Leaders Discuss Transition to Digital Textbooks

Tablet with books

FCC Chairman Genachowski and Secretary of Education Duncan hosted a discussion with CEOs, senior executives, and other leaders from the education technology ecosystem to develop ways the industry and states can meet their challenge to move all K-12 schools to interactive digital textbooks in the next five years. Together, the assembled CEOs, senior executives, and leaders discussed the challenges of making the transition from paper to digital, and developed concrete steps to move the nation to digital textbooks, including a model digital textbooks challenge, a blueprint template for states to work with the ecosystem to implement the transition, and the release of FCC guidance to make it easier for school districts and libraries to make the transition. The LEAD Commission will develop a blueprint for K-12 schools to make the transition to interactive digital textbooks in five years.

The FCC, the U.S. Department of Education & Ceos from the Digital Education Ecosystem Announce Actions to Move U.S. Schools to Digital Textbooks

Representatives included senior executives and leaders from Apple, Aruba Networks, Chegg, Discovery Education, Idaho Department of Education, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Inkling, Intel, Knewton, Kno, the LEAD Commission, McGraw-Hill, News Corp, Pearson, Samsung, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Together, they developed the following actions to meet the transition challenge towards digital textbooks:

The FCC evaluated a Project RED study and released new side-by-side cost models of traditional learning versus “new” learning, illustrating a savings of $250 per student each year if schools move to digital textbooks:

  • A traditional learning environment, including traditional textbooks, paper, technology and connectivity, costs an estimated $3,871 per student per year;
  • Based on a conservative evaluation, a new learning environment today, including digital learning content, devices, technology and connectivity, costs an estimated $3,621 per student per year.
  • Based on a conservative evaluation, a new learning environment in three years, including digital learning content, devices, technology and connectivity, costs an estimated $3,811 per student per year.

A push for states to work towards positive outcomes in the transition to digital textbooks:

  • Meeting participants discussed how the digital textbook ecosystem can work together to help states put interactive, digital textbooks in schools within five years.
  • The participants discussed ways to work together to develop model policies for states that allow for the deployment of digital textbooks.
  • View a state-by-state digital report card here: http://digitallearningnow.com/nations-report-card/

Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission to develop blueprint for K-12 schools to make the transition to interactive digital textbooks in five years:

  • Announced in early March, the LEAD Commission will detail the opportunity for using technology as a catalyst to transform and improve American education. The LEAD Commission will incorporate input from a cross-section of teachers, parents, local government officials, school officials, students and education technology industry leaders and expects to release its findings and an action plan in late 2012.
  • At the meeting, the LEAD Commission made a presentation to the assembled leaders on the opportunities of digital textbooks and the challenges of making the transition from paper to digital.

Announced a challenge to develop market-ready, model digital textbook products:

  • Meeting participants discussed the idea of working together to develop a low-cost and high quality bundled solutions for interactive digital textbooks consisting of device, content, connectivity, and technical support.
  • Chairman Genachowski and Secretary Duncan challenged the group to develop near market-ready products or bundles that are scalable.
  • Any group of companies can present their response to the challenge at the White House in the fall of 2012
  • The Playbook is designed to help K-12 educators implement rich and effective digital learning environments in their schools. The Playbook outlines criteria and steps that educators can take to initiate the transition to digital textbooks. View the Digital Textbook Playbook here: http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/digital-textbook-playbook
  • The Playbook will help educators tackle the major barriers to the adoption of digital textbooks, including the challenge of connectivity, both at school, in the community, and at home; the challenge of device procurement; and the challenge of making the transition from paper to digital textbooks.
  • The Playbook is an output from the Digital Textbook Collaborative, an effort by education technology leaders across private industry to accelerate the deployment of digital textbooks and improving the quality and penetration of digital learning in K-12 education.
  • The Digital Textbook Collaborative was convened by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Education and builds on the FCC’s National Broadband Plan and the Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan

Leveraging technology can improve the opportunity for educational access, improve student engagement and achievement, and improve learning productivity.

  • Technology-based instruction can reduce the time students take to reach a learning objective by up to 80 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education and recent studies by the National Training and Simulation Association.
  • Teachers’ believe in the ability of technology to enhance learning; 93 percent believe that interactive whiteboards enrich classroom education and 81 percent feel the same about tablets, according to a PBS study.
  • Continuous access to a computing device for every student leads to increased academic achievement and financial benefits, especially when technology is properly implemented, according to Project RED.
  • A Federal Reserve study found that students with a PC and broadband at home have six to eight percentage point higher graduation rates than similar student who don’t have home access to the Internet.
  • A 40-year retrospective study from Concordia University concluded that classrooms where computer technology was used to support teaching had a positive effect on learning and attitude. Challenges to digital textbook adoption include state textbook procurement rules, device and content interoperability, connectivity costs and managing the transition.
  • While the United States spends more than $7 billion a year on textbooks, too many students are using books that are 7-10 years old with outdated material.
  • The U.S. trails countries like South Korea in transitioning to digital textbooks; the country has announced that all students will begin the transition to digital textbooks in 2015.

The FCC’s Technology and Education Agenda

The FCC is the biggest funder of connectivity in K-12 schools in the United States and is helping connect America’s schools to the networks of the future:

  • The FCC’s education agenda is focused on helping educators, students and parents transform learning opportunities through the use of technology at school, in the community, and at home.

By modernizing the E-rate program, the FCC is working to ensure that America’s students receive the best education and the high-tech skills to compete in the 21st century economy. The E-rate program was established by Congress to bring connectivity to all schools and libraries in America:

  • Learning-on-the-Go Mobile Pilots: The pilot program will help the FCC learn how best to support wireless connectivity services for mobile learning devices, like digital textbooks, so that students and patrons can connect with online resources even when they’re not in school or at a library. The FCC selected 20 Learning On-the-Go applicants to enable schools and libraries to deliver Internet connectivity and digital learning over mobile wireless devices outside of the school or library.
  • Super-Fast Fiber: The FCC’s E-rate Order is helping to bring affordable, super-fast fiber connections to America’s schools and libraries. It allows participants to use E-rate funds to connect to the Internet in the most cost-effective 3 way possible, including via unused fiber lines already in place across the country and through existing state, regional and local networks.
  • School Spots:The FCC also opened the door to “School Spots” where schools have the option to provide Internet access to the local community after students go home. With affordable fiber, these School Spots are a major step toward the National Broadband Plan’s goal of connecting an anchor institution in every community to affordable 1 Gbps broadband.

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