Science

California Going Digital with Math, Science Textbooks

By Sean Cavanagh — May 11, 2009 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

California will offer “free, open-source” digital textbooks in math and science for high school students, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced. The governor says his state would be the first in the nation to take that step.

Maybe there is something to Rahm Emanuel’s quip about not letting a good crisis go to waste. Schwarzenegger, in a statement about the plan, suggests that the idea for digitalizing textbooks has come about partly because of California’s severe and well-documented budget problems. He says the move will cut costs and encourage collaboration among districts.

Schools have shown an increased interest in digital textbooks in recent years, and publishers have moved to meet that demand. (See Ed Week’s exploration of the digital market here and here.) Products are changing all the time, through features such as Kindle. Even so, California’s plan, which is being coordinated at the state level, sounds ambitious. The governor says he and his secretary of education, Glen Thomas, want to have a set of approved digital math and science textbooks ready for the fall of 2009, and that Thomas will be working with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and State Board of Education Chairman Ted Mitchell on the venture. The state will compile a list of digital texts that are aligned to California’s academic standards, according to the governor.

An effort to digitalize textbooks in another, less populous state would be interesting on its own. It seems likely that because this is occurring in California, a major textbook market, it could have broader implications for the publishing industry. California officials say that a list of approved digital textbooks will be put together after “content developers” from around the nation have submitted their products for review.

A couple questions come to mind: How ready are publishers who now seek state approval for their products in California to take the digital step? How much money would this save the state, or individual school districts? And if public officials see potential savings in choosing a digital product over a textbook, what impact will this have on the quality of math and science lessons across the state?

For techies and non-techies out there: How will California’s move affect digital education, and more importantly, student learning in math and science?

UPDATE: I was curious about who would approve digital textbooks for use across the state. The Office of the Secretary of Education explained it to me this way: California adopts textbooks for grades K-8, but local school districts are responsible for adopting high school textbooks. Under the new digital initiative, the state will review digital material for high school math and science courses based on the state’s academic content standards, and provide feedback in a written report, said Jessica Hsiang, of the secretary’s office, in an e-mail. The responsibility for approving a product for use, however, will remain with local districts.

I’d also asked why the state chose to focus its digital efforts on science and math, rather than other subjects. Hsiang said the decision reflected the strong state and federal interest in “STEM” education, though she added that this is just a first step in a “much broader effort” to bring digital resources to schools, presumably across subjects.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Science Opinion Four Good Science Teaching Strategies & How to Use Them
Three science educators share their "go-to" teaching strategies, including encouraging student talk & implementing project-based learning.
11 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Science Opinion The Three Most Effective Instructional Strategies for Science—According to Teachers
Three science educators share their favorite instructional strategies, including incorporating a sense of play in their classes.
9 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Science Make Science Education Better, More Equitable, Says National Panel
States must take steps to ensure that all students get a fair shot at learning science, says the National Academies of Science report.
3 min read
Illustration of father and child working on computer.
Getty
Science Q&A Many Schools Don't Teach About the Science of Vaccines. Here's Why They Should
Schools play an important role in confronting misinformation and mistrust in vaccines by helping students understand how they work.
7 min read
Ainslee Bolejack, freshman at Shawnee Heights High School in Tecumseh, Kansas, prepares to receive her first COVID-19 vaccine on May 17, 2021, at Topeka High. Unified School District 501 held a clinic at all their high schools welcoming students now 12-years-old and up to receive their vaccination.
Freshman Ainslee Bolejack prepares to receive her first COVID-19 vaccine on May 17, 2021, at Topeka High School in Kansas. Unified School District 501 held a clinic at all its high schools for students 12 and older to receive their vaccinations.
Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP