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1
Wait for Fox News to spin this as "Obama's trying to take away our books."
Posted by yuiop on February 3, 2012 at 1:46 PM · Report this
Fnarf 2
So kids who live in disproportionately crime-ridden neighborhoods will be at a huge disadvantage yet again when their precious e-books are stolen or smashed and they can't afford to replace them. And, since it is virtually impossible to do any real studying on an e-book, other than straight narrative text reading with no notes or anything, the quality of what they learn will zoom to zero. Try finding a language textbook in an e-version that doesn't suck donkey balls, if you can even find one at all.

This is the kind of crap that makes me wonder if the "shut down the Department of Education" libertarians are right after all.

Let's take a look at the countries that have better education systems than hours, starting with Finland. Are they better because they went to all-e-book all the time? Uh, no. cheap gimcrackery that moves billions of tax dollars into the hands of the corporations that make these things is not part of a sound national educational strategy.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on February 3, 2012 at 1:55 PM · Report this
Steven Bradford 3
Has anyone in the Obama administration actually tried taking a course using e textbooks?

I have, and my experience is that they're great for novels, (which trigger your imagination to create worlds in your head) but for textbooks, the experience of reading blurs together. It becomes difficult to remember what book you are reading when they're on similar topics. Formatting, type etc, even weight in the hand, it's all the same unchanging screen. I can easily imagine better e textbooks, that aren't just walls and walls of similar looking text, but those will cost money to create. And all that the Obama administration (and all the other school reformers, liberal and conservative) seems interested in is saving money, not improving education.
Posted by Steven Bradford http://www.seanet.com/~bradford/ on February 3, 2012 at 2:16 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 4
@2,

I bet publishers are drooling over this. Poor school districts can get away with using the same books for years, because grade school kids really don't need the latest discoveries in science and math. They can get that in college, if they make it to college. But, with designed obsolescence in technology, all school districts will be forced to buy all new books more frequently.

And most new versions of grade school books are the same thing repackaged, especially in history, literature, and language.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 3, 2012 at 2:20 PM · Report this
5
Eeyup, more of technology for the sake of technology.
Have any thought at all been put into this with regards to the educational impact of doing this? What real benefit does an e-book textbook have over a traditional paper textbook (apart from a nice newspaper headline)? And this is before even talking about the cost, reliability, or backing up of such advantage claims.
Posted by varezhka on February 3, 2012 at 2:29 PM · Report this
rob! 6
On the other hand, as we saw in today's Lunchtime Quickie, real textbooks don't seem to be able to transmit knowledge anymore either.

The disconnects/distractions are elsewhere.
Posted by rob! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZBdUceCL5U on February 3, 2012 at 2:30 PM · Report this
7
Eeyup, more of technology for the sake of technology.
Have any thought at all been put into this with regards to the educational impact of doing this? What real benefit does an e-book textbook have over a traditional paper textbook (apart from a nice newspaper headline)? And this is before even talking about the cost, reliability, or backing up of such advantage claims.
Posted by varezhka on February 3, 2012 at 2:33 PM · Report this
8
oops, duplicate
Posted by varezhka on February 3, 2012 at 2:34 PM · Report this
Knat 9
Why do these e-textbooks have to be on a tablet? (I don't own a tablet device, so I don't know much about ebooks.) Are they not available online, so that the teacher can just provide the URL, or the student can access it through the school's website?
Posted by Knat on February 3, 2012 at 2:35 PM · Report this
OuterCow 10
Hey, less kids with back problems though! I still remember my fucking 45 lbs biology textbook with seething hatred.
Posted by OuterCow on February 3, 2012 at 2:38 PM · Report this
11
rob! @6 that may be true to some extent, but I figure it's about working the odds. You saw how some students had retained some facts. I worry that if useful textbooks are made less available as a result of policies pushing *inadequate* e-textbooks in their stead, the odds favor ever more students developing into the likes of Will in Seattle, ever fewer into the likes of you.
Posted by gloomy gus on February 3, 2012 at 2:40 PM · Report this
12
Guys, e-books don't have to be page after page of text. They can have pictures (in color!), graphs and charts and links to websites, embedded videos, interactive features and more.

