Archive | December, 2013

Digital Textbooks a Challange For Unplugged Students

23 Dec

Mesa County parent Elizabeth Chiono received letters from some of her son’s teachers at the beginning of the school year informing her that he would not get textbooks in history and science classes.

The school district instead offers parents a link to online materials, causing the Chionos to have to rush to the school library before tests or to locate another computer whenever the outdated software on their own computer does not allow them to view schoolwork. It’s a growing problem that has complicated the family’s access to educational resources, but Chiono said other families face much more difficult situations.

“I know kids that live in trailers who don’t have any access to computers. They barely have food on the table,” Chiono said. “If you don’t have Internet, that puts your kiddos behind.”

Budget cuts, a shortage of books that meet the state’s academic standards and the proliferation of cheaper online materials that are easy to update have left Colorado school districts in a state of transition. Many are moving away from traditional textbooks and using free online materials but are not yet prepared to fully invest in digital textbooks.

“At this particular time in history, we are really sitting at a crossroads … between technology and textbooks,” said Heather Beck, chief academic officer at Jefferson County Public Schools. “In some ways, it’s easier to find what a teacher needs at their fingertips through technology because the textbooks have not caught up to all of the state standards.”

Mesa County School District officials said students are guaranteed equal access to resources, and those who do not have Internet access can request textbooks, but they may not get the newest information in those books. Leigh Grasso, director of academic achievement, said the district would have to order three sets of books to cover all the new content required under state standards in a subject like middle school science.

“The day and age of having a big, hard, clunky textbook is past. It’s just one resource now,” Grasso said.

Last year, the Obama administration urged schools to speed up the transition to digital textbooks in an effort to make sure every student in the country has an e-textbook by 2017. The transition is supposed to save money over the long haul and offer up-to-date educational resources.

But some school district officials are saying the upfront costs of digital textbooks — new iPads start at about $499 apiece — are prohibitive after years of budget cuts and on the heels of a failed tax measure that would have injected nearly $1 billion into public education in Colorado.

Money saving textbook resources:
http://www.cheap-college-textbooks.com/ – finds the lowest prices by media type. Cheapest new, used, rental and digital
http://www.cheaptextbooksforum.com/buying-textbooks/topic88.html – discussion on where to get current coupon saving offers.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pk1V9ScTe4 – YouTube video on how price comparison search tools can save you money.