Saturday, September 4, 2010

          The School2Home Endowment selected Central Middle School as one of only two beta sites in the state of California whereby every student receives a netbook computer. This one-to-one environment enabled Riverside USD to pilot the California Free Digital Textbook Initiative available through CLRN, making the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) Blackboard digital textbook pilot program possible. As just seen, anyone can access RUSD's Blackboard digital textbooks, but all you see are the state's Open Source materials. You need to login to RUSD Blackboard in order to view all the textbooks available through district negotiations with individual publishers. 

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"From government to non-profit organizations, teachers to textbook publishers, we all have a role to play in leveraging 21st century technology to expand learning and better serve California's students, parents, teachers and schools. This initiative will ensure our schools know which digital textbooks stand up to California's academic content standards - so these cost-effective resources can be used in our schools to help ensure each and every student has access to a world-class education." - Governor Schwarzenegger

          Further information about the continuing efforts of the Free Digital Textbook Initiative can be seen on the CA Department of Education Web site. Governor Swarzeneggar released the Phase I Report in August of 2009. "Since these digital books are downloadable and may be projected on a screen, viewed on a computer, printed chapter by chapter, or bound for use in the classroom, schools can take advantage of these free, standards-aligned resources using existing hardware - even in classrooms without computers or laptops for every student."
          In the news release below, Jack O'Connell announces phase two. "I applaud the completion of the second phase of this initiative," said O'Connell. "In these dire economic times, the expansion of standards-aligned digital textbooks provides more free resources to schools."
          "The goal in phase two was to add to the list of basic student digital instructional resources that are intended as the primary resource for a course of study. The second review has successfully added 10 new mathematics and science digital textbooks to the existing list of free digital resources for grades nine through twelve. There are two more phases of reviews."

          Education today prepares students for a world that does not yet exist. To do that in ways that are academically (benefiting students), pedagogically (benefiting teachers), and financially (benefiting districts) responsible and effective mandates the paradigm shift to digital textbooks. That this is not an "either paper or computer" choice, but a thoughtful blend during a time of transition, is an assumption.This being said, Riverside USD has estimated that it will save $200 per student by transitioning from print to digital textbooks.
          It is this transition that will provide the opportunity for school sites, districts, and states across the nation to put forward and test ideas and methods. It will become a marathon of negotiations. It is a challenge to publishers, testing the issues of copyright and production. It is a challenge to computer manufacturers to create a product that takes the punishment of student use. It is a challenge to broadband service providers facing traffic needs that surpass calculations. It is a challenge to institutions of higher learning that must rewrite pre-service curriculum to train teachers for a world of virtual instruction. 

          But here is why it's all worth it!