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You are all aware of the terrible financial crisis in California... and the subsequent failure of bond measures that were designed to help alleviate a portion of that crisis.

Well, since that failure, there have been all sorts of new ideas on what to cut out of the budget.  

The newest bid to save the state money, proposed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, is the idea of converting public schools to digital, rather than print text books.

Some of his arguments in favor of the switch are compelling.  However, I wonder about the consequences he left out of his glossy sales pitch.

Details below the fold.

He lays out his case in a recent op-ed piece in the San Jose Mercury News.

California is home to software giants, bioscience research pioneers and first-class university systems known around the world. But our students still learn from instructional materials in formats made possible by Gutenberg's printing press.

It's nonsensical — and expensive — to look to traditional hard-bound books when information today is so readily available in electronic form. Especially now, when our school districts are strapped for cash and our state budget deficit is forcing further cuts to classrooms, we must do everything we can to untie educators' hands and free up dollars so that schools can do more with fewer resources.

It's a bit of weak introduction, but I'll keep reading (for the children's sake, of course!)

Starting with high school math and science books, this initiative paves the way for easier access to free digital texts in California's schools. By frequently updating texts as they are developed, rather than continuing to teach from outdated textbooks, we will better prepare our students.

...

If California is to remain competitive in an increasingly global economy, this initial focus on math and science texts is critical.

I think science books are a good place to focus.  The pace of discovery and innovation in biology, chemistry and technology are staggering, and printed text books are bound (no pun intended!) to be out of date before they reach classrooms.

However, the discoveries in the field of math research are way beyond high school level. Even if a high school is teaching through college level calculus, nothing is likely to make those texts outdated.  So I'm not sure if that makes as much sense.  I can possibly see that there may be an argument for innovative math teaching methods being more quickly integrated.

I think that math and science are absolutely critical in education.  But, I wonder if this initiative should be expanded to include history, civics, and economics.  We are living in very interesting times in those areas, and there it nothing like relating concepts to student's real-life experiences to help students learn and retain memory of those principles.

California must take the lead on using 21st century technology to expand learning and serve our students, parents, teachers and schools better.

...

These kinds of digital instructional materials are rapidly becoming available. Across the state and around the world, well-respected educators have designed customizable texts to meet the unique needs of their students. Federal grants have funded research that is free for public use. And now California has put out an initial call to content developers, asking that they submit high school math and science digital texts for our review. We hope the floodgates are open. We'll ensure the digital texts meet and exceed California's rigorous academic standards, and we'll post the results of our review online as a reference for high school districts to use in time for fall 2009.

...

Last year, the state earmarked $350 million for school books and other instructional materials. Imagine the savings schools could realize by using these high-quality, free resources. Even if teachers have to print out some of the material, it will be far cheaper than regularly buying updated textbooks.

So here is some of the meat of the proposal.  

It's an obvious requirement that these resources are free.  Otherwise, we wouldn't save save much money.  But it's nice that he already has an initiative as a starting point.  

The fact that they will be vetted to current educational standards is also a strength of the proposal. It would be dumb to sacrifice the quality of education for the sake of balancing the budget.  That is especially true when the state considers long-term benefits of well-educated tax-payers (they make more money, so they pay more taxes, plus they are more likely to be innovators and technology developers).

In my opinion, the biggest weakness of the proposal comes in that last paragraph... the savings seems piddly in light of a $25 billion deficit.  The governor quotes a figure of $350 million dollars?  And that was for the whole state, for all text books and "other instructional materials".

The proposal is only for high school science and math texts.  Which can only be a fraction of the $350 million. Even if this initiative saves a third of that total (which is probably generous, but I don't know exactly), that is only about $115 million.  So that is less than half of a percent of the state budget deficit.  Unless Arnie has another 200 of these initiatives up his sleeve, it's silly to even propose that it's part of the solution to the budget crisis.

In theory it sounds like a good idea.  But the sales pitch is misdirected.  It should focus squarely on what it will accomplish... bringing the most current information to the students.

And furthermore, the program needs to be designed so that it does not have serious unintended consequences.  For example, we need to be assured that children who do not have internet access at home will not be put at a disadvantage by this move.  The children who fall into that category are likely to have a host of other disadvantages already, let's not make their lives any harder.

Originally posted to Hopefully Skeptical on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:45 PM PDT.

Poll

Do you think it is a good idea to move public schools to digital text books?

14%20 votes
37%53 votes
17%24 votes
24%35 votes
6%9 votes

| 141 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (22+ / 0-)

    "My greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome." -Barack Obama 10/16/08

    by Hopeful Skeptic on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:45:14 PM PDT

    •  Speaking of textbooks, something has to be done (4+ / 0-)

      about college textbooks. I've paid up to $100 for books that go out of edition 5 months later. Something to solve this, however, would not save the state money but rather cost it more, but it needs to be done at some point. Public colleges in general need to be more affordable.

      Regarding Arnold's proposal, I support it, assuming issues which you mention (ie. Internet access) are taken into account.

      If you are planning simultaneous tea bagging all around the country, you're going to need a Dick Armey. - David Shuster

      by Big Danny on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:23:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I find it interesting how evenly split the poll (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      theran

      results are.

      Currently:

      Yes = 39 (7 educators)

      No = 35 (13 educators)

      "My greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome." -Barack Obama 10/16/08

      by Hopeful Skeptic on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:27:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it's still pretty even (0+ / 0-)

        However, among educators, No votes are almost 2 to 1 over Yes votes.  

        So, at least in my sample, it looks like the "general public" is more likely to like the idea of the switch to digital.  But as a group, educators are pretty strongly opposed.

        Interesting...

        Currently:

        Yes = 54 (11 educators)

        No = 48 (19 educators)

        I need to get Nate Silver to analyze these results!  (Too bad it's not a properly collected survey...)

        "My greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome." -Barack Obama 10/16/08

        by Hopeful Skeptic on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 11:26:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Umm... (23+ / 0-)

    Textbooks aren't expensive because of the medium the come on. They're expensive because the textbook industry is a collaborative monopoly...

    "I care not about your political problems. These men are heretics ... of The Empire. It is my duty as an Inquisitor of His Grace to see them dead."

    by Cofcos on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:48:58 PM PDT

  •  Digital isn't all that it's cracked up to be (13+ / 0-)

    It's not the answer that people want it to be either.

    How are the poor supposed to afford the computers on which to read these texts? Will the state provide them?

    And don't even get me started on copyright and royalty issues.

    •  Hell, _I'll_ start (5+ / 0-)

      Most of the cost is likely already in the form of licenses and rights.

      The devil's not only in the details here; it's in the the fine print.

      "If another country builds a better car, we buy it. If they make a better wine, we drink it. If they have better healthcare . . . what's our problem? "

      by mbayrob on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:52:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  true... but he does point out (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sychotic1, Pris from LA, rossl, Olon

        that the texts they are considering are freely available.

