Class on Wednesday was awesome. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I had no idea that Wednesday was actually Digital Learning Day! At any rate, when discussing federalism, I brought up the new push by the Obama administration to provide digital textbooks for ALL students within a five-year time frame. As the administrator in charge of textbooks in my building, I think that this is a great idea in theory. On a daily basis I will have at least one student tell me that he/she does not have access to a computer at home. Because of circumstances beyond the control of the school, students are not provided with equal access to their education. The thought that the Obama administration sees the need for equal access to technology for students across the board is fantastic.
In practice, I really have no idea how this initiative will work. I am not even a technology guru, but I can list a number of areas of concern: 1. bandwidth access at school. We would have to ensure that all schools are setup with enough bandwidth capacity to host all teachers, students, and staff at the same time all day. Insufficient bandwidth will interrupt instruction and learning. 2. Resolving issues (technology help desk demands will increase exponentially). In a small division like mine, we would definitely need to hire additional personnel to meet the demand. 3. How do we ensure that students will have online access at home? Ideally, we would be able to provide the students with mobile broadband connectivity, but I just don’t think this is realistic (for all divisions). If students don’t have access at home, they still can’t complete their work.
This is definitely a hot topic and work is already being done to begin implementation. Through additional research, I found that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski a resource titled the Digital Textbook Playbook in an effort to guide school divisions and educators through the process. I found this resource to be quite interesting and informative. I had no idea that Comcast offers a plan for under $10 and a netbook for about $150 for those eligible for free and reduced lunch (see page 45 for more details). Other companies were listed as well. This is information that I can share with students and families now. The link to the playbook is provided below. I hope that you find it to be a useful resource.