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FCC Chairman: Digital Textbooks to All Students in Five Years

by: Jordan Usdan and Josh Gottheimer

February 3, 2012

Chairman Genachowski and Secretary DuncanWednesday, at the first-ever Digital Learning Day Town Hall in Washington, DC, FCC Chairman Genachowski and Secretary of Education Duncan challenged states and the education and technology industries to get digital textbooks into the hands of all students in five years. Barriers to adoption of digital textbooks include: antiquated state procurement rules, lack of device and content interoperability, and connectivity costs. 

Six months ago, Genachowski and Duncan launched an effort with business and education leaders to help schools make the transition to digital textbooks. At yesterday’s event, this collaborative presented them with the “Digital Textbook Playbook,” a resource for schools making the move to digital learning.  As a next step, Genachowski and Duncan announced a meeting in March 2012 with education CEOs, state officials, and nonprofit leaders to advance the national adoption of digital textbooks.

The FCC has been working since the 1990s, via its E-Rate program, to connect every library and classroom in America to the Internet. Now it is time for the next broadband-enabled learning revolution; digital textbooks offer lessons personalized to students’ learning styles and aptitudes that enable real-time data and feedback to parents and teachers. Key facts:

  • The U.S. spends more than $7 billion per year on K-12 textbooks, but too many students are still using books that are 7-10 years old, with outdated material.
  • South Korea has announced that all students will be using digital textbooks beginning in 2015.
  • Technology-based teaching can reduce the time it takes to learn a lesson by up to 80 percent.

The FCC is the biggest funder of connectivity in K-12 schools in the United States and is helping connect America’s schools to the networks of the future. The FCC’s education agenda is focused on helping educators, students and, parents transform learning opportunities through the use of technology at school, in the community, and at home.

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