        "My greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome." -Barack Obama 10/16/08

        by Hopeful Skeptic on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:53:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Which begs the question... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cocinero, rossl, Hopeful Skeptic

          just how good are they? People rarely write things of quality and offer the up for free!

          •  The complete works of Dickens are available (6+ / 0-)

            online for free.  Twain.  Pride and Prejudice.  Okay, this doesn't solve the economic quetion for textbook authoring, but for literature classes it could go a LONG way.  

            "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

            by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:03:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  If any of those were (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              voracious

              currently being used as part of English programs sure. But they aren't where I'm at. Most things in the public domaine are so old they are only read by classic majors.

              ANd I don't think teachers should be limited to what is free.

              •  Good stuff is getting produced (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                lgmcp, Mithridates, wondering if, Olon

                Universities are starting to produce materials and make them available under public license.  The best of this material is as good as any other you'll find.  MIT started doing this years ago with their courseware (as they call it), and some of this stuff is just superb.  And because it's freely available, it's used all over the world.

                But you're right this takes money, in particular for K-12.  So we fund it.  The advantage of digital distribution is that it's easy for states to cooperate, and for the curriculum to get split up across many authorities, since the economics of digital distribution are so different from traditional printing.

                My problem here is that we're not set up to produce publicly licensed content on this scale, and that the institutions at the state level that do these things are largely in the pocket of the large publishers, who will not want to see their business effectively socialized.  Even if thee are real economic advantages to socializing the preparation of educational materials.

                "If another country builds a better car, we buy it. If they make a better wine, we drink it. If they have better healthcare . . . what's our problem? "

                by mbayrob on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:19:46 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  But the type of thing that Arnold is talking abou (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  mijita, trs

                  is putting the cart before the horse. I bet most of the schools aren't even wired for the sized of data transfers that would be required for this technology.

                  I worked at library once that shared a network connection with a small school. When the kids were using the computers everything was so slow that e-mails would time out before being sent.

                  •  They aren't. He has no clue. (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    mijita, MsLibrarian, Olon, trs

                    Our school computers barely run powerpoint. Computer technology is a more short-term investment than math textbooks.

                    There is also no tech staff at public schools to make this stuff work.

                    Maybe if they did't have to adopt new curriculum every 7 years this wouldn't be such an expensive proposition.

                    "Sean Hannity...he's the guy who put the 'a' in moron" - Jed Lewison

                    by voracious on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:25:55 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Huh? (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    wondering if

                    The school can't download one copy of each text the school needs once each year? I think this is a dumb idea for other reasons, but each student doesn't need to download their own copy.

                    ...we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.
                    -- Pres. Barack H. Obama, Jan. 20, 2009

                    by davewill on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:49:44 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  ONe copy for each student. (0+ / 0-)

                      How else are they doing to make this work? share one text between them all??>

                      •  The school downloads one copy and then (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Hopeful Skeptic

                        loads it onto all the readers (or laptops or ipods or Etch-A-Sketches, or whatever the heck Arnold thinks we're going to use).

                        ...we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.
                        -- Pres. Barack H. Obama, Jan. 20, 2009

                        by davewill on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:02:13 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  So the costs saved (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          davewill, Hopeful Skeptic

                          by going digital are eaten up by the salaries of teh tech people needed to do work like you are suggesting.

                          I'm not fighting with you. I"m just saying that this idea,that it's acost saving measure, is silly. It won't be.

                          •  I agree, I just didn't think (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            MsLibrarian, Hopeful Skeptic

                            that the school networks were the issue. I've been working with and rooting for digital publishing since the first CD-ROM drives came out. I programmed the first ever edition of the World Book on CD-ROM (for MS-DOS in 1988 if you can believe it). There is no bigger fan of electronic publishing than me.

                            If we were talking about developing it over the next 10-20 years, we might get somewhere, but to tout it as a short term money saver?

                            Insanity.

                            ...we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.
                            -- Pres. Barack H. Obama, Jan. 20, 2009

                            by davewill on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:17:33 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                  •  e-books generally aren't that large (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Hopeful Skeptic

                    there's a movement that is digitizing college level text books and putting on-line as torrents (meaning piracy, but that's a different topic).  Those books run in the range of 2 to 40 megabytes, most books woulds be in the smaller end if generated from the original files used for typesetting.

                    Distributing within a school using P2P methods would easy bandwidth requirements some, as much of the transfers could happen at the local router level; the connect to the Internet would only be needed to get the first copy.

            •  Those aren't the expensive texts. (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              otto, MsLibrarian, northLondonLiberal, trs

              Paperback copies of the classics are less than $5 a book so long as it's just the 19th century text.  It's the 21st century critical analysis and study guides that cost -- and those would continue to cost.

              And, as someone who teaches lit, there's no comparison between being able to take notes on a paper copy and trying to teach close reading of an online text.

              the third eye does not weep. it knows. Political compass: -9.75 / -8.72

              by mijita on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:19:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And I bought my kids their own copies... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                mijita

                because I EXPECTED them to mark them up. Sure, sure, I know they have digital markup, but it's just not the same.

                ...we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.
                -- Pres. Barack H. Obama, Jan. 20, 2009

                by davewill on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:47:31 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  O really? (0+ / 0-)

            For someone who styles herself a "librarian" you are unbelievably ignorant.

    •  Digital readers have a lot of problems (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sychotic1, trs

      they're either fragile (as is the Kindle or laptops) or bulky.  They're also far more likely to be stolen than a text book

      Examples of fragility?  In the past year, a friend has gone through two Kindles by dropping either the reader itself or the bag it was in.  My husband trashed a new MacBook by accidently splashing the soda he was opening.  I've broken an ipod by dropping it.   In the past decade I've damaged two laptops.  And we're all adults and reasonably careful.

      Who is going to make a computer / reader sturdy enough to be carried back and forth to school every day by 12 or 13 year olds?  When this was reported in the LA Times last week everyone at work was wondering how the Gov planned on getting the computers / readers to fare better than the mobile phones their kids use that seem to need replacing every 3 - 6 months.

      And they like their phones.

      the third eye does not weep. it knows. Political compass: -9.75 / -8.72

      by mijita on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:14:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  OLPC (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mijita, debedb, Mithridates, fastpathguru, Olon

        The One Laptop Per Child products are designed to be robust basic machines that students can carry. They have shown success in trial in Africa where they are taken home to evening study. On the other hand they are treasured and therefore protected by the children.

        There are some merits to Arnie's suggestions. There would be considerable environmental savings in producing the books (deforestation, water pollution for paper manufacturing) and distributing them.

        On line text are widely available for teachers in England where there is a national curriculum. I was under the distinct impression that US schools or local school boards can decide to teach or not whatever they want. Is there a core curriulum requiring certain subjects be taught?

        "My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza." Sir Gerald Kaufman MP

        by Lib Dem FoP on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:53:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Computer labs are junk. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mijita, tdub, trs

      Is math class cancelled when the computers are down?

