Armes seeks to replace textbooks with electronics

Legislative Staff Release

Published: 11-Nov-2010

With the financial crisis burdening schools, state Rep. Don Armes conducted a study to look into the possibility of using electronics devices instead of standard textbooks in the classroom and in turn save schools money.

“Our children have already taken that giant leap into technology so this would not be an adjustment for them.  Now we just need to see if it’s financially feasible,” said Armes, a Faxon Republican. “We have over 659,000 students in Oklahoma and if we could even save $10 per student on changing a book over to an electronic technology format, that would save over $6 million for Oklahoma schools.”

Armes made his comments in a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK after a House Interim Study held November 10.

Steve Shiever, superintendent at Crescent High School, said students in grades six through 12 at that school have gone completely online with no paper textbooks. Instead, students use laptops with downloaded material. The teachers post all curriculum, lessons and worksheets online for students to access, and pupils then submit their finished work online. Everything is on a secured server that is password protected and the parents have 24/7 access to their child’s grades and attendance records.

The Crescent Superintendent said the students were given the laptops at no cost to them but are required to pay a $70 a year insurance fee.

“This teaches them a lesson of ownership. If it was completely free, they probably would be more likely to not take care of it,” said Shiever. “Out of my annual school budget, currently only 3.1 percent goes to technology, which includes our technology director’s salary. That’s very little.”

Bill Handy, an OSU professor of Media and Strategic Communications, launched a pilot program this semester where one of his classes went completely paperless using only the iPad.

Handy said one student saved over $400 by purchasing ePub books and downloading them instead of purchasing textbooks. He also added that one of his textbooks normally costs $147 but the ePub version is only $37.94.

Handy said students using electronic texts had better grades than his students from past years who used hard copy books. In addition, he noted that electronic texts could easily be updated and corrected when needed and content is more searchable.

Eric Dawson, senior director for Apple’s Higher Education Division, said an iPad essentially pays for itself after one semester when students do not have to purchase more expensive, hard-copy books.

“This study was not to force any schools into doing something they don’t want to do, but to be a catalyst tool to get people thinking about shifting from hard-back text books to some form of electronic format,” said Armes. “There has to be some cost savings involved and any money we can save for the schools is worth it.”