Education Secretary Arne Duncan called Tuesday for the nation to move as fast as possible away from printed textbooks and toward digital ones. “Over the next few years, textbooks should be obsolete,” he declared. It’s not just a matter of keeping up with the times, Duncan said in remarks to the National Press Club. It’s about keeping up with other countries whose students are leaving their American counterparts in the dust.
This isn’t exactly a revolutionary position. The writing has been on the wall for some time now, no pun intended. However, the assumption being made by Duncan, at least according to this article, is that simply moving from printed to digital textbooks = improved outcomes. But, as the AP article states further down, it’s not that simple.
The transition to digital involves much more than scanning books and uploading them to computers, tablet devices or e-readers. Proponents describe a comprehensive shift to immersive, online learning experiences that engage students in a way a textbook never could.
The move to digital textbooks is only significant in that it is yet another indicator of a larger shift toward a more promising and effective approach to learning made possible by digital technology.