      "Sean Hannity...he's the guy who put the 'a' in moron" - Jed Lewison

      by voracious on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:24:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Who gets to sell the digital readers? (6+ / 0-)

    Since not all children have access to digital readers, this begs the question as to how they get access to these digital texts.  I'm guessing the state contracts out the sale of Kindles or something similar.

    It's also worth pointing out that cost of production isn't the reason textbooks are so expensive.  It's the rights.  If you let the textbook companies sell their product as digital media and don't control prices appropriately, you're just making them more profitable, and you may not be helping the states at all.

    "If another country builds a better car, we buy it. If they make a better wine, we drink it. If they have better healthcare . . . what's our problem? "

    by mbayrob on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:50:40 PM PDT

    •  I think they will be online texts (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mijita, LtdEdishn, Pris from LA, rossl, trs

      so they will need computers, not digital readers.

      But it's a problem either way for the kids who come from low-income homes.

      "My greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome." -Barack Obama 10/16/08

      by Hopeful Skeptic on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:52:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Computer is a digital reader (7+ / 0-)

        This still begs the question of who makes sure that kids get access to some device that will display the digital texts, since many children do not have access to computers outside of school.

        "If another country builds a better car, we buy it. If they make a better wine, we drink it. If they have better healthcare . . . what's our problem? "

        by mbayrob on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:54:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I think the schools will provide digital readers (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pris from LA, Hopeful Skeptic

        though hopefully a less proprietary device than Kindles.  Issue one to each kid.

        There would be a gnarly transition, but it could be great in the long run.  Think of how much lighter those backpacks would be!  

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:02:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They provide one.. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mijita, Pris from LA

          but as I said in another post...but then it breaks, or get drops, or gets wet, etc.

          Books will still dry out on a kitchen counter!

          Just because the technology is there doesn't mean it's a good idea to use them. Not when a good chunk of the world will be left behind.

        •  One how often? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          socratic, lgmcp, Pris from LA

          Based on how often teenagers mobile phone break or go missing, we'd be looking at every 3 - 6 months.  Heck, my adult friends can't seem to make their Kindles last though more than a year or so of daily commuting.

          the third eye does not weep. it knows. Political compass: -9.75 / -8.72

          by mijita on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:16:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We're not far (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

            from cheap, ubiquitous e-ink devices. Maybe 5 years for something like the smaller Kindle (black and white, relatively small screen).  Engineer that thing to be waterproof, and you've "only" got to worry about physical destruction, but even then the devices won't be $400 like the Kindle is today (and a large part of that cost is the lifetime wireless plan).

            I don't think we're there yet, but ebooks on some variant of e-ink displays are perfect for this sort of thing, provided they can be made relatively robust, cheap, and student friendly.  I wouldn't be surprised to see supplemental paper texts for classroom note-taking, with the reader used for study and reference.

            Goodness knows I'd like to see my niece and nephew's bookbags lightened by a factor of 20 or more.

            Someone is wrong on the Internet! To the Kosmobile!

            by socratic on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 08:10:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Ummm... (5+ / 0-)

        ...I am SURE the State decommissions enough laptops to handle those without the means to grab a $300 Netbook. The state standardizes on Ubuntu GNU/Linux, which is free as in beer as well as free as in free speech. A standard load of Ubuntu includes a PDF reader.

        There is a movement afoot, spurred by the astronomical cost of college textbooks, to put out competing Creative Commons and GNU Doc License textbooks for students. Here's one article on what's going on: http://www.wired.com/...

        Considering how expensive hardbound textbooks are, the State could even ISSUE a Netbook to every HS student and prolly spend less. Really: we are talking books that cost 100-200 a pop. Multiply that with how many periods a HS student's day drags on, and we are talking serious money, srsly.

        Wow. Ah-nuld actually came up with a good idea for a change. Oh well, even a blind steroid-damaged squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

        Single Payer Happy Hour, coming to the LA (SFV) area 6/26/09!
        No more SPECIAL RIGHTS for HETEROSEXUALS! Equality now!

        by Pris from LA on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:22:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The donated computers are slow garbage. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mijita, davewill, Hopeful Skeptic

          Public schools have junk computers. if they actually happen to have good computers, in a couple of years those computers will be junk.

          Our school got a grant to buy a $20,000 laptop cart with 20 laptops. It rolls from class to class. PTA was going to buy another one but the tech people don't want it. The batteries don't work and upkeep is too much. No staff to support them.

          "Sean Hannity...he's the guy who put the 'a' in moron" - Jed Lewison

          by voracious on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:28:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Worse, every try to maintain a mish mash of (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mijita, johanus, voracious

            half broken laptops? Every single one needs different drivers, and they lock up when someone looks at them funny. Most were abandoned because they weren't quite working right, and MAYBE a fresh software load will help, maybe it won't.

            ...we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.
            -- Pres. Barack H. Obama, Jan. 20, 2009

            by davewill on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:53:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Remember that the major textbook publishers (6+ / 0-)

      have almost all combined. There's "Holt Houghton Mifflin Harcourt" (etc, etc, etc) and then a couple of tiny competitors.

      You write as though there were actual competitors in this industry. Ain't so.

      Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

      by MrMichaelMT on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:54:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, I'm assuming monopoly (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mijita, MsLibrarian, Pris from LA

        My concern is whether the "digital content" is free or under license.  Huge difference.

        Good content could be created under public license, and some universities have indeed done this.  But the major reason the Kindle and similar products have been created is not for this.  It's to create a market for proprietary content sold under commercial license.

        Your "Holt Houghton Mifflin Harcourt" (etc, etc, etc) sell proprietary content as printed books.  These companies could do very well indeed if state governments let them sell that same proprietary content using digital distribution.

        Also, with due respect, I am in this business -- I do software.  The players are similar (and often, the very same).

        I'd be very happy if we funded universities to create high quality educational materials for digital distribution under public license.  I'm not at all clear that this is what Herr Governor is shooting for, since Arnold is all about corporate opportunity.

        Without a commitment to use mostly materials under public license, digital distribution has only minor benefits.

        "If another country builds a better car, we buy it. If they make a better wine, we drink it. If they have better healthcare . . . what's our problem? "

        by mbayrob on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:05:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  An area of expertise... (8+ / 0-)

    ...or precognition. I made a prediction in a presentation at a major conference a few months ago that this was inevitable--and good for kids. No more tens of thousands of dollars of free samples for teachers, books automatically updated, kids get just the chapters the teachers want rather than bloated summaries of all states' requirements at the same time.

    The "kindle" age is less than a year away.

    Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

    by MrMichaelMT on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:53:22 PM PDT

  •  I am not and [sic] educator (3+ / 0-)

    But, given their problems an idea such as this, if it frees up only even a $100 Million (instead of a touted $350 Million) is worth pursuing.

    •  eek... there is no way to edit the poll! (4+ / 0-)

      sheesh.. and I proof-read it, too!