Do all these exist now? Obviously not. But they will. Get your heads out of the sand.

And the tables probably won't be iPads. There are some great Android tablets out there for a third of the price that will do the job just fine.

Posted by bigyaz on February 3, 2012 at 2:50 PM · Report this
13
unless there is a doodle app that allows you to doodle straight onto the e book so you can draw irreversibly drawn on peni on your friends tablet, then it wont fly
Posted by anal smith on February 3, 2012 at 2:51 PM · Report this
Posted by JonnoN http://www.backnine.org/ on February 3, 2012 at 2:53 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 15
The manufactures of e-books are thrilled and all those jobs they will create ........ in China.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on February 3, 2012 at 2:54 PM · Report this
Fnarf 16
@6, if you got in a time machine and went back to the lunchroom of pretty much any high school in the history of the US, you'd get a similar collection of terrible answers. High school students are close to drowning in a sea of hormones and minimally-processed flood of information about who they are and what they're doing; knowing government and geography facts just isn't important to them, and never has been. They'll be fine.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on February 3, 2012 at 3:09 PM · Report this
17
E-books, and yes E-textbooks are the future. While there will always be a place for physical books as an experience, people need to get over the knee jerk reaction to the very idea of an E-book. And as for "can you take notes etc?", yes, with the right software you can. I do this all the time while reading PDF's, just insert a little sticky note, I even highlight. They aren't inferior if they are made correctly, they contain exactly the same text, pictures (even in color!), graphs, charts etc. And you know what students are spared? (as outer cow points out) having to carry around 45 lbs of textbooks and worrying about damaging them. Hell, if all they are is a "home copy" of the textbook (as a lot of schools send home with students (around here at least)) you wouldn't necessarily even need to provide the kid a tablet. Just send them home with a data stick so that they could transfer the books to a home computer.
Posted by lone locust on February 3, 2012 at 3:19 PM · Report this
Allyn 18
History textbooks are generally regarded as crap. They’re huge, they’re bland (when history can be quite riveting, when written by a decent author), and they try to cover too much. What if, instead of e-text-books, school districts dropped textbooks altogether for some subjects?

History and Social Studies: What if they had reading lists of some of the great writers and had the kids represent their choice in class and used the class time for discussion of the various books they’ve read? Then instead of everyone reading the same words and having nothing to talk about, they could be discussing and teaching each other. And, since these would not be ginormous hugely expensive textbooks, and likely books kids could check out from the library OR buy in e-format, they could use the format they’d prefer. And, since schools wouldn’t be using one book all year long, they could cycle the lessons around various classes which would result in better book purchases altogether (instead of 30 books for 5 classes = 150 copies of one book, they’d have a decent library of 150 differing history books on various times or themes the kids could check out and compare).

Stepping down, now.
Posted by Allyn on February 3, 2012 at 3:30 PM · Report this
Geni 19
@18 - great idea, but it won't work with the current "teach to the test" model which is the most unfortunate legacy of No Child Left Behind (hiss). In order for standardized tests to work, the kids can't be allowed to design their own curriculum in that manner; they all have to absorb and regurgitate the same material, no matter how irrelevant and boring.
Posted by Geni on February 3, 2012 at 3:36 PM · Report this
Allyn 20
@19 oh, yeah, I forgot that part:
Also. get rid of the fucking test. Kids might find learning fun if you let them learn interesting things in interesting ways.

Thanks, Geni!!
Posted by Allyn on February 3, 2012 at 3:43 PM · Report this
Fnarf 21
@18, oh God I could not agree more. I've never seen or used a history textbook that was worth a good goddamn at any grade level. Not just the ineptly handled material, the seemingly deliberate focus on irrelevancies while ignoring the real themes, but also the terrible, terrible writing. Which is a tragedy, because there are SO MANY great, readable history books for general readers out there, books that read like stories, books that might persuade some students that history is in fact interesting and that books are fun to read. The vast majority of students will never in their lives see one of these books unless they make it to college, where the odds are SLIGHTLY better.

It doesn't help that most textbooks are written to standards set down by the mouth-breathing dinosaurs in Texas, leading to all kinds of warped ideas about every subject you can think of, not just the obvious ones like evolution and reproduction.

