If Education?Secretary Arne Duncan has his way, students will soon spend a lot more time on the computer doing homework. We're not sure that's a good thing.
Duncan is calling for the United States to switch from printed textbooks to digital textbooks as soon as possible. The idea raises a number of issues, although the switch would have some welcome changes.
Digital formats could be updated far more easily than purchasing updated printed textbook versions, and digital editions would offer interactive learning enhancement opportunities through video and other methods. The majority of today's students are already computer-savvy, and many already spend time on a computer or other electronic device as part of their daily homework routine. But we know many of them spend much of their free time using some sort of electronic device, be it a cell phone, laptop, Ipod, Ipad or other such gadget. Is even more time a good thing?
Duncan's goal has significant challenges, too. Ensuring that every student has access to a computer or other electronic device would be difficult for both small and large school districts. And what about the cost? Could the Minot Public School District afford the technology necessary to make such a system work? Could smaller schools, like Glenburn or Sawyer, afford it?
Duncan's proposal has merit, and switching to digital textbooks will certainly be welcomed by some school districts around the country. But we wouldn't expect every district to rush into making such a monumental switch in learning environment simply because while it sounds great, it's just not that easy to accomplish.