      "My greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome." -Barack Obama 10/16/08

      by Hopeful Skeptic on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:56:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm glad you took that tongue in cheek (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pris from LA, Hopeful Skeptic

        On the topic of your diary - any good idea is one CA should look at with seriousness.

        There are of course other seriously good ideas they might examine, like raising local and income tax revenue, in lieu of only cutting services. I recognize though this would demand another excellent and very serious idea - getting rid of the 2/3rd majority budget hurdle, and then making constitutional amendment by ballot harder.

        •  woah... it's fixed (0+ / 0-)

          How the heck did that happen?

          someone's messing with my poll, somehow???  

          I'm not sure if I should be weirded out, or grateful... or both...

          "My greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome." -Barack Obama 10/16/08

          by Hopeful Skeptic on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:49:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I have a few thoughts on this... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mbayrob, Pris from LA, rossl

    One, the cost of "books" utilized for education have simply become out of whack with any sort of reality.  

    I find it actually easier to read text when it is in "paper" form, rather than on a computer, especially when it involves a lot of reading.  I am not sure why this is, and perhaps it is just me...

    Not every family has a computer, and not every classroom has a computer, much less every desk.  Digital texts would require a computer at every desk in every classroom, and those computer would have to be updated technologically, which in the long run might be even more expensive than buying books....

    •  General ed college students (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pris from LA, spyguy999, Olon

      can pay upwards of 150 for a book they will never use again. And often the prof gets a kick-back.

      Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

      by MrMichaelMT on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:55:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You're missing the meaning of the term (4+ / 0-)

      "digital reader".  

      Check out this nifty gadget:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00154JDAI/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=3054515781&ref=pd_sl_47r3 947bsb_e  but there's tons of .competitors

      I got my mom one recently because she can only use one arm right now, and holding up a book while turning pages has become impossible for her.

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:07:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What has her experience been (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sychotic1, lgmcp, guyeda, Hopeful Skeptic

        with books that have pictures / illustrations?

        I haven't been able to get too into the Kindle -- I find turning pages too distracting - but my friend who loves her says she finds it impossible to use with illustrated texts -- even more so because the readers don't do color yet.  I wonder if science and math texts, which often rely on color, would even be possible with the technology as it stands.

        I do think schools should be investing in technology.  But it won't work if we're doing it with the thought it will save money.  To do it right will end up costing a lot, especially since technology has ongoing maintenance and upgrade costs.

        What I see happening if CA does what's being suggested, middle class students will likely have access to working versions of print and digital text while poor students may well end up with working versions of neither.  Go and look into the computer lab of your local school if you doubt -- I was in a classroom the other day with a printer that was older than the students.

        We'd be better off as a state simply not buying new versions of text books and using the size of the state (we have, after all 11% of the country's population) to negotiate for cheaper print versions.

        the third eye does not weep. it knows. Political compass: -9.75 / -8.72

        by mijita on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:53:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  She's pretty hooked on classic lit (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mijita, Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

          and hasn't really tried anything graphics-heavy.  My understanding is that (apart from the black-and-white issue) the main impediment is page load time.  Pages with an image take a bit longer to render, and I suppose the higher-res the image the more noticeable that would be.  

          For color images I don't think the e-Ink screen techology has been brought to market, though no doubt somebody's working on it.  Backlit LED screens of course offer rich color but they have the jitter and refresh that is far less pleasant on the eyes.  

          "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

          by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:12:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Oh Arnold. (7+ / 0-)

    Stop messing up my state.
    As a public librarian, I can tell you there is still a huge digital divide. And his idea, while cute, is still a major disaster.
    Where are the computers/ereaders going to come from for the fiscally disadvantaged?

    ~~insertobscurereference,pretentiousquoteORsalientaphorismhere~~

    by shayera on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:54:35 PM PDT

    •  You'll be interested to know (6+ / 0-)

      that in our school district (Mt. Diablo) they announced at the school board meeting last night that they were closing the school libraries at all the middle and high schools.  No money for them.

      "A guarantee of equality that is subject to exceptions made by a majority is no guarantee at all." San Francisco Chief Deputy City Attorney, Therese Stewart

      by DMiller on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:01:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're breaking my heart. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        otto, Sychotic1, DMiller, Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

        Seriously. The time I spent in my school libraries as a child was invaluable.
        Arnold is absolutely destroying education in California.

        ~~insertobscurereference,pretentiousquoteORsalientaphorismhere~~

        by shayera on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:56:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I grew up in a very (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          shayera, Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

          very small town.  The only respite from its very dismal, depressed surroundings was the school and local library, both now closed by budget cuts.

          My heart breaks for children growing up there now.

          If my child does not get into the local private school we've chosen for him, we'll be sending him out of state.  This also breaks our heart, as we didn't have a child to live apart from him before he was 18.

          "A guarantee of equality that is subject to exceptions made by a majority is no guarantee at all." San Francisco Chief Deputy City Attorney, Therese Stewart

          by DMiller on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:32:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Obviously the schools would provide the reader (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      theran, Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

      device, in the same way that they currently supply the physical text books.  And kids are not charged for those, right, unless they lose or destroy them?

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:09:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I guarantee (4+ / 0-)

        Any curriculum that comes on an e-reader will cost at least as much as a hard copy of a current text book.  

        They aren't going to simply lose money on this stuff.  

        I realize that this is supposedly about texts that are available for free, but the issue is going to be there.

        The lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.

        by otto on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:15:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  New best-sellers cost $9 on e-books (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          theran, Sychotic1, Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

          and $25 in hardback, so I would expect school districts to negotiate similar discounts on e-textbooks. Your contention that costs would be the same or higher, is unsupported.

          "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

          by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:24:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Really (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wu ming, mijita, Hopeful Skeptic

            You're comparing best sellers with educational curriculum and my contention is unsupported?  

            An agricultural text might go into the differences between apples and oranges.  

            What percentage of curriculum development cost is the printing of the textbooks?  Basically, you would have to be saying that the printing costs for educational textbooks is 60% of the cost of the entire development of the curriculum to support the comparison you're making.  Are you prepared to support that assertion?

            Perhaps I  misunderstand you and you're only using best sellers as an example, without the intention of actually comparing the process of developing, publishing and implementing curriculum with the writing and editing and publishing of a best selling novel.  

            The lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.

            by otto on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:29:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Physical costs may be a relatively (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              cocinero, Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

              small proportion of overall textbooks costs, but the physical part is certainly not free.  Your assumption that publishers would charge MORE for e-distribution of textbooks makes no sense to me, and I don't see how you justify it.

              "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

              by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:33:22 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think I gave my reasoning (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                mijita, lgmcp, Hopeful Skeptic

                The reasoning is that they wouldn't sell simply a textbook in a digital format.  They would sell it with updates that cost money.  They would sell it with support that costs the school district money. They would sell it with the same kind of curriculum training programs that go out now.  

                Textbook companies know that schools have to go to them to get the materials.  It's a racket.