I just wonder what would happen if a high school history class said "fuck it, we're reading "1491" by Charles Mann instead of this dreck". The students would all fail their standardized tests, but they might be able to write an essay that a sentient adult could stand to read. When I remember my high schooling, the parts I remember most fondly, and which were the most stimulating, were the times we went off the reservation and got down to reality. I had a social studies teacher who played us speeches by Stokely Carmichael! Now, that opened my eyes a lot more than reading "Now, children, Mister Lincoln was born in a log cabin" for the seventh time. Not that we ever actually learned anything interesting about Mister Lincoln.

Now, I have tried to read "1491" on an e-reader, and I can tell you it BLOWS MASSIVE CHUNKS. In the paper book, I was easily able to flip back and forth between the page I was reading, two maps of the region being discussed, the notes section at the back, and the bibliography for further reading with consummate ease, flipping to these locations instantly. On the Kindle, I was fucking around with stupid buttons, and paging, paging, paging, and getting lost, or accidentally going to the beginning or the end, over and over. I can usually find a passage or an illustration I've already read in a couple of seconds in a paper book, flipping to the exact spot just by sight and feel. In an e-book? Fat chance. They're impossible to navigate. The paper book is simply superior TECHNOLOGICALLY.
More...
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on February 3, 2012 at 4:14 PM · Report this
22
@21 I don't have a regular Kindle, but I do use Kindle for Android on my phone, it has a very easy "bookmark" feature so in two button clicks you can set or flip to any bookmark (and you can set many bookmarks). Its a good way to mark maps, illustrations etc. Or mark your place if you need to flip back a section or two to find something.

Posted by lone locust on February 3, 2012 at 4:24 PM · Report this
23
I've been helping a 15 year-old who was issued a iPad through his high school. They had previously been issued laptops but switched to iPads, and e-textbooks, this year. He's already had to replace the iPad once (and had limited or no access to his textbooks during the three week process), and is forced to use the most awkwardly formatted 'books' I've encountered. He also only has access to them when he has wifi access. E-textbooks seem like a wonderful idea, but the current iterations appear to be pure boondoggles.
Posted by dirge on February 3, 2012 at 4:27 PM · Report this
Rotten666 24
@18 I have taught Euro History for a decade and the only time I ever used a textbook was when I was too hung over to teach an actual lesson.

As for etexts for all students, never going to happen. Clearly Obama has never heard of the digital divide.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_div…
Posted by Rotten666 on February 3, 2012 at 5:11 PM · Report this
Annag 25
An entire generation that won't know the pleasure of making book covers out of brown paper bags, and then decorating them with sharpies.
Posted by Annag on February 3, 2012 at 6:07 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 26
@2 Fnarf: I understand where you are coming from if your experience is primarily with the Kindle, but for me it's easy to at least conceive of e-textbooks that would outperform their paper counterparts.

Using your example of a language textbook: an ebook could play aloud native speakers' recorded pronunciation of words and dialogs from the book. It could have a mode where it acted as a flash card deck (key to studying any language), quizzing you on vocab of the current chapter, or all chapters up to the current, or on verb conjugation, or what have you.

It's too bad publishers are so lazy, because I doubt there's much that would incent them to go all out like that. But I can't dismiss ebooks as a category just because the Kindle sucks.
Posted by Free Lunch on February 3, 2012 at 6:24 PM · Report this
Zebes 27
As long as the math "books" still have a big fat section of answers in the back, I'm cool with it.
Posted by Zebes http://www.badrap.org/rescue/index.html on February 3, 2012 at 6:30 PM · Report this
28
Not at all sure if they're ready yet but when decent ereaders are cheaper than a textbook and writers and software know what to do with them it really isn't going to be much of an issue. Yes someone might break or steal an ereader but at that point it'll be cheaper to replace the ereader than to replace the actual books a bully might tear up.

Already my minimally functional ereader has broken. Replacing it cost way less than the content and that content was restored in minutes.

This stuff really doesn't start to make sense until the content is worth more than the device. Otherwise, why bother?

And yes there is a digital divide but when I was a kid it was a freaking chasm. Think calculators. My families first one was an extravagently expensive gift. It didn't have a decimal point.

