and can be expected to last a lot longer. The value of a 10 year old text as a teaching aid is suspect; but the life cycle costs is less than electronic.

Publishers now have a reason to update books more rapidly - remove the production costs for hardcover books and they can "outdate" books much faster; plus try to force per student per year licenses on districts.

Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.

Online everything sucks because... (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264823)

people with opinions can and do edit content. People with no discipline and over-sized egos can and do break into computer systems and edit content. I already don't like the idea of making my medical records available to the black market online; let alone giving the black market the ability to directly influence my children's learning capabilities. My neighborhood, city, state, country, and society have no business teaching my children anything unless I allow it. Period. No matter how fucked up people think that is.

Why does it have to be either-or? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264897)

How much does it cost to actually print a textbook? For the time being, paper books are superior as a display medium, and it doesn't look like that's going to change in the next five years. (ten... maybe?)

But there's no reason why they shouldn't be able to print the online texts. Heck, a state as large as California ought to be able to commission its own textbooks as works for hire and print as many as they want.

If the marginal cost of actually manufacturing the book is so close to the price they're paying, then I really don't see how moving to online books helps in the near term, electronic devices for displaying texts just don't stand up to the kind of abuse that k-8 students will heap upon them without even realizing it. If the prices really are close, though, then maybe the textbook companies really aren't ripping them off...

Textbooks (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28264901)

Various pieces of research (such as http://www.sigchi.org/chi97/proceedings/paper/koh.htm [sigchi.org] ) show that reading from a screen is not as effective for learning based activities as reading from paper. The major problems focus on reading from the screen being slower than reading from paper, the perception of text on-screen less accurately than paper and higher fatigue when reading from a screen than from paper due to the backlit screen. Furthermore, prolonged usage of screens can lead to eyestrain, a common argument for restricting children from watching T.V too much, and with most children already watching hours of TV/Games/YouTube etc, do parents really want them spending another 6+ hours per schoolday (plus homework) stuck in front of a screen?

Who wants to bet they'll spend more than $350M (1)

1800maxim (702377) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264911)

just creating the website, putting those books online and maintaining them.

I would like to find out what the annual costs of maintaining such a system will also be.

Online Textbooks Just Aren't ready (5, Insightful)

felix71 (49849) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264927)

I'm working on my PhD in History, and to help pay the bills I teach both classroom and online history courses. The institution I teach online courses for recently moved from requiring students to purchase the course text to providing them an online version with the class, while offering students the option to purchase custom hard copies. Students can purchase the full, hardback, color version, can select monochrome versions, or get paperback or plastic comb bindings. Sounds great, right?

Not so much.

The vendor provides students with a login ID and password for each student to use, which gets them access to the book for six months after the end of the course. The textbook website has integrated learning tools, skills assessments, maps, images, audio and video, etc... along with the text, which is properly paginated to go with my desk copy. Again, this stuff all sounds great. In practice, there are problems.

Students complain that it takes them double or triple the time to do their reading. Sending them login ID and password was a catastrophe, because they were provided by email, and not all students gave us the correct email address or knew that they had a school-supplied email address. This led the school to just embed a link to the text in our courses, which killed much of the interactivity built into the online text.

This ignores other problems. Student computer type and age, patch level, apps, skill level, whether they have their own machine, comfort with updating their computer, etc... have a huge effect on whether a student can successfully use an online text. I teach students that range from high school age into their sixties. Most of them are not comfortable troubleshooting problems, communicating problems, or even understanding that they have a problem. There are students whose parents won't let them install Flash or other media players on the family PC.

Unless Schwarzenegger is talking about providing all students with a Kindle DX (in color) or some similar device with free wireless broadband to access their texts, we're talking about huge administrative burdens, tech support burdens, and even financial burdens for families. The support ecosystem is just just not available for most folks to successfully use an online text for all of their courses.

