Could Indiana Schools Go Textbook-Free?

As educational technology continues to develop, schools nationwide are looking at switching from traditional textbooks to digital content. State legislation took effect July 1, 2011 in Indiana which is helping to usher in the digital era in education. Read more about alternatives to textbooks and what the future of education may look like.

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The Evolution of the Digital Revolution in Indiana Schools

In an age of technology, many educators have become frustrated with the lack of technology in our school systems and the inflexibility of uninteresting textbook content that does not engage today's digital generation. In 2009, the Indiana State Board of Education began addressing this issue by expanding their definition of textbook to include computer hardware, software and digital content and issuing a blanket waiver allowing schools to use computer and Internet resources as a means of supplementing or replacing traditional textbooks. This bold step aimed at improving teaching and learning also allowed schools to use money allocated for textbooks for digital content and equipment resources.

Following suit in 2011, the state's legislature passed House Bill 1429, making the new definition of textbooks law. The new law, which went into effect July 1, 2011, also removed the authority of the state board of education to make schools choose curricular materials from an approved list of textbooks. Instead, each school district (or corporation, as they are called in Indiana) is responsible for selecting appropriate materials for their student body and submitting those materials to the department of education for review, rather than approval.

This shift from print to digital in Indiana brings with it new challenges. What will schools use to teach students, if not textbooks? How will the teachers adjust to the new technology in education? Is it really possible to go textbook-free?

Innovative Textbook Alternatives

While the field of open education is still in its infancy, there are many emerging technologies, companies and services that support the shift from textbooks to digital content. Below are just a few examples of how education is moving into the digital world.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) have been developing and growing in the online public domain since the late 1990's. OERs are learning, teaching and research resources that have been released to schools, teachers, students and, typically, the general public for free use and re-purposing. OERs may offer full courses, course materials, videos, tests and many other online tools needed to make education available to everyone.

Discovery Education was created by the Discovery Channel and offers free multimedia resources for teachers, parents and students. Discovery Education produces and distributes quality multimedia curricular resources for all K-12 core subjects, including video clips, virtual labs, lesson plans and dynamic, interactive content. Some of their products include Discovery Education Streaming Plus, the Science Techbook, science and health curriculum services, assessment services for school districts and professional development services to help teachers successfully engage today's digitally savvy students.

The Learning Connection was developed by the Indiana Department of Education as a way to allow teachers to collaborate with colleagues across the state. At no cost to Indiana educators and schools, the Learning Connection offers schools and teachers the opportunity to develop online lesson planning and curriculum design, create student activities, generate performance reports, record grades and assess student learning.

Learn more about how open education is changing the face of education all over the world.

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