Yesterday, Arne Duncan announced that he wants all schoolchildren to switch to electronic textbooks as fast as possible. Because: South Korea! Or something.
Apparently (and unsurprisingly!) he hasn’t talked to any teachers or student teachers recently, many of whom don’t even have enough of the boring, old codex technology to send books home with their students so they can read and do homework at home, or anywhere outside of class. A grad student of mine told me that when she did her student teaching in the Big Thompson school district last spring in Loveland, Colorado, this was the reality she was expected to cope with. Oh, yeah: she also said that half the students didn’t have internet access at home, so she and her cooperating teacher couldn’t assign them any online reading or schoolwork outside of class, and they had no budget for photocopies either.
Now, Loveland is not a fancy town, but it’s solidly middle-class (and parts of it are quite prosperous.) I was shocked by what this student told me, and when I heard yesterday afternoon about Duncan’s dopey scheme, I wondered how teachers and student-teachers in districts like this one would hear the news that they really must switch to online textbooks. I wonder what kind of influence-peddling is responsible for yesterday’s announcement, which if implemented promises to divert billions of dollars into technology (e-readers, iPads, textbook subscriptions) rather than into training and retaining human teachers. Awesome!!!