New Florida School Rule: eBooks Required

Clearwater Florida high school uses Kindles
Image detail from the Tampa Bay Times

There’s a new rule coming from Florida’s state board of education. Within three years, all school districts will be required to spend half their textbook money on ebooks! “Students ‘cracking the books’ to study for a class or exam could be a thing of the past someday,” joked one Florida newspaper. And when an educational publisher submits their textbook to the board for review — it will have to be an ebook!

One Florida school already spent nearly $400,000 in September to buy 2,200 Kindles — enough for each student to get their own. Each Kindle cost $177.60, but a typical English textbook will be $15 cheaper if it’s delivered in a digital format. And the Kindle may create an extra enthusiasm in the classroom. “Kids love their technology,” the school’s principal told one reporter. “We wanted to tap into that.”

One student actually predicted that he’d study more, because “You want to play with your Kindle…” And another said she liked the lighter weight of ebooks! “I don’t really have the strength to carry around five or six textbooks every day.” The textbooks are also easier to update, which could even make the information more accurate. For example, one teacher’s science textbook — now six years out of date — still lists nine planets in the solar system, though Pluto was re-classified as a dwarf planet in 2006.

“I think books are pretty much obsolete by the time they go to print,” joked one Florida parent. And she also thinks the students will be more comfortable with digital texts, because “My kids are lugging around 40 pounds of books!” At a local community college, the vice president noted that there’s even been pilot programs at a couple state colleges which are using nothing but ebooks in most of the classes. The hardest part is getting the text in the format that works for all devices — on Kindles, Nooks, Kobos, and other digital readers.

He also believes color screens are important. (“We are just waiting for the technology to develop so that we really can move in that direction to where our students can benefit from it.”) So while the ebooks may be required by Florida’s board of education, it’s not clear which digital reader they’ll be purchasing. And if you’re heard horror stories about school boards demanding changes in text books — just imagine what they’d do with the power to change ebooks!

I still remember when I learned how to read — but apparently, grade school is changing now. One elementary school teacher explained to a reporter that for every book in his class, every student already has a password and username! “Most of them don’t take their books home because they can go online, where they can get their reading book,” he told the newspaper as he headed into a technology conference.

“Or they can get their math book and their science book and so forth…”

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