In this quickly expanding Information Age, more and more school districts are moving toward digital technology to teach students, including Pasadena, with Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) officials set to present plans to go digital in the Education Master Plan.
“We have a digital divide in Pasadena,” said Pasadena Unified School Board member Patrick Cahalan, who works in Information Technologies at Caltech.
“Not every student has a computer or even Wi-Fi. A lot of students use their parent’s phones to access the net.”
California launched a free digital textbooks initiative in 2009.
In June 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the country, approved an estimated $1 billion plan to purchase 640,000 electronic tablets, which would provide every student in the district with the electronic devices.
Georgia state law requires that electronic copies of K-12 textbooks be made available for use by students, and the San Diego Unified School District has distributed 78,000 digital textbooks to teachers and students since 2011. The followng year, they purchased 26,000 iPads for district use.
In November 2010, the US Department of Education released its National Education Technology Plan, which included a blueprint on improving learning with technology. One of its top recommendations is the use of more mobile devices in the classroom, which it says is “the technology students already have.”
According to the Digital Textbook Playbook — a guide to help K-12 educators and administrators build digital learning experiences for students in districts across the country — Florida has mandated that all K-12 instructional materials must be provided in electronic format by 2015-2016.
West Virginia has already replaced social studies print textbook purchases with digital textbooks.
Cahalan said he’d like to see the district establish a plan that would allow schools and libraries to use libraries. According to the FCC, nearly 60 percent of schools in America lack sufficient Wi-Fi capability to provide students with 21st century educational tools. Far too many schools have no Wi-Fi at all and others have subpar Internet connections.
“I’d like to see us work with the city which has free Wi-Fi. We need to hook up to some type of widely available wi-fi service so everyone has equitable access to the Internet.”
Cahalan also said that he expects about 10 percent of the tablets to be broken, which could cost the cash strapped district even more money.
“The trickiest part is getting everybody on board,” Cahalan said. “It makes no sense to buy one device for every student if the teachers are not going to use them.”
“I want all students to be able to learn from digital textbooks,” said President Barack Obama in his 2011 State of the Union Address.
According to the 2013 NMC Horizon Report on K-12 education, one of the major roadblocks in implementing technology into the classroom is the reluctance of unprepared teachers.
“All too often, when schools mandate the use of a specific technology, teachers are left without the tools (and often skills) to effectively integrate the new capabilities into their teaching methods,” according to the report. “The results are that the new investments are underutilized, not used at all, or used in a way that mimics an old process rather than innovating new processes that may be more engaging for students.”
Cahalan said that the common perception that this generation is smarter tech wise than their teachers is not a major roadblock.
“They are better equipped in some ways,” said Cahalan. “It’s slightly misleading. The skills and the familiarity the kids have are centered around social media and certain applications, but they still need to assess the validity of the information and be able to cite it.”