News / USA

Online Textbooks Update Student Learning

Washington-area school system turns to e-books

June Soh

Electronic books, or e-books, have changed the way many of us read for pleasure. Now digital text books - educational volumes which are read online - are transforming the way many students learn. The Washington region’s largest school system, with 175,000 students, has begun using online course material for its middle- and high-school students.

History teacher Luke Rosa wheels his cart filled with laptops into a classroom at Falls Church High School in Virginia. He asks his students to look to Chapter 6, Section 1, on Jacksonian America. Rather than using a regular textbook, it's all online.

This school year, Fairfax County Public Schools shifted from hard cover to electronic textbooks for social studies in its middle and high schools. The switch came after digital books were used in 15 schools last year.

“Our students come to us technologically savvy and ready to utilize resources from a variety of different places,” says Assistant Superintendent Peter Noonan, who points to the benefits of electronic textbooks, such as the ability to update content. "The world is changing consistently. The online textbooks can change right along with the events that are happening.”

There's a significant financial benefit as well.

“Usually it is in the neighborhood of between $50 and $70 to buy a textbook for each student," Noonan says, "which adds up to roughly $8 million for all of our students in Fairfax County. We actually have purchased all of the online textbooks for our students for just under $6 million.”

Students have mixed feelings about the switch, but most like it.

“I do not have to carry a textbook around, so that is nice,” says high school student Melanie Reuter.

Fellow student Maria Stephany isn't completely sold on the concept. “I don’t like it because the internet sometimes doesn’t work.”

“You can highlight your work," says high schooler Brian Tran. "You can leave notes on your work and it will all be saved onto your account. It is a lot better than a regular textbook.”

Social studies teacher Michael Bambara thinks so, too.

“Particularly this book, that I use in government, has differentiated reading levels," Bambara says. "So a person can individualize their learning and I can individualize their instruction.”

However, making sure all students have online access outside school remains a challenge. About 10 percent of students in Fairfax County don’t have a computer or online access at home.

Stephen Castillo is one of them, but he makes it work. “Pretty much go to the library, I guess, or go to a friend’s house.”

Besides the public library’s free computer terminals, students can also use the school's after-school computer lab, or go to  one of the computer club houses supported by the county.

“All of my family works on a computer, my sister and me both do our homework on it," says Slieman Hakim, a middle school student. "So I come here to do my homework. It is good.”

Neighboring counties are also considering online textbooks. Gladys Whitehead, director of Curriculum of Prince George’s County Public Schools, says its survey shows 60 percent of students have computer access at home.

“Next year we will just have a pilot with probably one classroom and one subject area, so that we can see what issues will come up with complete online access.”

Meanwhile, Peter Noonan foresees a future without traditional textbooks for his young child.

“I envision a future where my third grade son will likely not being carrying five textbooks back and forth between high school and home when he gets there. I think he will be carrying either a tablet or some sort of device that he will be able to access his information on.”

And schools, he says, are taking the first steps in that direction now.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid