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Electronic textbooks

This is interesting.

[State Rep. Dan] Branch won unanimous approval for HB 4294, which would require the Texas education commissioner to adopt a list of electronic textbooks and instructional materials from which schools could select electronic textbooks or instructional materials to purchase.

It’s time that school districts allow students to use computers to access more information electronically, Branch said. It also will save money.

According to the House Research Organization bill analysis, the bill would “give school districts the ability to purchase electronic books or other instructional materials that were vetted and less expensive, rather than being forced to buy textbooks that sit in a warehouse. Around the state, warehouses are filled with unused printed textbooks due to reluctance to issue textbooks to each student for fear they might lose or damage them. When each textbook costs on average between $50 and $75, it becomes clear that the state must be smarter about the use of state dollars.”

How often do schools really not give out textbooks because of fear they may get lost? I wouldn’t have thought that would be permissible – aren’t all students supposed to receive whatever materials they’re entitled to? Be that as it may, I think this bill is reasonable. If electronic textbooks make sense in certain situations and can save money, then they should be allowed. Who knows, maybe some day we’ll issue kids a Kindle or something like it and deliver all textbooks that way.

I had not heard of this bill before Saturday, and if it passed unanimously without me coming across any alarms from the education community and its supporters, I figure it must be okay, or at least innocuous. But not everyone feels that way.

Although no lawmakers protested, there is some opposition. Texas Insider Publisher Jim Cardle has asked his subscribers to call legislators. Cardle calls the bill, which has not yet cleared the Senate, “a blatant vendor bill that will allows computer companies, not textbook providers, to sell Texas low-end equipment that will become dated in two to four years.”

As you know, I don’t consider Cardle or Texas Insider to be a particularly credible source. I did receive the email Cardle sent out about this, which I’ve reproduced beneath the fold. I think he’s being overwrought, but you can judge for yourself.

Despite the fact that virtually every reading or math textbook your local ISD purchases these days comes with complimentary online or CD features for use in the classroom, House Bill 4294, authored by Rep. Dan Branch (R-Highland Park) and scheduled for debate tomorrow, Saturday, May 2nd , will divert state funds from textbooks to unproven instructional materials based in technological equipment.

The legislation is very clear — The state textbook fund may be used to purchase technological equipment.

This is a bad idea — and the majority of Texas citizens agree.

But the technology lobbyists are out in full force, trying to pressure Legislators to pass a bill forcing taxpayers to fund laptops & technology that teachers don’t yet know how to use, and most children aren’t familiar with.

Do laptops or technology in the classroom raise academic achievement? NO!

In January 2008 the Evaluation of the Texas Technology Immersion Pilot: Outcomes for the 3rd Year (2006-07 ) report was released (http://www.tcer.org/research/etxtip/documents/y3_etxtip_quan.pdf ), and guess what? Based on four solid years of research, There were no statistically significant effects of (technology) immersion on the TAKS Reading & Writing.Laptops on every desk did not raise student achievement in the most important education skills a student ever learns — reading & writing.

In two polls conducted by Baselice & Associates over the last five years, 74% of Texas voters agree! We cannot replace content with technology, and the state must invest in both textbooks and computer technology.

85% of Texas voters also want textbook funding protected to ensure that money in the Permanent School Fund (PSF) is used for up-to-date math & reading textbooks, not for unproven uses like technology.

Yes, technology is changing — fast. That’s why publishers have already been developing and offering comprehensive learning systems for Texas’ public schools in both print and electronic forms. Instructional materials are much more than just textbooks, and textbook publishers already offer digital versions of their products for school districts to make flexible and informed choices on classroom implementation.

Please help support the Texas Legislature spending the constitutionally dedicated PSF funds to fully fund new Reading, Language Arts & Reading textbook materials, and call the Representatives below to say we strongly oppose diverting money for purchasing technology.

HB 4294 is a blatant vendor bill that will allows computer companies, not textbook providers, to sell Texas low-end equipment that will become dated in two to four years.

Make your voices heard — ask the Texas House to please Vote NO on H.B. 4294 today!

“It is undeniable that today’s students are geared toward a technology-centered approach to learning, and allocating more resources for the purchase of hardware and software is the best way to match the delivery of content to our children’s learning preferences. However, improved delivery is not a substitute for robust and relevant curriculum. If you fund technology but not content, you have nothing.” — State Rep. Donna Howard, Dist. 48, Austin , December 17, 2008, Austin American-Statesman

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