Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs dreamed of a world in which children would learn from inexpensive, digital textbooks, and that dream may not be far from reality. With the introduction of educational apps like iBooks Author, iBooks 2, and iTunes U, Apple’s secured itself as the premier option for classrooms looking to move away from traditional learning techniques to a more interactive learning experience.
That shift may happen sooner than we think. On Thursday, a group of educational publishers, technology companies, and two government agencies held a meeting in Washington to promote a plan for transitioning U.S. classrooms (K-12) to digital textbooks over the next five years.
The plan was developed by the Leading Education by Advancing Digital Commission (LEAD), and according to its promoters, it should be able to save schools approximately $250 per student each year by cutting out the cost of traditional textbooks. That adds up to a savings of more than $12.2 billion a year if it is implemented. Traditionally, textbooks, paper, technology, and connectivity runs about $3871 for each student per year, while the new system would cost $3621 per student per year.
At the meeting, hosted by FCC Chairman Genachowski and Secretary of Education Duncan, were representatives from a number of tech industry leaders, including Apple, Samsung, Intel, and Sprint, plus well-known publishers like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and McGraw-Hill.
Meeting participants discussed how a digital textbook ecosystem could work together to help create the system that would put digital textbooks in schools within five years.
The participants talked about the idea of working together to develop low-cost, high-quality bundled solutions that include device, content, connectivity and technical support.
At this early stage, nothing is concrete, but with industry giants coming together to work on a plan, it’s a good sign that digital textbooks may become standard in schools in just a few years.
The LEAD Commission plans to continue incorporating input from teachers, parents, local government officials, school officials, students, and education technology industry leaders in order to create and release a blueprint for action later this year.