That Obama wouldn't know about the digital divide is laughable.
Posted by david on February 3, 2012 at 6:38 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 29
other than straight narrative text reading with no notes or anything

You've obviously never used a Kindle.

You can highlight, and add notes and if wifi connected they go right to the web.

Then you can use your browser to cut, paste and integrate with say, a paper or use as notes for studying.

The Kindle e.Ink, which is what they should use, is $79 and that I believe is the actual cost. So that's a mere $80 per student for all their books (plus licensing fees).

If lost, can be easily replaced. Also they can put
cyber locks and even gps trackers on them to prevent theft.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on February 3, 2012 at 6:41 PM · Report this
Fnarf 30
@22, I am aware of this feature. It is infinitely more complicated and difficult to use than a thumb along the edge of the pages. I am OFTEN referring back to places I don't know the exact location of, and certainly haven't put a "bookmark" on, but with thumb-on-edges I can find it within seconds.

If you don't believe me, test me. I'll out-search and out-find your Kindle any day of the week, on any book you can name.

@23 understands what I'm talking about. There are simply practical difficulties to this idea that cheerleaders never understand. I've been hearing about crap like this for thirty years; e-books as usable textbooks are in the same category as "paperless offices". Not real.

@29, you have obviously never read a scholarly book on your Kindle. I'm not talking about TAKING notes, I'm talking about the AUTHOR'S endnotes, usually a large section at the back with all kinds of valuable information. These in theory could be hyperlinked, but they very rarely are; publishers are not interested in loading up their books with additional features like this, even though they've been a standard part of word processing for twenty years or more. Again: not theory, but reality.

GPS trackers, GTFO. Priced one lately? Find me a school district that's eager to find yet another way to spend $100 a year per student. And when the playground bully smashes your e-book over the handlebars of your bicycle, tell me how valuable that service is.

Kindle e-ink, as I have said, is fine for reading text but worthless for annotated nonfiction -- even more worthless than a typical tablet.

Next, let's talk about the size and cost of the support deparment every school district is going to have to establish, to fix all these tablets that get coke spilled in them or viruses installed or hard drives mangled. Most support techs work for free, right?
More...
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on February 3, 2012 at 7:16 PM · Report this
prompt 31
And they'll still cost $200 each. Next.
Posted by prompt on February 3, 2012 at 7:49 PM · Report this
32
@30Fnarf: My E-reader also allows text phrase searching to go back and look for items. However, some of this is going to be personal preference and use style, I find it easier to electronically bookmark relevant sections than "thumbing", but this is just how I work. I read academic literature all day, and most of what I read is online, so I'm used to reading off screens and navigating electronically all the time. I also enjoy knitting while I read and its much much much easier on a kindle, even the kindle on my phone than trying to read,say, a conventional paperback while knitting (though audiobooks in that case trump both).

While I do believe that you (Super Slog Commenter that you are) can outsearch me and my kindle, I'd be far more likely to even have a hope of keeping up with the electronic version than thumbing, it never worked for me in college and it doesn't now (I was one of those people with 1,000 post-its stuck to pages to "tab" through and return to relevant sections) Electronic bookmarks, for my work style work very very well for me. As for authors notes, the Kindle book I'm reading now, as well as the one I just finished, both contain extensive author notes, references and footnotes, and both contained hyperlinks to the relevant section (Which when used in conjunction with the previously mentioned bookmarks make flipping between these remarks and references and the text very easy).
Posted by lone locust on February 3, 2012 at 9:02 PM · Report this
Steven Bradford 33
Wouldn't it be great if the Obama administration actually came out swinging for education? Or students?
Posted by Steven Bradford http://www.seanet.com/~bradford/ on February 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM · Report this
34
@32 in reference to @30 (My home network just went haywire and I had to get the post up or loose it) My main point is I don't think we should just discount e-textbooks out of hand. I think there is a place for them.
Posted by lone locust on February 3, 2012 at 9:15 PM · Report this
ObeyTheFist 35
Huh? Seriously, fnarf, nothing you've claimed is impossible with ebooks is even remotely less possible. Have you ever used an ebook? And, on a non-subjective level, there's proof that ebooks turn out more successful students. http://www.techlearning.com/article/5215…
Posted by ObeyTheFist on February 3, 2012 at 11:52 PM · Report this
36
@2 Yeah. Whenever I hear of the education bureaucracy's latest initiative I always think, have you tried A) smaller class sizes and higher pay for teachers, and maybe B) de-emphasizing education degrees in your recruiting standards? But they can't do A because so much of that funding is controlled by local school districts or B because the teacher's unions won't have it. So instead they come up with initiative after bogus initiative, then can't figure out why our children isn't learning. 
Posted by Prettybetsy on February 4, 2012 at 4:50 AM · Report this
37
@33. Amen

