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The Digital Textbook Conundrum

A few years from now paper textbooks should be obsolete. That’s the prediction and desire of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Addressing the National Press Club yesterday, Duncan pointed out that other countries are miles ahead in ditching paper books for digital ones.

South Korea for example has made a commitment to adopt all digital textbooks by 2015.

Ambitious goal, Duncan, but is it a realistic one?

There are many advantages to digital textbooks. It saves money on printing and updates are executed faster. They are more suited to the multimedia learning environment. Videos, customized quizzes, 3-D maps, images and social media can all be integrated into them. These are the elements that make learning exciting for students.

Adopting digital textbooks may not be such a simple endeavor, though. There are information technology infrastructure issues. There is the issue of what piece of technology the textbooks should live in? Laptops or tablets? And if tablets are chosen, which brands? What about smartphones?

How would students or districts afford the textbooks? And which educational vendor would provide the content?

There are many ways district officials and politicians are trying to make this happen.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported last year that the State Senate is exploring replacing print books with iPads.

Meanwhile several Georgia districts are making the transition to digital textbooks and learning overall easier, by adopting the bring your own device policy.

Forsyth County has the most successful program, with all 35 schools allowing students to bring whatever tech device they use at home to school for educational purposes.

Digital textbooks are certainly the way of the future, but it's still a conundrum on how to make that transition.

How is your school or district making the change? What would you recommend?