It reads like something out of a science-fiction book. Kids no longer use dated textbooks. Instead, they walk into a classroom, sit down, and use high-tech devices that are fully interactive, paperless, and let students learn subject matter in an entirely new way. Here’s the thing: it’s not science fiction. It’s science fact. The Albuquerque public school system has adopted a new form of textbook – called the tech book.
What Are Tech Books?
Instead of using textbooks, some Albuquerque schools will use “tech books,” but what are they? These books are actually computers. The “books” are virtual, provided by a 3rd party that specializes in providing educational materials via the web. Essentially, students will be using the Internet as a gateway to course materials.
Tech books have multiple advantages over traditional textbooks:
- They don’t need replacing. Tech books are completely digital. They’ll never wear out. They’ll never need replacing due to physical damage. Over the long-term, this saves on waste and replacement costs.
- They’re always up to date. Textbooks have a problem. As soon as they are published, they start becoming dated. Teachers are often left to suffer with textbooks that contain old or inaccurate data. For example, classes oriented around global studies, history, or world studies will be out of date every few years. Most schools can’t afford to repurchase texts to keep up. With tech books, this is a non-issue.
- They are interactive. Tech books can make extensive use of quizzes to test student knowledge. They can also tailor the educational experience to the unique needs of the child. This is simply not possible with textbooks.
- They offer a true multi-media experience. With textbooks, you have printed words. With tech books, you have video, audio, and print. There are more ways to learn, and each child can learn in a manner most appropriate to him or her.
The Role of Discovery Education
Albuquerque has partnered with a leader in education to bring tech books to schools: Discovery Education. Discovery Education is the organization behind the Discovery Channel – which is known for its educational programming. For its trial, the tech book program will be utilized by thirty four students and teachers across both regular and alternative high schools.
This more modern way of learning can allow students to follow along with live interactions like the NASA mars rover experiment and study history in real-time, “as-it-happens” (i.e. presidential elections). Said Meressa Mullins, “It’s going to be a lot faster and I think things are going to be like when something happens, you’re going to know about it and everything’s going to be to date instead of having a text book from like five years ago and using it now when it’s a completely different president or something.”
The cost to the school system is reported to be about $11 million. This money will come from the APS general budget which has traditionally been used to pay for paper text books. The district also plans to use some of its new bond money to purchase more equipment that will compliment the new tech books.