California recently released a report on the Free Digital Textbook Initiative which calls for open-source electronic textbooks for high school math and sciences courses.

What do you think the implications are for schools, students, and districts regarding this curricular change and how do you think it will be perceived by the variety of stakeholders?

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Moving the kind of content that has traditionally been found in "adopted textbooks" to digital form seems like a no-brainer at first, at least for those of us who love technology, but clearly there are issues to be solved. The first that comes to my mind is how we monitor the content. We have this huge state process for vetting the content of textbooks against everything from subject matter accuracy to political correctness. Parents expect that the materials we put into their kids hands and brains has been carefully selected and is of high quality.

Another area is environmental impact. As Kevin mentioned in the meeting today, people tend to see books and think "trees cut down." But at least when we throw a book away it will decompose and return to the carbon cycle. On the other hand, I recently took an old printer to a computer "recycling center" in my community and I was appalled by what I found: hundreds of old computers, monitors, printers, etc. just piled up and gathering dust. Where is all this technological waste ending up? Landfills? China? Just making textbooks digital does not automatically help the environment.
This is a major step in our professsion that needs to be tapped into quickly. Giving kids this capability, especially if is accessible from phones and iPods, will create a whole new paradigm. At the same time, caution should be exercised involving any so called "customizing". Given the culture war in our country, I can see certain groups crusading to deny thes toold to kids as a result of a teacher's ill-planned "customization".


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