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Opinion

October 11, 2012

Keeping up digitally

Parents, do you think your children spend too much time with their faces buried in a computer screen?

Soon, they may be required to spend even more time doing just that.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan called for the nation to move as fast as possible away from printed textbooks and toward digital ones. “Over the next few years, textbooks should be obsolete,” he declared.

Duncan claims it is not just about keeping up with the times, but is about keeping up with other countries whose students are leaving their American counterparts in the dust.

One of the most wired countries in the world, South Korea, has set a goal to go fully digital with its textbooks by 2015.

Proponents may have a point — saying digital learning engages students in a way a textbook never could.

For example, if students get stuck, interactive help features could figure out the problem. Personalized quizzes ensure they’re not missing anything — and if they are, it could bring them up to speed before they move on to the next lesson.

However, what about the rural areas? Will those students be left in the dust or will measures be taken to make sure they have the same capabilities technologically?

There are still places in the area where the Internet is slow or very costly. What about those who can’t afford the Internet plans or gadgets needed?

Would districts, already buckling from diminished budgets, be responsible to make sure every student has either a laptop or a tablet computer? Would schools have to upgrade their bandwidth or the equipment to make digital materials available to every student?

Another thing to consider is whether textbooks, like music, will become easy to steal or copy without payment, or whether the industry will find new ways to make money off of teaching materials.

Using certain tech devices can also have an effect on students’ eyes. This may be something to which parents and teachers have not given much thought

With smartboards, tablets and other digital tools being incorporated into daily school curriculum, the technology has students spending a lot of their time learning and socializing in front of a screen. This can pose a number of challenges to the visual system. Breaks for the eyes will definitely be needed if students are required to do most of their learning digitally.

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