                The other aspect of this is that curricula are created with the assumption that they will be replaced in a few years.  It's a constant turnover of curriculum in schools.  Part of that is a result of public displeasure with lack of results, and part of that is a result of companies continuously pressing a new approach in order to sell new books on a subject.  

                That part is not going away.  Their business model relies on it.  They will not give one copy of an e book and then update it regularly for free ad infinitum.  

                It's a sad fact of the world of education, but the curriculum producers have people by whatever set of gonads they possess.  

                There certainly is the possibility that things that are already available publicly for free like classic literature would end up being very cost effective if read using a digital reader.

                The other part of this to consider is that in addition to the textbook creators, there will be a second business interest newly inserted into the equation- the electronic end.  They will pushing to have their hardware upgraded on a regular basis.  That is going to involve high costs as well.  There will then be two different business interests looking to maximize profit at the expense of the schools.

                One time, radio was going to be the primary method of reaching people in schools.  After that, Television was going to do it- we would simply have one teacher for a million students.  Next, we began to think that distance learning via the computer was going to be the best way to teach students for less money.  

                I'm definitely not saying that there isn't a place for digital content in learning, but it's going to be more complicated, and it's going to end up costing at least as much money.  

                The lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.

                by otto on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:43:14 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I agree the hardware folk (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  otto, MsLibrarian, Hopeful Skeptic

                  will be an additional business interest and cost pressure.  Though as REALLY big customers, schools ought to have enormous leverage if only they had the wherewithal to exercise it.

                  But textbook companies are ALREADY charging for "updates" and for revised editions and re-hashed content.  They're ALREADY charging for curricular training programs and supplementary materials and all that  You act like these are new costs that would result from a new platform -- they're not.  These pressures would be essentially unchanged, it seems to me.

                  "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

                  by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:52:20 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You're right about that (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    lgmcp, Hopeful Skeptic

                    They are charging for training.  Schools don't really have to buy the updates.

                    It's not really the content that gets replaced.  It's the teaching methods and buzzwords.  

                    What they do is develop a new method of teaching something.  They develop a whole new structure, and then they tell you that this time, it's the real deal for finally teaching every kid how to read or whatever.  

                    I know that I've bought 3 computers over the last 3 years.  

                    What's the average upgrade period for computers?  Would we be talking about new ereaders every 18 months?  Every three years?  Every 5 years?  I think those numbers have to be worked into any equation that attempts to determine the relative price differences.  

                    I'm just going to guess that at least 90% of the cost of textbooks is in the creating the curriculum.  

                    Another thing to think about is battery life.  The cost of batteries on electronic devices can be prohibitive.  They will not be plugged in.  They'll be on battery all the time.  Electricity is expensive.  I hadn't really thought of that until now, but imagine a school of 1200 students all charging the ebooks overnight every night.  There are a lot of costs involved in this whole scenario that are new costs.  

                    I know that there is going to be a change in the medium for delivering curriculum, but there are far more things to include than just the cost of the ebook.  

                    The lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.

                    by otto on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:02:44 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Gotta go mow the lawn (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Hopeful Skeptic

                    Interesting discussion.  

                    I've worked in a variety of educational settings, including as a teacher in public schools, and as a reading specialist in public schools.  

                    There is no limit that curriculum companies won't go to in order to maximize profit.  If you want to guess who the winner will be in this changeover, bet on the curriculum companies.

                    The lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.

                    by otto on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:15:46 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Maybe their stranglehold can't (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      otto, Hopeful Skeptic

                      be broken.  Certainly they'll make a spirited bid to keep it. But it seems to me that introducing some scrappy new players into the mix, might shake things up just a bit, in some places.  

                      Happy mowing!

                      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

                      by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:18:14 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

          •  Best sellers are always cheaper (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            shayera, mijita, Hopeful Skeptic

            that specially priced items. Your comparison doesn't work. YOu would have to look at the costs associated with special audio or digital texts which have been created and you will find the costs to be way more than the books.

            •  Example please? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Hopeful Skeptic

              "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

              by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:34:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I can't source it.. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                otto, lgmcp, Hopeful Skeptic

                but I once tried to locate an audio text for an Engineering class. The student was blind. The best price I found was nearly 4 times the cost of the actual text. What we did instead was locate someone who was willing to READ and record each chapter of the text. That type of duplication was allowed under Canadian copyright at the time. Not sure if it still is.

                If I remember correctly, the cost of the audio was nearly $300

                •  Well, speaking of blind, (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

                  automatic text-to-speech reading, and adjustable font size, is available for every e-book text.  

                  But if that incident was more than about a year and half ago, it was ancient history in the e-reader market.  And there's a difference between the backward-compatibility approach -- picking your text (or having your prof pick it) and THEN trying to find an audio or ebook edition -- versus choosing texts from the get-go based (in part) on whether they offer this option.   Right now the choice is undoubtedly from too narrow a field but that's changing fast.

                  "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

                  by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:45:56 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  It's available for those who can afford it (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    lgmcp, Hopeful Skeptic

                    Here in Canada, what's available free of charge to the blind is pathetic.

                    •  My mom won't use the text-to-speech (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Hopeful Skeptic

                      on her Kindle, unless her eyes are really, really tired.  Because that robotically-generated voice is in no way as expressive as a human reader.  Still, it's better than no voice at all if you can't see, and EVERY book stored on a Kindle can be delivered in that way.  Not sure which other hardware brands offer this currently but it's bound to be some of them.  

                      Even if e-books are (as you and Otto so strenously argue) quite premature for California, I think their practical and wide-spread use as adaptive devices has got to be far, far closer.  

                      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

                      by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:06:13 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  You're misrepresting my argument (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        MsLibrarian

                        I'm telling you that there are too many business interests involved in curriculum development to allow the cost of the stuff to go down.  

                        I know that public schools are ruled by private curriculum interests.  

                        The lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.

                        by otto on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:11:23 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

            •  How about this GRE prep course? (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              theran, Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

              That seems like a specialty item not unrelated to the materials schools buy.

              Hard copy $19.95, http://www.amazon.com/...

              Kindle edition $9.99 http://www.amazon.com/...

              E-books are cheaper, folks.  Maybe only if the cost of the gadget is excluded, okay.  But as standalone titles, they ARE cheaper.

              "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

              by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:39:06 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Comparatively small market share (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lgmcp, Hopeful Skeptic

            will tend to wipe out a lot of the printing savings, because of the amount of work that goes into a book with a (comparatively) small distribution.

            For example:

            http://www.amazon.com/...

            Someone is wrong on the Internet! To the Kosmobile!

            by socratic on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 08:16:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Schools can't afford them (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shayera, mijita, Hopeful Skeptic

        and they an't afford to replace the ones that get damaged.

  •  I just don't see how this would save money (3+ / 0-)

    Would the textbooks be online?  Then you have to get new computers every few years and pay to maintain them.

