By COURTNEY CULEY
Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan schools may be saying goodbye to bulky, expensive textbooks and substituting online resources that are cheaper and easier to update.
But some people are resistant to the possible change.
“This is a day and age when they have to do wonders on the MEAP, every child can be a genius, and every child goes to college,” said Steve Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association. How can kids do that without taking textbooks home, he said.
When an audience of 100 people gathered at the Michigan Education Association was asked to raise their hand if their districts had the same problem, almost half did, Cook said.
“The problem’s not impacting any one type of district. Rich, poor, urban, suburban, rural, all of them are having trouble,” he said.
If textbooks are available online, are textbooks a necessity?
“At some point in time, textbooks are going to be obsolete and everything is going to be done online,” said Ben Pack, assistant superintendent at Jackson Public Schools.
This may not happen soon, but Jackson Public Schools are prepared.
If there are online accommodations for course material, textbooks may not be needed, said William Schmidt, University Distinguished Professor in the College of Education at Michigan State University.
Schools are making homework accessible online to students, Schmidt said.
One day, everything will be online.
“There are movements in this direction already,” he said.
“I think that our schools need to keep up with technology, they need to use it as a tool,” said Doug Pratt, director of public affairs for the Michigan Education Association. “If students don’t have the right kind of access to those tools, overreliance on technology could have a very negative impact.”
Textbooks are only a part of the curriculum, Pack said. Teachers are using a variety of materials.
If teachers need a textbook for every student, those are available in Jackson, Pack said. “Some classrooms aren’t taught that way,” he said.
If the Jackson School District decides to go in the online direction, they will be able to sell back all of their textbooks and have access to online content, Pack said.
Textbook publishers believe they have a great advantage by publishing online.
The publishers are going to lead schools in the online direction, said Jim Ballard, executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals.
Publishers can update their online content as often as possible and it’s much cheaper, Ballard said.
Transitioning to online brings up a whole new problem.
If schools transition online, will students have access, Ballard said.
“That’s the real question.”
A percentage of students in schools don’t have access to the Internet, he said.
“What happens if the student doesn’t have access to the Internet at home? ” Pratt said. “There are a lot of different parts and pieces to this.”
Down the line, online resources may be the right approach, Pratt said. “But I don’t think we’re there yet.”
“Until we can be sure that all students have the access to the tools necessary, we’ve got to make sure we’re giving them the best possible chance to succeed,” Pratt said.
Certain subjects require textbooks or an alternative resource that students can take home, Schmidt said.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.
By COURTNEY CULEY