Time to go digital

Almost a month ago, one of our very knowledgeable teaching assistants gave me an insightful memo on how we could reduce costs -namely, use less paper in a world that is quickly becoming paperless, and secondly, start purchasing fully-digital textbooks.

Although we have made tremendous strides in reducing the volume of paper we use each month, we still have a way to go. Our staff member pointed out to me that some teachers have their own web pages and encourage students to visit their respective web pages for assignments and access materials that previously would have been copied by the instructor and distributed in class. Within the next few years, I am convinced that with the greater use of laptops, tablets, and even cell phones in classrooms, the result will be less paper consumption and greater cost savings.

Her second recommendation - the use of digital textbooks, is very relevant, especially after I learned about the State of Florida's experience.

First, I am convinced that schools will move toward the use of digital textbooks in the very near future. It's inevitable with technology changes coming so quickly and a world so accustomed to wireless and instant communication. My only concern is that the New York State Legislature doesn't impose another mandate that requires all school districts to convert to digital textbooks, without sufficient lead time and providing the necessary resources.

Apparently, that is happening in Florida. The Florida State House in mid-April passed a bill requiring all school districts in the state to spend half their funds allocated for instructional materials on digital books starting in 2013. To make the matter more challenging, the proposed bill would require all school districts to fully convert to digital textbooks by September 2014. Although the bill is counting on savings from no longer having to print and store conventional textbooks, Palm Beach County school reps argue that most publishers don't charge cheaper rates for digital content, so not all the expected savings might occur - maybe a 25 percent reduction.

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