    And if they're online, then that's a huge problem.  I used computers in two of my high school classes this year and they were just a distraction and barely added anything to the class.  Wikipedia became our primary textbook, although it's reliability is underrated, IMHO.  The bottom line is that with internet-capable computers in the classroom, kids learn less, in my experience.

    And the class I used computers in the most (almost every day for the whole class) was an advanced class - AP US history, pretty much the most advanced class offered to tenth graders at my school.

    •  Frankly, you don't know the industry (6+ / 0-)

      or the technology.

      Publishers print tens of thousands of books they never sell right now, storing in their warehouses or giving away for free.

      Send them to students on a Kindle (or similar device) and they sell only what they need to, never waste paper, ink or space, never get ripped off by teachers who get access to a copy machine.

      Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

      by MrMichaelMT on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:56:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ah yes but Kindle (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shayera, rossl, Hopeful Skeptic

        Costs way way too much $....

        "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

        by skywaker9 on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:57:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I know the technology and the industry (6+ / 0-)

        and Arnold's nuts to think this will work. At least not in todays environment.

        The cost of printing a book is small potatoes compared to the costs of producing a book. The writing, editing, research, etc. that goes into the book is what takes the REAL money.

        That's not going to go away because they start delivering the date in a digital format.

        Take Audiobooks, for instance, the same title costs more in the audio (CD, MP3) form than it does in print but it is "supposed" to be cheaper to produce.

        And let's not get into the technology that's needed for these kids to access these digital texts.

        •  publishing is far more than (5+ / 0-)

          just printing. State standards are more than just "writing to the standards."

          The coordination, backstory, context, examples, promotion, explication, and more, while "doable" with public participation, is not as easy to implement as it seems.

          Publishers are not just vampires on the system -- they actually often "add value." The system as it stands is not sustainable, nor optimal, especially for k-12 -- but one cannot just turn a longstanding system on a dime, without dramatic (even radical) compromises.

          Set a three-year or five-year course of change, planned out consciously? With funding, that's doable. Change in a year or two because of financial emergency?

          Damaging to the students.

          All the news that scares us silly: ApocaDocs.com

          by mwmwm on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:21:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Yes and no (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Hopeful Skeptic

          I agree that we cannot simply adopt digital texts tomorrow, however we do need to move in that direction.

          Standards, licensing and of course content development are all hugely complex issues which will not go away overnight but they are being addressed.  There is an active open source community struggling to introduce free and low cost resources inlcuding text books.

          Here is one of the more promising initiatives with regards to textbook development:  CK12.org

          CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to reduce the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in the U.S. and worldwide. Using an open-content, web-based collaborative model termed the "FlexBook," CK-12 intends to pioneer the generation and distribution of high quality educational content that will serve both as core text as well as provide an adaptive environment for learning.

      •  No, I know the industry pretty well (7+ / 0-)

        In fact, a friend of mine has been on state committees that were involved with mathematic texts.

        Pricing has much more to do with licensing costs than production costs.  You're focusing on one, and appear to be glossing over the other.

        I don't think the problem is primarily books vs. digital.  The problem is the monopoly power of the big publishing companies, and the degree to which they have subverted the selection process.  Going digital in and of itself will not fix this.

        "If another country builds a better car, we buy it. If they make a better wine, we drink it. If they have better healthcare . . . what's our problem? "

        by mbayrob on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:09:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is true. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mijita, MsLibrarian, Hopeful Skeptic

          These are enormous companies with hefty profits, and there's only a handful of them in the field.  Reducing physical production and distribution, is only a small part of the challenge.

          Still, it seems to me like a promising part.

          "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

          by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:13:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Not computers! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lgmcp, Hopeful Skeptic

      E-Machines like Kindle--totally different.

      Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

      by MrMichaelMT on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 05:57:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  So, if reading text on a screen... (5+ / 0-)

    ...hurts one's eyes, I guess one'd be shit out of luck.

    •  I guess I am not the... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Scipio, vacantlook, lgmcp, Hopeful Skeptic

      only one who has trouble reading large volumes of information on the computer.  I much prefer an actual book, but I wasn't sure if it was just me...

      •  No, it's true, backlit screens are very fatiguing (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        socratic, Hopeful Skeptic

        and even though I do computer stuff for a living, I print out any document more than about 3 pages long so I read the hard copy in comfort.  Backlit screens have jump and jitter in the refresh rate, that is very tiring to the eyes.

        One reason Amazon's Kindle device is selling for much more than competing gadgets, is because they have perfected a totally different screen technology that does not have this problem.  

        I hope others follow suit before too long.

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:16:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This point needs to be made (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lgmcp, Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

          again and again.

          The Kindle's screen is more like an Etch-a-Sketch in the way it looks. It's no more difficult to read than a page printed on low quality paper, and the contrast of e-ink displays is only going to improve (along with other features like color).

          Someone is wrong on the Internet! To the Kosmobile!

          by socratic on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 08:20:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  actually, digital ink is easy on the eyes. (6+ / 0-)

      that's why it's called "digital ink". I have a kindle, and I assure you, it's just as easy on the eyes as reading a book.

      The real reason this is a silly thing to be talking about now is that it's 5 years or more away for many, many reasons, and California is going into the toilet right now.

  •  Law Casebooks on digitial! (6+ / 0-)

    I've been arguing since I entered law school last fall that casebooks should be digitalized, like with Kindle on Amazon. Court cases are publicly available, so "authors" round up a bunch of prescient cases, stick in some notes and questions, then have students buy a $150, 1000-page book that, within a year, is outdated.

    Example: my civil procedure casebook this past year was a "revised 9th edition," NOT a new edition, just a revised 9th. The previous edition was "9th." What changed? ONE major SCOTUS decision, that's what; it added about a total of 30 additional pages. For that, a one-year-old casebook became obsolete? RIDICULOUS!

    •  This is a good usage (0+ / 0-)

      At least in the current state of the education business, this is one of the few actual uses.  The idea that digital copies of books will save money is simply laughable.  Publishing companies aren't going to let that money get away.  It's a frickin' gold mine, they mine it, they know how much money there is in it.  

      Things that are already publicly available without copyright issues are the kinds of things that would actually be worth using a digital medium for.  Someone will find a way to make a bunch of money off of education with  copyright free things, though.  

      The lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.

      by otto on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:22:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Law everything (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

      A big law firm (other than the ones that are bleeding money right now) could differentiate itself by issuing Kindles (or whatever else) pre-loaded with the Blue Book, the US Code, federal decisions, and the like.  There's no reason Westlaw or LexisNexis couldn't offer a custom reader (probably in partnership with Amazon given the Kindle's wireless capability) with your account information set up and a robust transaction system for buying content, performing searches, etc.  

      Imagine starting a research chain from a comfy chair with new decisions from areas of law you're interested in highlighted on the start screen.  

      The firms could save a TON of money by trimming back on the law libraries too.

