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Schools scrapping textbooks
All classes eventually will use computer tablets
Snelson-Golden eighth-grader Kristy Daniels uses an education app on her iPad that models and explains circuit boards. - photo by Courier file photo

In 2008, NASA found definitive proof that Mars has water. And last year’s Arab Spring demonstrated that the global political landscape is constantly evolving.

But you won’t find those recent advances in Liberty County School System textbooks, some of which are 14 years old.

District administrators are looking to change that this year with a shift away from textbooks and toward digital classroom materials, according to Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer.

“We have three subjects for next year that we were going to have to purchase textbooks for, which was very expensive,” Scherer said. “So, rather than purchasing $100 textbooks for each student for those classes, we are proposing to purchase iPads and MacBooks.”

The transition will begin with three high- school subjects: world history, coordinate algebra and environmental science.

Under the proposal, those teachers will work together this summer to create interactive, digital course materials using copyright-free materials and components from existing online subscriptions, according to Dr. Patti Crane, executive director of technology and media.

Teachers will use MacBooks to build their course materials using the iBook Author software, which can be customized to different student abilities to provide individual learning workloads, Crane said. Students will use iPads in the classroom. Those with iOS devices at home can access the content, and content can be printed on occasion.

The administrators gave the project the green-light after seeing the response to the middle-school science iPad roll out and attending two days of executive briefings May 3-4 at Apple Headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.  

“We came back Monday morning pumped and full of meetings, and (we) kind-of made a commitment …,” Scherer said. “It’s a new world of learning for this generation because they’re so used to technology and instant answers and variety of sources — ‘multimedia learning’ is the word. They don’t want to — and won’t — read a textbook.”

The district is looking to furnish 26 teachers with the technology, supplemental materials and applications to support 780 iPads at an estimated $480,000, according to Assistant Superintendent Jason Rogers.

And the transition to digital textbooks and wireless mobile devices is part of the discussion statewide.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order on April 30 to create a Digital Education Task Force that will make recommendations on how to enhance student learning through digital environments, according to a press release.

“Instructionally, the MacBooks and the iPads provide that all-in-one-place interactive learning that, once the teachers are trained, is really easier for them … It really makes more sense to have everything you need right in here,” Crane said.

She added that the schools will continue to diversify classrooms with systems that run on both Windows and Apple computers so students will be versed in both.

“It’s real-world. When you go out, you may have a PC computer at home, but your with your iPhone, your iPad or your iPod Touch, you’re using both anyway,” Crane said.

Watch the Courier for updates on this initiative as it develops.

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