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Electronic Materials Added To N.M. Text-Adoption List

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New Mexico schools will be able to use state textbook funds to buy electronic materials for social-studies classes and reference needs, under an unusual textbook-adoption process approved by the state board of education.

Among 4,000 separate items adopted by the board last month were several CD-ROM-based products, a software-based electronic globe, an on-line data-base service, and a line of hand-held electronic-spelling devices.

Products on the list may be bought with state textbook funds, which often are used to enable districts to buy items they could not otherwise afford.

While the state education department has long approved software products for purchase, the recent adoption represents a diversification into other electronic media, said Mary Jane Vinella, the director of instructional materials for the department.

Although the inclusion of electronic materials along with conventional reference works and print-based materials is uncommon, it represents part of a developing trend in the publishing industry, according to Donald A. Eklund, the head of the school division of the New York-based Association of American Publishers.

"There's no question that's the direction many of these states are planning to go,'' he added.

Mr. Eklund noted that electronic materials are expected to figure prominently in upcoming adoptions in California and Florida.

Growing School Market

While schools are not expected to forsake textbooks in any substantial way in the near future, Mr. Eklund added, electronic publishers are beginning to become more aware of the school market, and conventional publishers are discovering the advantages of enlarging their product lines.

"The key question is how they're going to be used,'' he observed.

One milestone in the trend toward adoption of electronic materials came in 1990, when Texas adopted a videodisk product along with two textbooks for use in elementary science classes. (See Education Week, Nov. 28, 1990.)

Mr. Eklund noted, however, that adoption by states does not necessarily mean that districts will buy the new products.

"You can get on the list and not sell anything,'' he said.

But Mr. Eklund also pointed out that the New Mexico decision could be significant, because the state has one of the nation's most generous instructional-materials budgets. The legislature this year approved a $20-million budget for instructional materials, which translates into a per-pupil allocation of roughly $60.

Ms. Vinella of the state education department added that she expects to review a wider variety of interactive electronic media next year, when the state is scheduled to adopt its science teaching materials.

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