Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Netbooks or Textbooks?

Want to hear something sorta shocking? The average student might "use" $1000.00 worth of textbooks during their high school career! What if we looked at devoting $ to laptops instead of textbooks?

How much $ does each kid "use" with textbooks while they go through the average high school? If they're taking English, math, science, world language & social studies, my guess is that the books for those classes cost ~$40 on the average for the year. That's in the neighborhood of $200/year. That's $800 for their 4 years at a high school just in core classes. If that student is also taking business, art history, health, etc., we're talking about another $40 - $80 per year.

While textbooks served their purpose in the pre-digital/analog age, it's high time we look at other ways to engage kids with content. And I'm not talking about purchasing textbooks that come with CDs.

posted on flickr by giovanniscanavino (CC License)
cc photo courtesy of giovanniscanavin
The biggest concern I've heard relates to access. What about kids who don't have computers at home? There is amazing content that kids can now get using just about any cell phone, and that technology is constantly getting more & more advanced & versatile. Ideally, though, we need a 1:1 solution so that each kid had a device like a sub-laptop. How do we afford that?

Um, we start putting our money into something other than books.

Fiscal costs aside, though, the bottom line for me is that in most cases, it is costing our learners to not approach content differently. Textbooks are no longer sufficient to support learning. The opportunity to access interactive, engaging, current, & FREE content should be at the core of where we put our money. And it isn't in textbooks.

To that end, we'll be experimenting in the 2011-2012 school year with a couple of classes who agreed to teach without a traditional textbook: all geography classes will have a 1:1 environment as will all students taking our new science course (think CSI). My hope is that we'll see some real success here. Maybe this will spark a change in approach that our budgets (and our learners) desperately need.