Back in September 2009 I wrote a post about the difficulties of getting enough computer access for students. Since then, the continuing rise of the smartphone has made me wonder whether a solution is possible if we focus on portable connectivity rather than desktop computers.
Most initiatives in schools come down to money. If there is funding for it, it happens. No funding, dead initiative. So I started thinking about where money could come from for devices that provide network and internet connectivity as well as the computational power to run applications. The first idea I had was textbooks. Every year there is money being put into the school system to buy, repair, or replace textbooks. At some point, I bet it will become cheaper for the school boards or the Ministry of Education to just give a student a device and a license for the textbooks rather than buying, maintaining, and storing thousands of textbooks.
Already some universities are experimenting with devices like iPads. Clearly, there are still issues, but given the amount of money being spent on textbooks ($539.2 million in 2000-2001 according to StatsCan and probably 10 times that in the United States), I am sure that textbook publishers and device manufacturers will both be trying to get as much of the textbook market as possible.
There are so many advantages to etextbooks and the disadvantages that currently exist can be reduced or eliminated by changing the software and hardware being used to read the electronic versions. I imagine that it is only a matter of time before the use of paper textbooks becomes much diminished.