Textbooks vs. software: Finding the right mix for schools

Imagine a textbook that changed every year.Ineffective lessons would disappear from its pages and be replaced with others. As state education standards evolved, textbooks would absorb those changes, saving the school district and, by extension, the taxpayers money.

Best of all, students could write on their pages.Textbook companies have already made it happen.

It’s educational software, and it has been around in one form or another since the beginning of affordable home computers. Some educational experts believe it’s inevitable schools will end up with all software-based curriculum. It’s a move that could save thousands of dollars while giving educators a more flexible format.

Earlier this month, the Janesville School Board approved $131,747 to buy a final round of Chromebooks for high school students. Classrooms across the district have laptops for students to use, but this is the first time students will have an electronic device they can take home.

But that doesn’t mean the district is on its way to an all-electronic curriculum, said Allison DeGraaf, Janesville School District Director of Learning and Instruction. In fact, the decision to provide all high school students with Chromebooks was more about equal access than software vs. textbooks, she said.

Still, in the past five years, spending on textbooks and workbooks has declined significantly, according to Janesville School District budget documents.


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