Exploring Electronic Textbooks
"Imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing."
– Jimmy Wales, a founder of Wikipedia 
The "digital natives" in our classrooms go beyond imagining such a world; more and more they demand it. As they turn away from traditional learning models and become actively immersed in online tools and communities, brick and mortar schools suddenly find themselves in a new world.
With digital communication becoming the norm outside of school, and the size and cost of computing devices going down all the time, replacing bulky, quickly obsolete textbooks with electronic learning resources is becoming a viable alternative.
Shifting to instructional delivery systems that embrace the needs of today’s learners necessitates a closer examination of topics such as electronic books, online instruction, Web 2.0 technologies, and more. To help you explore these options, here are some examples, case studies, and other resources.
- Texas Electronic Learning Initiatives: Texas statewide initiatives emphasize the goal of implementing electronic learning. The State’s 2006 Progress Report provides research information on the project. Page 51 traces the process of replacing traditional textbooks with electronic books. Of particular interest is the related need for legislative changes to facilitate the new instructional delivery methods. For more information about the report contact Richard LaGow at 512-463-9400 or by email.
- Texas Technology Immersion Pilot (TIP): The TIP project in Texas is pioneering an entirely new concept in educational technology—total immersion of faculty and students in technology. TIP steps far beyond simple 1:1 computing experiments where computers are merely adjunct to the educational process, and instead, completely envelops participants in technology. To see TIP in action, visit the Irving School District that has been engaged in electronic learning for several years.
- California History/Social Science Curriculum: A new (9/06) California program called "History/Social Science for California" from Scott Foresman provides digital curriculum and online books, video, assessment, and interactive learning tools for grades K-5. This program is SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Module) certified. Test drive the software at www.cahistorysocialscience.com.
- eBook Project: When Empire High School (Vail, Arizona near Tucson) issued Apple iBooks to each of its 340 students at the start of classes July 22, 2005, it became one of the first public schools in the United States to shun printed textbooks. Of interest is their initial "lessons learned" as reported by eSchool News in August 2005:
- Teacher support is critical
- Avoid the myth that most students are proficient at basic computer skills
- Put measures in place to keep kids on task
- Communicate expectations to students and parents up front
- Establish community-wide buy-in.
While case studies provide specific models to learn from and follow, these additional resources consist of basic information that applies generally to the electronic learning environment.
- Demand SCORM Certification: Make sure the products you select for online learning are "certified" by SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Module). SCORM is a collection of standards and specifications adapted from multiple sources to provide a comprehensive suite of e-learning capabilities that enable interoperability, accessibility and reusability of Web-based learning content.
- Application of Web 2.0 Tools: Don’t forget the open source, online resources that are already available as Web 2.0 (the perceived second-generation of the Internet) tools. Electronic books, and online curriculum calls for the deployment of hundreds of Internet-capable laptops and other learning devices. From a maintenance and support viewpoint, the ability to have shareable software that doesn’t need to be installed is worth a serious look.