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Indiana District Trades Texts for Tech

Are science and math textbooks slated for history’s scrap heap? While school districts across the country struggle to lighten backpacks and budgets, Munster, Ind., has gone whole hog, tossing out tomes for 2,600 students in grades 5 -12 and putting the entire science and math curriculum online. Now, instead of turning to a page in a heavy, soon-outdated textbook, youngsters whip out a school-issued laptop and access an interactive lesson in balancing equations.

Students relish the “Mythbusters” and other videos that enliven traditional content, the New York Times reports (10/18), and teachers appreciate having a tool to assess students and customize instruction to their strengths or gaps in understanding.

Munster is not the first school district to go digital. Schools in Mooresville, N.C., moved away from textbooks four years ago and 90 percent of the curriculum is now online. But change came in incremental steps, not a few months as in Munster’s highly regarded schools. Munster also reflects a departure from past practice in the two dozen states that require schools to choose textbooks from government-approved lists. (Florida, Louisiana, Utah, and West Virginia approved multimedia textbooks for the first time this school year, and Indiana scrapped its textbook-adoption  process altogether.)

The movement toward digital curriculum delivery is part of a global trend. South Korea is replacing textbooks with online learning throughout the entire K-12 system. Meanwhile, the New York Times (10/22) notes that the Waldorf School in Silicon Valley, the epicenter of American high-tech innovation, bans computers from the classroom in favor of hands-on activities, handwritten papers, and old-fashioned book reading.

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