      Someone is wrong on the Internet! To the Kosmobile!

      by socratic on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 08:24:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Long term, sure (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mijita, Hopeful Skeptic

    but this is another example of schwarzenegger coming up with "ideas" that are many years from fruition, while the state of california burns....

  •  I do wish this would help CA (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mijita, lgmcp, Hopeful Skeptic

    but the reality (and I speak from the perspective of a publisher, though not as a publisher of k-12 textbooks) is that it's really difficult to make this sort of thing work.

    While yes, one can (almost) presume that every kid has broadband, the reality is that the poorest will have access only in school.

    While yes, one can (almost) presume that the open-access curricular material is sufficient, it's not yet ready for prime time.

    While yes, one can (almost) presume that a huge bureaucracy can spin on a dime to a new curricular foundation, the reality is that there are vast teacher assistance materials necessary to make a new kind of textbook work in practice.

    While yes, one can (almost) presume that in a tech-savvy state such as California, such a move would make sense, I'm afraid that it's premature, without a bunch of funding to ensure that it works in all schools. I wish it wasn't so, but unfortunately, it is, right now.

    While yes, one can (almost) presume that all schools could accommodate a shift to a digital-only opensource educational context, without additional resources to enable teachers to maximize these tools, it could end up harming the educational value.

    I wish it wasn't so, but that's my sense, having been in the e-publishing world for the last 20 years, striving to make it work so that quality material was available for revolutionizing education.

    All the news that scares us silly: ApocaDocs.com

    by mwmwm on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:08:53 PM PDT

    •  Agree this probably isn't ready for prime time (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      theran, Hopeful Skeptic

      in time to meaningfully address CA's crisis. But it's gonna be here before long, and if handled well could be quite a boon IMO.

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:18:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "if handled well" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lgmcp, Hopeful Skeptic

        is the key idea.

        If it was done thoughtfully, in three to five years, it could be a huge savings for the k-12 market.

        That said, we would need to be very sure that it didn't misrepresent history, science, even math. In China, would we want to have a "preferred text" for history, that skipped over the Tiananmen revolt?

        All the news that scares us silly: ApocaDocs.com

        by mwmwm on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:27:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually this was something else I considered (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          otto, mwmwm, Olon

          Discussing in the diary.  If everything is digital, it's really easy to re-write history a la Orwell's 1984.

          That does give me pause, and make me not want to get rid of any of my hundreds of books!

          "My greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome." -Barack Obama 10/16/08

          by Hopeful Skeptic on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:36:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  E-Books (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mwmwm, tdub, guyeda, Hopeful Skeptic

    I find digital textbooks much harder to read and learn from, compared to normal ones (and I use an e-book reader, as Arnold's plan would presumably suggest). When I've got my book in front of me I can tag pages, I can highlight bits, I can quickly move back and forth between sections. More personally, I know I learn visually - so I often organize my thoughts like how they're done in the textbook (if I need a fact, I'll remember what the page it's on looks like, and mentally zoom in). Dead tree books also work in all weather conditions, don't run out of batteries, and can't be hacked. You can also resell them, legally photocopy out relevant bits for focus, and keep them for years on a bookshelf.

    And this:

    By frequently updating texts as they are developed, rather than continuing to teach from outdated textbooks, we will better prepare our students.

    is a red-herring. Sure, science and math change frequently - but not the stuff you learn in high school.

    Trig, algebra, and geometry haven't changed much in the past hundred years or so, and certainly not in the last ten. You're not gonna teach a high school kid about the parts of number theory, topology, and field theory that are still being invented - you would barely teach those things to undergraduates in college. Introductory fundamental math doesn't change, which is the whole point.

    Likewise with science - high school is about getting the fundamentals down, not for bleeding-edge discoveries. The parts of a cell haven't changed. The results of the double-slit and oil drop experiments are still what they were fifty years ago. Titration hasn't changed aside from the durability of the glass we use.

    For social studies, I could see how this would be somewhat useful - the modern stuff does develop, and our interpretation of historical events changes. But chemistry is chemistry, and math is math (incidentally, I find older texts to be better, as they don't sugar-coat things as much and make you focus on the facts/results/theorems).

    AT&T offers exciting work for recent graduates in computer science. Pick up the phone, call your mom, and ask for an application.

    by Scipio on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:13:26 PM PDT

  •  So then have to buy every student a computer??? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mijita

    My loving marriage of 17 years is now a symbol of inequality and discrimination.

    by coigue on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:34:02 PM PDT

    •  That'll happen (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      coigue, Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

      someday.  

      I mean, I graduated from high school in the 1980s and we were being promised every child would have a computer in the classroom soon then.

      The real question has been addressed elsewhere here -- that people have to maintain this technology -- at least one or two in every school.  Since we're always hearing that teachers and their benefits are the reason the state is going broke, I somehow doubt anyone's really proposing the hiring of thousands of technology consultants.

      the third eye does not weep. it knows. Political compass: -9.75 / -8.72

      by mijita on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:00:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  More time for the kids to be chained to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rossl, Hopeful Skeptic

    desks, indoors, with horrible ergonomics...like most of their parents are.

    Give them books, so they can lie on their stomachs and read on the grass....without distractions like facebook and dkos

    My loving marriage of 17 years is now a symbol of inequality and discrimination.

    by coigue on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:36:59 PM PDT

  •  To put the number in context (6+ / 0-)

    there are 6.25M K-12 students in California.

    The challenge with going to electronic has always been the up-front costs of giving each student the means to read the text. Now, when we get to a point that a Kindle equivalent is $100 (which is not that far off) then a state could consider the investment, but that's a pretty big chunk of change, and that assumes that publishers are willing to put out electronic versions for a discount over printed ones. I hate to point it out, but printing is but a small fraction of the cost of textbooks.

    Leave it to Republicans to set the house on fire and then rant that the fire department is socialist.

    by johnsonwax on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:42:06 PM PDT

    •  The number of players in the game (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hopeful Skeptic

      The more business interests involved in the situation trying to get money out of the educational system is going to become more problematic.

      If you go from buying a textbook from Holt or whatever to buying a device to read on, and buying a digital book from Holt, then the overall cost isn't really going to drop, because Amazon or whichever company will always be trying to get you to upgrade your machine.  

      All in all, I see it as a wash in terms of money.

      That said, it's going to happen someday, and that someday is probably not all that far off.  

      How do we do it without enriching the leeches on the educational system?  That's the question.

      The lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.

      by otto on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:51:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Number of Public Domain Textbooks (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mijita, Hopeful Skeptic

      Suitable for schoolkids today is going to be really small.

      Arithmetic and algebra are the same as ever.  Perhaps Latin.

      But the science, geography, civics, reading, etc. textbooks of yesteryear will not be adequate for the students of today.  Even for modern languages, language reform of the last 75 years means that you can't expect kids to learn from older German textbooks, for example.

      It might be amusing to see the next generation of California school kids getting prepared to face the world with geography knowledge from the pre-WWII era, or the language skills required to speak with anyone in Imperial China.