@36 I often wonder: In any given year: how many good, how many crappy and how many outstanding teachers exist. Often the new thing does better at first, whatever it is. Which groups above try the new thing? It isn't the mailing it in group and that by itself might explain a lot.
Posted by david on February 4, 2012 at 7:46 AM · Report this
Timrrr 38
I can't beleive no one has mentioned the bestest part of the E-Textbook thing ever:

They will effectively KILL any hegemony the Texas Board of Education has over the rest of nation's textbook content!

For the last couple decades Texas has been one of the biggest buyers of textbooks in the nation. Since printed textbooks are expensive to publish, as customer numero uno the ultra-conservative Texas Board of Education has been able to set the standard for what publishers will put into textbooks. We've seen the utter debacles in history & science that have resulted from this predicament many, many times of late.

But with the advent of E-Texbooks, printing costs will no longer be a barrier to publication and the buying power of state full of Rick Perrys will cease to be the deciding factor on what gets put into print & available fo all our kiddies to learn from. We won't have to all dumb down to a Texan level any more!

America, you're only getting smarter from here on out!!!

Posted by Timrrr on February 4, 2012 at 7:46 PM · Report this
39
I feel that even though a 5 year plan to have e-textbooks in public education sounds like an unattainable goal, the only thing that I can see holding something like that up is society’s inability to embrace change. If society were to get out of the way of its own inability to move forward utilizing technology with considerable benefits, it could be something American’s could be proud of once again and be attainable. We cannot fear change that is inevitable. E-textbooks are already embedded in higher education and are the way of the future. The longer we wait as a society and culture to improve our wellbeing through education, the longer it will take and the farther behind we as a society will be. We need to stop fearing change and start embracing those things that can improve our way of life in the future, not just tomorrow.

The cost to the student’s family in some parts of America would be a burden, but there are options that have not been discussed in which the government could make it accessible to those family’s that can’t do it themselves. Regular textbooks have a cost: paper, production, distribution, etc., but I think that e-textbooks will ultimately lower cost to the public education system as a whole. The technology would cost more than the supplies required by public education to the families of the students now, but that cost to lower income families could be offset by the cost reduction of e-textbooks to the public education system or at least help give help where it is needed.

I think the only way for America to stay competitive in education is moving forward and implementing the technology that our society has available.
Posted by sir_jondoe@yahoo.com on February 26, 2012 at 9:36 PM · Report this
40
I feel that even though a 5 year plan to have e-textbooks in public education sounds like an unattainable goal, the only thing that I can see holding something like that up is society’s inability to embrace change. If society were to get out of the way of its own inability to move forward utilizing technology with considerable benefits, it could be something American’s could be proud of once again and be attainable. We cannot fear change that is inevitable. E-textbooks are already embedded in higher education and are the way of the future. The longer we wait as a society and culture to improve our wellbeing through education, the longer it will take and the farther behind we as a society will be. We need to stop fearing change and start embracing those things that can improve our way of life in the future, not just tomorrow.

The cost to the student’s family in some parts of America would be a burden, but there are options that have not been discussed in which the government could make it accessible to those family’s that can’t do it themselves. Regular textbooks have a cost: paper, production, distribution, etc., but I think that e-textbooks will ultimately lower cost to the public education system as a whole. The technology would cost more than the supplies required by public education to the families of the students now, but that cost to lower income families could be offset by the cost reduction of e-textbooks to the public education system or at least help give help where it is needed.

I think the only way for America to stay competitive in education is moving forward and implementing the technology that our society has available.
Posted by sir_jondoe@yahoo.com on February 26, 2012 at 9:40 PM · Report this

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