Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Digital Content Report Draws Line in the Sand

A new report, Out of Print: Reimagining the K-12 Textbook in a Digital Age, from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) urges states and school districts to “commit to beginning the shift from print to digital instructional materials” no later than the 2017-18 academic year.

Otherwise, the report says, teachers and pupils will be stuck in another funding cycle resulting in the acquisition of out-of-date content and inflexible print formats. It could be another decade before they’d have the monies to replace print with digital materials.

Some state legislatures are already on board, such as Florida, which wants schools to substitute electronic materials for at least half their books by 2015. However, some educators think students aren’t ready for such a rapid move. Tampa Bay Online reported on the problems one district had with digital books, including login difficulties and students with limited or no access to computers at home.

Those are the kind of wrinkles schools will have to iron out. SETDA’s report points to seven factors to address: sustainable funding for devices, robust Internet connectivity, up-to-date policies and practices, prepared educators, intellectual property and reuse rights, quality control and usability, and state and local leadership buy-in.

SETDA’s report recommends that schools establish and communicate “a clear vision for the use of digital and open content,” which includes chucking any regulations or policies that get in the way and finding dollars to ensure adequate classroom technologies.

The report also calls on government, education, and business to work together on “alternative, flexible models” for the development and dissemination of digital content.

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