Yesterday, the FCC and Dept. of Education hosted a roundtable with technology executives and leaders of education groups about creating a similar program in the U.S. Only in this case, the discussion was not on the importance of computing, or the ability to access knowledge and information from around the world, or of being creative and contributing to that content and knowledge base. Rather, it was focused on the potential savings of using digital textbooks.
"Other nations like South Korea and Turkey are racing to seize the opportunities of digital textbooks," FCC Chair Genachowski said. "We need to step up our efforts to realize the promise of this new technology in the U.S."While there are significant advantages to digital textbooks from both a content perspective (easier, more rapid updating, ability to incorporate multimedia, integration with references, etc.) and on the cost end (savings in printing, distribution, storage, replacing damaged copies, etc.) - what will make American children globally competitive is not cheaper textbooks, but being digitally literate and innovative. Tablets (or laptops) can be so much more than a textbook display device, and that's what the push to get them in students' hands should be about. Instead of focusing merely on stripped-down low-cost e-Readers for digital textbooks, we should aim higher and try to get more flexible and powerful devices (laptops, netbooks, or full-feature tablets) to students, and encourage their use across the board in schools and elsewhere - for reading textbooks, watching educational videos, accessing information, doing papers and projects, and even for recreation and ripping and mixing their own mash-ups.
Sources - FCC pushes for tablet computers in schools, The Hill