Asumag 2494 Susan 2013v4

Editor's Focus: Turning the Page

Aug. 1, 2009
Digital learning: tomorrow's reality?

I'll admit it: When it comes to books, I'm a little old-fashioned. For me, curling up with a good book actually involves turning pages. And I still like checking out books at the library.

But the next generation of students may wonder if Dewey Decimal is some sort of math superhero. Turning the page of a book may be accompanied by a sigh and deep breath. Some kids may consider it exercise.

Vail School District (Ariz.) has been proactive in taking technology head on when it comes to digital learning. The “Beyond Textbooks” initiative encourages teachers to create lessons that incorporate Power-Point presentations, along with videos and research materials from the Internet.

The initiative is powered by the Vail Interactive Curriculum Calendar Initiative (VICCI), an instructional tool designed to promote creativity that lets teachers broaden their instruction styles. An important component is enabling teachers to house and share information.

At Empire High School, Vail, Ariz., students use computers to get lessons, do homework and listen to lectures via podcasts. At neighboring Cienega High School, students who have laptops can register for “digital sections” of some English, science and history classes.

Some arguments for going digital:

  • Kids think differently these days and can't be locked in with just one textbook of the printed page for a class. They need more resources, whether it's from Web courseware, games or videos.

  • It's cheaper. This summer, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced an initiative that would replace some high school math and science texts with free digital versions.

  • It's healthier. No more carrying around heavy backpacks.

  • Instant updates. Some textbooks are outdated as soon as they are printed.

Of course, digital technology also requires a way to view it, whether it is a computer, a digital reader or cell phone with those capabilities, and many students and districts don't see this as a reality for many years to come. So for now, I won't be turning in my library card.

Lustig is executive editor of AS&U.

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