      Obama's Solution: Give Money to the Rich to Buy Distressed Assets.

      by bink on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 06:51:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Most of my textbooks are now digital or going to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

    Most of my Textbooks are now digital as an ordained minister through the Logos / Libronix system

    http://www.logos.com

    I can search, carry my whole theological library with me on my laptop, teach from it directly and keep an efficient note system that is good as 'One Notes' They keep adding great books and collections monthly.

    Arnold is right... force them to go digital... updating and correcting becomes simple. Homework / workbooks with the reading are already true in many seminaries. It is the way to go just watch their intro video's to get an idea of what can be...

    The Rev. Dr. K. Robert Schmitt

    •  What does a site license cost for this? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hopeful Skeptic

      Out of curiosity.  

      The lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.

      by otto on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:12:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  IF you ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Olon

        If you go to the site you notice
        you 'buy' books just like the past but then they are searchable and updated (mistakes corrected) regularly. Because they are produced once they are much cheaper than 'hardcover'. But the teaching system is 21st century not 15th century and this is a Lutheran (Luther was the first to use the printing press to its greatest advantage)

        Basically they are 'internal web pages' to search... and you get to carry your whole library....

        Pastor Bob Schmitt

        •  I agree with your point (0+ / 0-)

          The issue for  me isn't whether one should teach that way or not, the issue for me is that we are inviting multiple business interests into a system where they will all be interested in making their fair share.  

          Everyone of them will want to make money- curriculum, electronics, testing...

          The lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.

          by otto on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:55:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Go to the website (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

            Otto

            If you go to the website you will see how it is working.....

            Out of print books are avalible to the community via community pricing or 'self preparation'

            New books are created with this system in mind....

            Publishers are making book deals...

            This is a 'specialized field'--Theology but the system is becoming the 'standard'

            My Lutheran Publisher made some faculty produce 'teaching notes' with some textbooks

            the second edition was updated for 'free' to those who had bought in the past by online download and 'updating' just like 'programs'

            Notes and papers automatically have 'academic footnotes' (wish I had this when I did my doctorate)

            I don't do sermons or papers without it now. I find quotes at seminars, Bible verses in seconds, I have multiple commentaries on Biblical Books. I teach directly from it when I do Bible Study in the Parish. It has revolutionized ministry IMHO.

  •  if he really wanted to save money (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    otto, cocinero, Hopeful Skeptic

    he'd shift the state of california to in-house textbook publishing, and print those damn things at cost.

    surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

    by wu ming on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:14:03 PM PDT

    •  Where would he get content? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cocinero, Hopeful Skeptic

      I guess he could just try to buy out some authors, but electronic books are definitely where things should be headed.  Maybe the Kindle is the right thing, maybe not, but everybody forking out $150 to Springer for a short monograph is going to end soon enough.

      "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

      by theran on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:22:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  the state has several great universities (0+ / 0-)

        surely california could manage to write its own textbooks.

        i am very skeptical of electronic books replacing much of anything over the long run. for one, they're far, far less stable WRT user interface than the old fashioned bound book; every time the software changes, your product is essentially useless, without an expensive upgrade.

        surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

        by wu ming on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 09:54:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Damn (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hopeful Skeptic

    they can get almost everything they need from Dover editions -- what are they now...three bucks?  Takes care of the literature.

    Then equally cheap "All About" books.  All About Anerican History.  Etc.  All you need for a text.  Then...they go to the library to do research!  

    What else?  Big Little Books.  Bring them back.

  •  I can't see the benefit myself (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tdub, Hopeful Skeptic

    Firstly I can't agree that it'll help keep the books up to date. I don't know about US schools but in my British school we were taught the fundamentals of science and maths, stuff that hasn't changed for centuries. Unless a newtonian law turns out to be wrong I can't see a new textbook being required. For university classes I can see the point but not for kids!

    As much as I love technology, and I really do, I've heard it said that books are still good because they're lo-tech not in spite of it. They're cheap, can be taken anywhere, don't need recharging, aren't expensive to replace to name a few things.

    The one thing that might convince me is the environmental benefits of not chopping down trees for paper but since so much is recycled or produced from sustainable forests I can't see much wrong.

  •  Kids need more than readers. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    otto

    They need laptops or a device with a usable keyboard so they can write as well as read. It should also have some multimedia creation ability so they can learn to communicate. Widespread purchase of text readers could impede the purchase of the kind of technology that kids really should have.

    Focusing on saving money and trying to do education on the cheap is bad for kids. This is a problem everywhere, but especially in California.

  •  The bizarre aspect of the news coverage (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hopeful Skeptic

    In the San Jose Mercury News article on this proposal, there was not one word on the subject of ownership of computers. What percentage of California students have a computer at home they can use at all, or better yet, full time? What is the proposal for those that don't? I'm not saying these are or are not insoluble problems (although I tend toward insoluble), but the fact that they weren't even addressed is just bizarre.

    Eli Stephens
    Left I on the News

    by elishastephens on Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 07:55:08 PM PDT

  •  The governor (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

    arrived at my high school today to deliver a speech about this. Everyone was pretty excited and crowded around on 2 sides when he entered. He looks shorter in person and has gray eyebrows.

  •  Call me a Luddite, but this would stink if free! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hopeful Skeptic, Olon

    What is it with our shallow obsession with computer technology in education?  It offers many distractions and only very occasionally the slightest advantage.

    I teach at the college level, and I say we're losing sight of the basics.  The skills to read and digest books, to take notes and digest oral presentations, to understand the big & basic ideas of calculus or biology -- digital life is closer to being the disease that causes these symptoms than the remedy for them.

    Some of my students have coincidentally benefited from posh electronic classrooms and good teachers.  But if their schools had to eliminate one of these luxuries, I know which one would wreck the quality of their education.  (Others have had their HS education harmed, as when school administrators are so convinced about the virtues of computers that they tell their star traditional-method teachers to change.)

    Shamefully, we still haven't succeeded in democratically universalizing the public school education of the college-bound kids of my mother's generation (HS class of 1963).  California has some of the worst K-12 schools in the country and is farther behind this standard than most states.

    Far be it from me to figure out how to solve an entire broken system, but if we got to the end result of using outdated textbooks to teach generation-old biology, calculus, physics, Latin, Spanish, and English, it would be an upgrade for most students.  And IMHO it wouldn't disadvantage them if they wanted to become mechanical engineers or even computer programmers.

    In any case I'm pretty sure that an e-reader will not be the textbooks' equal in delivering its half of this equation.

  •  I like it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hopeful Skeptic

    This is good for open-source, a community that is generally more concerned with the plight of the poor than your average book publishing firm. Textbook costs are going up everywhere including here in Korea, and I would love to see the same thing happen here. Maybe this will be enough to get the ball rolling in other areas as well.

  •  And by the way (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hopeful Skeptic

    Yes, there are some growing pains in adopting new approaches like this, but eventually everyone ends up getting used to it. Remember the switch from scroll to book.

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