FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, August 19, 2005

Goodbye Textbooks... Hello Laptops!

When high school students in Vail, Arizona hit the books this fall, they won't literally be hitting books. Instead, they'll be issued Apple iBook laptop computers.

Although several high schools throughout the US have been participating in pilot projects to replace textbooks with laptops over the past few years, Vail's Empire High School is one of the few to go cold turkey.

The laptops offer both the schools and the students a number of advantages. For one, they spare the students having to lug around a collection of heavy books. Through the Internet (the school has a heavily-filtered wireless network), they can access assignments in learning management workspaces, collaborate, use e-mail, and get up-to-the-minute texts and multimedia presentations. And with the cost of textbooks these days, the laptops are likely to pay for themselves quickly.

Another surprising benefit is helping students learn practical computer skills. Despite kids' embracing video games and entertainment technologies, they don't necessarily know how to use computers and the Internet as productivity tools. "One of the greatest challenges actually is getting the kids up to speed in using Word, in using an Internet browser for other than a simple global search," said social studies teacher Jeremy Gypton.

The paperless trend is spreading to colleges as well. The University of Texas has retired 90,000 books in its library, redesigning it to be an "information commons," a more social environment not unlike a coffee house. And with wireless access, naturally. America's leading universities, including Stanford, Penn State and Georgia Tech, are following suit.

Sources: CNN.com, Christian Science Monitor