Re:Online Textbooks Just Aren't ready (1)

edumacator (910819) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265189)

Student computer type and age, patch level, apps, skill level, whether they have their own machine, comfort with updating their computer, etc... have a huge effect on whether a student can successfully use an online text. I teach students that range from high school age into their sixties. Most of them are not comfortable troubleshooting problems, communicating problems, or even understanding that they have a problem. There are students whose parents won't let them install Flash or other media players on the family PC.

I absolutely agree with this assessment. The age issue won't be a problem for the public school system, except for those few students who are on the extended track, but the ability level is an issue.

Here's my question though, at what point do we force students to deal with that basic level of competency? As our world moves to a more technical structure, how do we move these hesitant students into a position where they feel comfortable with technology?

I absolutely agree that the problems you raise are valid concerns, but as a teacher, I'm tired of the education system using fear of technology or inept users to keep us from moving to teach our students using the same technology that they will encounter in the world they will inhabit.

Dual-edged sword (3, Interesting)

Celeste R (1002377) | more than 5 years ago | (#28264941)

I see this as a quick fix, but it's using some strong medicine.

Putting it into .pdf form (or whatever form they might fancy) will only inhibit the ability to think. You can't write down notes in the margins, even if you can highlight sections of text. This is analogous to freehand drawing vs computer aided drawing (creativity vs productivity). The single exception I can think of is taking pictures out of the .pdf's (if the DRM allows it).

By suddenly moving away from textbooks, we're moving further away from an old part of the brain, which has aided us in learning ever since humanity learned to tell stories from wall paintings. In general, computers can inhibit the brain processes that aid us in mental growth, mostly because it prevents the mind from subconsciously dwelling on a topic for extended periods. Computerized reading devices (Kindle-type products) would fare much better, but those require an investment that California may not be willing to buck up.

I'm not saying this can't work, but I am saying that it would work for people who have adapted to it (which most of the system there has not). What I'm also saying is that creativity within the 'new school' students will plummet. For people to adapt best to this change in learning mediums, they should start from a young age. You can expect old dogs to learn new tricks works, but does it work well enough?

Something I will stress though: there will be people who cotton to this new medium fairly well, and there will be those who won't. I personally would feel that (if I were a child again) I would end up in the camp who wouldn't, mostly because of the subculture that will show up around this policy change. (I went through textbooks very quickly as a child, it wouldn't be in my interests to be "stuck with" the rest of the class simply because of DRM issues)

There will be good aspects to this though: social life will figure out ways to conform to these electronic resources. Instant messaging is proof of this.

Say what you will about doodles being good, or doodles being bad, or even a philosophical debate over things like television and such; but not everything that technology's subcultures has brought us has been benign. While this new policy does sound benign to the regular person, it will affect people both positively and negatively. It needs to be respected as a dual-edged sword, instead of a stress-borne whim.

SPOILER! (1)

Evildonald (983517) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265017)

If Hogwarts had e-books instead of dead-tree books, then Harry would never have been able to cheat in Potions class from Snape's childhood crib notes!

Please! Think of the children!

Schools don't have reliable Internet's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28265041)

Why would anyone put all the weight of teaching materials out on the Internet when he won't pay for a descent level of redundancy to the Internet? California only pays for a primary link between site to site. If schools want a back up path, they have to pay full price for it. And this comes at a time where many are laid-off and budgets are slashed. Schools in California are taking one on the chin right now. This whole cloud computing idea is worthless when the links aren't up to par. Having a book in hand outweighs an Internet that you can't reach.

Can't they simply lend the books? (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265051)

And when the school year is over, the books are passed to the younger students. Only when the material is updated, students will get new books.

Re: Saturdy Morning Cereal (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 5 years ago | (#28265127)

I am jealous of these people posting relead XKCD and Cyanide comics, so I will post a related episode from SMBC.

http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1535#comic [smbc-comics.com]

Ok, not soo much related probably. But, who cares? no one read this messages anyway.

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