Only two weeks after Apple announced it was getting into digital textbook publishing, the Obama administration is urging schools and companies to put digital textbooks in students' hands within the next five years. So is this simply serendipity or is there a little something between the White House and Apple?
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski made the challenge Wednesday saying that e-books are viewed as a way to provide interactive learning, save money and get updated material to students faster, according to the Associated Press.
The administration also released a 67-page booklet that promoted the use of e-books and basically said it hoped districts would spend its dwindling money on iPads and e-books rather than expensive traditional books. Unfortunately, the Obama administration didn't actually offer any grants or financial incentives for cash-strapped schools to adopt the new technology.
Clifford Stoll, the author of "Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway," may have made the best point for the opposition when he compared computers to the filmstrips of his youth. "We loved them because we didn't have to think for an hour, teachers loved them because they didn't have to teach, and parents loved them because it showed their schools were high-tech. But no learning happened."
It's true that new technology causes a buzz and frisson of excitement, but in the long run is this what children need? The problem is that we can't even get to that question because school districts are so poor, investing in a $499 iPad -- or even a $99 Android tablet -- for each student isn't going to happen. Unless Apple or some other company offers huge discounts or the government offers grants, we don't see digital textbooks catching on as quickly as the administration would like.