Towards the Paperless Classroom

Last week, Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told schoolkids to throw away their textbooks to help the state avoid bankruptcy.  He referred to textbooks as being “outdated” and too expensive. California currently spends more than $400m annually on school textbooks. Instead of textbooks, the Californian Learning Resource Network will evaluate and list free and commercial online web resources (worth checking out by the way).  Second level maths and science will be prioritized initially.

Another related project is the California Open Source Textbook Project which is creating a free online world history textbook using a wiki.  If this sounds familiar, we ran a feature on a similar suggestion from Chris Horn a number of weeks ago – click here.

The Governator’s announcement has sparked debate on whether schools and homes have enough computers and broadband to be able to access to online resources. Meanwhile in Arizona, this year’s seniors class at Empire High School (pictured) have become the first group of students to have started and completed high school without the use of traditional textbooks, using laptops instead.

So where does that leave us here in Ireland?  Signs are that our main textbook publishers have begun to consider the possibility that the paperless classroom could become a reality someday by offering online content, including study material, teachers’ guides and digital versions of books that accompany hardcover texts (more on this in a future posting).  While the paperless classroom is still a long way off in reality, we do need to look at and evaluate the possibilities rather than burying our heads in the sand.

What are the chances of our policy makers considering such radical steps as those being taken in California to help us out of a similar stew?

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