Electronic Books For Education – The Way Ahead

According to The New Democratic Leadership Council – a Washington think tank formed in 1985 – every one of America’s 56 million K-12 schoolchildren should be supplied with an electronic book reader of some type. In a paper entitled “A Kindle In Every Backpack”, authored by Thomas Z Freedman, it is suggested that this would cut costs and allow for texts which are constantly updated.

Government spending on traditional printed textbooks currently runs at $109 per student. According to Mr. Freedman’s report the initial costs for the provision of electronic readers would be around $200 currently, dropping to $80 per student by 2012. Who would pay for this initiative is not defined in the paper – but it seems reasonable to assume that the government would pick up the tab.

According to the report, the benefits of the plan would include the ability to update academic textbooks quickly, the possibility to run interactive educational programs – including tests and quizzes and a reduced weight to be carried by students. Environmental aspects are not mentioned in the report, but there would almost certainly be a huge reduction in the volume of paper used by the academic textbook publishers each year.

The Amazon Kindle eBook reader is mentioned several times throughout the report – but the possibility of using other brands is also noted. One possible problem with the current design of Kindle may be the suitability of its screen for rough handling. There is currently a class action suit raised against Amazon regarding cracking face plates and screens. This seems mostly concerned with Kindles which have had covers fitted to them and may not represent any flaw in the device itself. However, it would seem unreasonable to expect young students to show greater care when handling their Kindles than adults who have paid for the device themselves. Therefore, it might be necessary to produce a “ruggedized” version of the reader, suitable for the inevitable bumps and scrapes which should be expected during the academic year.

There does seem to be an ever increasing air of inevitability regarding the move to electronic textbooks. Californian governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, recently announced that California would start providing free electronic textbooks in August of 2009. California’s program makes no specific mention of the Kindle but, even so, Amazon executives must have been delighted with both the announcement and the immediate implementation of the scheme. Amazon also have partnership agreements with a number of universities and academic publishers already in place. It really is beginning to look more like “when” rather than “if” electronic textbooks will become part of the mainstream.

Books For Education

Our family are book lovers who have learned together for over 10 years. The foundation of our education curriculum is the reading of good books coupled with thorough mathematics. We focus on reading good, classic, “living books” rather than a textbook or workbook approach. Over the years, we’ve found many recommendation lists. All suggest many quality books for each age level, all focusing on various historical periods or other broad themes.

A wonderful problem exists for teachers – there’s too much good material to teach! As we were confronted with a dozen or more solid reading-based plans, each recommending hundreds of books, choosing what few books to read each year became a fun, but difficult, problem. We would see what books the various lists had in common for a given reading level, what we could find affordably online, and what we could find at the library. We’d narrow down further based on the type of work – classic literature vs. biographies vs. general narratives, etc. and then the historical period the book covered – ancient vs. middle ages vs. modern, etc. In this way, we planned very personalized, interesting reading. This is a difficult yet rewarding process. It works but there are other helpful methods.

Rather than forming your own personalized plan, another idea is to just pick one of the many published plans and ignore the others. Some of the plans we recommend are from Sonlight, Veritas Press, and Robinson Curriculum. Another solution is to use one of several book guides that help categorize books. These include Honey for a Child’s Heart, The Book Tree, All Through The Ages, and Invitation to the Classics. These are flexible and helpful but still require a lot of page turning, indexing, and offer no direct online access to book vendors or libraries that can help quickly determine what is available at a reasonable cost.

The best solution is an online book list that can be easily searched and sorted by different criteria of reading level, historical era, type, price, etc. There are many online lists, though most are static lists you cannot easily search or sort. Many bloggers maintain lists of favorite books. Several sites provide more powerful search and sort capabilities. One popular example is Library Thing, tagging books for various categories. Another powerful site is Every Good Book providing searching and sorting of classic books, based on the book’s time period, type, reading level, popularity, and even cost.

Whether you’re a teacher, homeschooling parent, student, or simply an avid reader, you’ll find http://www.everygoodbook.com/ very helpful in choosing the right books. About 1000 books are listed of various types, from all historical time periods, at all reading levels. Each book’s listing features a short description and convenient links to online book sellers and your local library. The site has limited graphics and very few advertisements so it runs fast and responds quickly to your personal searches.