Recently adopted books exemplify new tech

Heavy backpacks might not be a concern of local doctors and parents for too much longer. The Region 16 Board of Education recently approved the adoption of three new Glencoe science books that come with software and access to an interactive website, which provides study tools and resources to students.  Though web resources have not yet fully replaced the physical textbook, Region 16 Superintendent Jim Agostine has a vision for the future.

“I anticipate that within a couple of years, textbook companies will somehow figure out an economically feasible way of providing textbooks via an electronic device,” he said. “There’s some of that going on now, but it’s limited. I’m hopeful that down the road, we’ll see more of this.”

Woodland Regional High School Science Department Chairwoman Jill Blasi presented three new science books to the Board of Education at its regular meeting last Wednesday. She emphasized the importance of the software included with the new editions of physics and chemistry books.

Woodland biology teacher Valery Fortney assisted Blasi by telling the board how students use the websites already. She said her students use the site for homework help, self-quizzes and flashcards.
All three books were adopted, and will be ordered for the 2010-11 school year.

Agostine agreed with the decision. “[Things like that] motivate us to watch for this, and that’s one of the reasons you might want to opt for new text — because you have better resources at a student’s fingertips,” he said in a phone interview last week.

Woodland Principal Dr. Arnold Frank added, “I think it’s a possibility. I think we’re on the verge of all kinds of new ways at looking at things because of what we have available with new technology. I could foresee a time where textbooks are obsolete. I think that time is coming quicker than we can imagine.”

Yet as technology’s impact on classroom learning grows, Agostine worries some students do not have equal access to tech tools outside of school.

“You always have to be conscious of the kids that may not have online capabilities outside school,” Agostine said. “That’s one of the reasons why we provide facilities within the schools for students to access, especially for class work and projects.”

Glencoe’s website provides supplemental materials for over 20 subjects in skill levels ranging from middle school through high school honors and Advanced Placement. Each book has its own webpage with links to chapter reviews, study guides, teacher materials, games and activities to reinforce material covered. According to Agostine, this has the potential to save schools a lot of money on new editions of books in years to come.

“One of the reasons you update textbooks is not just because there’s necessarily new information,” said Agostine. “If you take a history book, for instance, over a five-year period, the vast majority of the book will probably be unchanged, but the delivery mechanisms and supplemental materials may change dramatically.”

Region 16 is not yet in a position to seriously consider the switch to book-free classrooms, despite a recent explosion in the popularity of E-Readers, which allow users to download virtually any text onto one screen, where it can be accessed at users’ convenience.

“We’re not at any kind of implementation stage,” Agostine said. “We’re studying it. We’re looking at it and keeping an eye on the marketplace. If and when such a time occurs, we have that ability.”