TheTechProfe's Blog

Learnings about technology integration in education from a local ed tech head in the Monterey Bay.

iPads, Arnold’s push on free digital textbooks may intersect

By Tom Chorneau, School Innovations & Advocacy

The second phase of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s free digital textbook initiative moved ahead Wednesday – the same day that Apple Computer released its much anticipated iPad, which some media experts say may revolutionize reading habits worldwide.

Schwarzenegger launched his program last spring in an effort to help connect publishers of free digital textbooks that met the state’s rigorous academic standards with California high school classrooms.

The first phase focused on high school geometry, algebra II, trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, biology/life science and earth science. The second phase calls for publishers and authors to submit digital texts covering linear algebra; probability and statistics; world history, culture and geography; U.S. history and geography; American democracy; and economics.

After some skepticism that the campaign would produce tangible results, the governor’s office reported in August that 16 digital math and science textbooks were submitted, ten of which met at least 90 percent of state standards, and four met 100 percent of state standards.

“Resources like digital textbooks play a critical role in our 21st century educational landscape, and expanding my first-in-the-nation initiative will provide local school districts additional high-quality free resources to help prepare California's students to compete in the global marketplace," said Schwarzenegger in a statement.

While there is no direct link between the governor’s campaign and Apple’s newly released iPad, curriculum content experts are already looking ahead to a day when students no longer slug a backpack of books from class to class but instead glean their lessons from tablet computers.

Brian Bridges, director California Learning Resource Network which is responsible for ensuring proposed digital texts are aligned to the California content standards, said perhaps the most exciting news from today’s Apple announcement is that the iPad will work off an open-source system – or a non-proprietary program that will allow content to be shared between devices and users.

“We expect that the open source will revolutionize the text book industry,” he said. “The iPad represents a dramatic shift in eBook formats.”

David Richey, spokesman for the governor’s Secretary of Education Glen Thomas, said Schwarzenegger’s focus is on digital texts that aren’t reliant on hardware like the iPad but rather a “flexible resource” that can be printed, protected on a screen and e-mailed.

That said, the governor’s campaign seeks to incorporate changes in technology as they become available, according to Richey.