Recently, I've been asked to pilot a new program at my school. Someone at the school wants to try classes with no printed textbooks. Because I'm already trying to see what we can do with the technology available to us, it sounded interesting. The idea is that students will not receive printed books. Instead, they will download an electronic copy of the book to their tablet PC. I will give their lectures and notes via my tablet PC on which I can write notes directly projected to the SMART board in the classroom. I will be able to then save all the notes to the network and they will be available to the students to review at home or print out and review at their leisure. Having the books on the network eliminates the excuse that a student forgot his textbook. I can just print out the pages that we are working on in class on the printer in the classroom and then the student is good to go for that class period.
In addition, there is already a school-wide network available to the students with computer generated quizzes and activities. The students log in to this network, do the quizzes, and receive immediate feedback. They can review the questions that they missed and try the quiz again with similar questions to see if they can improve on their score. They can do the quizzes in class or access them anywhere with an Internet connection. That way, they can review material until they know it well enough to get a good score on the assessments.
That's the theory, anyway. In reality, students have almost never gone on the network to do the quizzes or activities unless specifically told to. In the cases where I've had them do the work in class, it's a constant effort to keep them on task rather than on Face book, Messenger, YouTube, or whatever video game has caught their attention. I predict that there will be more paper used per student in printing out hard copies of the text via notes, forgotten copies of the the text, or just because the students feel like it than there would by just giving the students their own book. There will be a large number of technical glitches. Still, I'm interested in trying out the technology. I think it will be a good experience.
I've heard from a few people that by having a "green" classroom through no printed books, the school is actually harming the environment more through all the technology necessary. Apart from my prediction that there will actually be more paper wasted, I disagree. The technology is already there in the classroom. Every student already has a tablet PC. Don't worry, the school isn't dumb enough to entrust a pilot program costing tens of thousands of dollars to the likes of me. (at least I hope they're not) Everything is already in place. We're just trying to make use of what's already there. A friend of mine brought an article about the future of publishing to my attention. Number 8 says "College students will begin using tablet PCs in the fall 2010 semester for their school work. By 2011 or 2012 tablets will replace laptops on campuses across the nation." I'll be doing that in the coming semester. Whether or not it will work this coming semester is debatable. I do think that it is what's coming in the next few years, though. Because of the wealth of this nation, my marginally competent students get to be at the forefront of it.