Digitizing schools to make the US better educated and competitive globally

By December 03, 2012
iPad with books on top of it and a globe

Startups and governmental agencies are both contributing to the effort to transition schools to more connected teaching strategies. Ebooks are one of the first steps towards the digitization of schools and education.

Government agencies are taking an interest in the evolution of schools in a connected world.  The FCC has recently created an industry playbook to guide K-12 school educators to transition into using digital learning tools and content. The guide covers school leadership and planning, delivering connectivity and bandwidth, creating access to broadband outside of school, and providing support for devices such as laptops and tablets. This effort is part of a strategy to catch the US up in terms of content - many students only have access to outdated material, despite the country spending $7 billion per year on textbooks, and in comparison to countries like South Korea, which will begin transitioning all students to digital text beginning in 2013.

Teachers and studies agree that tech can make education more effective

Widespread use of educational ebooks can have a significant effect on educational access and efficacy. “Technology-based instruction can reduce the time students take to reach a learning objective by 30 to 80 percent,” according to the U.S. Department of Education and recent studies by the National Training and Simulation Association. Not only does teaching efficiency improve, but 81 percent of teachers believe that tablets enhance learning, and there are benefits from online collaboration. Since the FCC is the biggest funder of K-12 connectivity, their focus on educational technology is sure to have an impact on children as well as the companies that are participating in this shifting industry.

Startups are helping the adoption of digital technologies by schools and teachers

Textbooks have not completely made the transition to digital as of yet – many titles are ported but not necessarily optimized for the new format. But between cultural and other factors, the educational system will be demanding dynamic and interactive content for portable devices. Startups like digital publishing library Inkling are finding opportunities to back this trend, and government organizations are facilitating the change. The San Francisco-based ebook company has also launched Habitat, a scalable publishing environment that is optimized for interactive content. Instead of iterating from the book structure, Habitat treats content as software, which publishes across multiple devices, enables collaboration, and includes other management features. 

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