Are textbooks history?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 4, 2013

All printed textbooks could become history for the four high schools in the Covington County School System.

Within the next two years, the system expects to replace printed books with electronic tablets, Superintendent Terry Holley said Tuesday.

Holley said the system is beginning to work on infrastructure issues that would allow students to put away backpacks filled with heavy textbooks and put their educational instruction materials at their fingertips.

“The key is infrastructure, and we’re in the process of updating ours now,” Holley said. “And within the next two years, we need to start implementing things. We’re working toward that goal.”

One local infrastructure project example is installing wi-fi service at every school.

“It’s exciting, the new challenges that are out there,” he said. “But it is the way of the future, and we need to prepare for it.”

On Tuesday, the discussion began after the board adopted the entire list of state-adopted language arts textbooks for the 2013-2014 school year. Included with those – as well as the entire library of system textbooks – are downloadable electronic versions, said Carrie Patterson, the system’s textbook coordinator.

“Everything is going digital,” Patterson said. “There is money out there to help with these projects. This year, we budgeted $313,000 for new textbooks. In the future, as things progress, we would route that budget item to equipment.”

Patterson said because of the cost, education professionals generally prefer tablets over the iPad.

Called “one-to-one” programs, the tablets would be loaded with textbook material and each tablet would typically follow the student through their high school career. Holley said students would be unable to clear browsing and downloading histories and would be responsible for the device.

“That’s the way near-by systems are doing it,” Holley said. “And the great thing about using tablets is that the electronic textbooks are continuously updated, whereas with textbooks, if a history changing event happens, that electronic textbook is updated just like that.”