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Arizona School Won't Use Textbooks 491

Some Guy writes "A high school in Vail will become the state's first all-wireless, all-laptop public school this fall. The 350 students at the school will not have traditional textbooks. Instead, they will use electronic and online articles as part of more traditional teacher lesson plans."
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Arizona School Won't Use Textbooks

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  • Finally! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jhylkema ( 545853 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:42PM (#13036993)
    Textbook sales are a racket worthy of the Gambino family.
    • Racket! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pin_gween ( 870994 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @06:01PM (#13037218)
      In college they definitely are. Where I teach (NC), however, we don't buy books for a year (or worse, a semester) then try and get $3 at the end. We buy our books for 5 years. It is expensive as hell initially and when books are lost/destroyed. However, $65 for a book that lasts 5 years is not too much to expect taxpayers to pay.

      Additionally, competition between publishers is fierce; thus textbook companies "comp" us extras like test banks, lcd projectors, informational cd's etc. I know the price of these freebies is inherent in the book cost, but...

      It is a HELLUVA lot easier to get a kid to fork up $65 for a book than the $850 for laptops. What happens when someone steals the laptop? Not too many people look to jack you for a textbook.

      What if they decide to keep the laptop for themselves? This is not a private school where the cost is absorbed in tuition, this taxpayer money. Add the cost of maintenance on the computers and I see this as a short lived experiment -- one dropped bookbag and you need another $850.

      A local university tried this at one school in the district checked out 30 laptops to a class. Only half of them were returned and/or usable.
      • Re:Racket! (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ucklak ( 755284 )
        When I was in elementary school, most books lasted 4+ years.
        In fact, I can't ever remember having a book that lasted only 1 year.
        There was the student name panel on the inside of the front cover where the current student had to write his/her name and teacher.
        There were kids who got the same books that their older siblings used that were 2 to 4 years older.
      • Re:Racket! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @06:35PM (#13037536) Homepage
        Well, the solution is to create an honest-to-god ebook solution: a hundred dollar lcd non-backlit cheapo unit, like a larger palm, the size of a piece of notebook paper, with an ethernet jack for transfering files in and out of non-volatile memory. It should run on AAA cells. It should be strong enough to survive a fall. Steel is cheap. Mass production would drive costs down -- how many students are there? tens of millions.

        Laptops are simply Microsoft and Intel's way of locking in customers forever. eBooks do not need a bloody laptop. I'd imagine the publishers love the new hardware DRM being built into the laptops' chipsets by Intel.

        Why isn't someone building a cheap, useful ebook? ... lawsuits from publishers?
        • Re:Racket! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Well, the solution is to create an honest-to-god ebook solution: a hundred dollar lcd non-backlit cheapo unit, like a larger palm, the size of a piece of notebook paper, with an ethernet jack for transfering files in and out of non-volatile memory. It should run on AAA cells. It should be strong enough to survive a fall. Steel is cheap. Mass production would drive costs down -- how many students are there? tens of millions.

          Why isn't someone building a cheap, useful ebook? ... lawsuits from publishers?

      • "It is a HELLUVA lot easier to get a kid to fork up $65 for a book than the $850 for laptops. What happens when someone steals the laptop? Not too many people look to jack you for a textbook."

        Just buying the laptop doesn't mean the textbooks will be free. You still need to pay for electronic copies of the textbooks as well.
        • Maybe I misunderstood but the article says the school is going to "hand" each student an $850 laptop for the whole year. Sounds to me like the students don't have to pay for them. They are just being issued like public schools issue textbooks.

          Here's tThe part that gets me:
          the move to electronic materials gets teachers away from the habit of simply marching through a textbook each year.

          Like hell. Uninspired teachers who simply trudge through a curriculum, or essentially read the textbook to the students,

      • As of late, I thought it had been fairly well established that technology does nothing to help students learn more, or learn better. When I see stories like this, it makes me wonder which crony's friend/relative is getting the contract.
  • The Dog (Score:5, Funny)

    by Valiss ( 463641 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:42PM (#13037000) Homepage
    So now, when someone says, "The dog ate my homework," they'll actually mean, "The Dog virus ate my homework!"
  • Laptop school (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:43PM (#13037003)
    Yawn. Didn't we just have an article about kids getting criminal charges for installing software on their state provided notebooks? This ain't news anymore folks, its the trend becoming mainstream.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Staring into a computer screen is like staring into an eclipse. It's brilliant and you don't realize the damage until its too late"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:44PM (#13037014)
    All the money is being spent on "tech in schools". At the end of the day, a bad teacher will be bad given a set of textbooks or laptops. Imo, this money should go towards more teacher training/more teachers.
    • > All the money is being spent on "tech in schools". At the end of the day, a bad teacher will be bad given a set of textbooks or laptops. Imo, this money should go towards more teacher training/more teachers.

      The previous slashdot post contains material on teaching. Teaching is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of knowledge. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

    • no - it should stay where it is... in paying MSCEs to keep this POS laptops up and running.

      The laptops cost $850 each, and the district will hand them to 350 Empire High School students for the entire year. in California, i'm strongly concidering quitting a high-paying job at a major defense firm to go be a lazy-ass administrator pulling down over 6 figures in the Los Angeles or surrounding area school districts. These people make shitloads of money, and all they have to do is constantly keep the comput
      • I wonder how well MCSEs are going to do with a fleet of white iBooks? Because thats what these are.
      • ...i'm strongly concidering [sic] quitting a high-paying job at a major defense firm...

        What firm? It sounds as if they need qualified people...

      • Right, so here's some posts from some guy who seems to be one of those lazy-ass HS admins, from the discussion of this story at Fark:

        I administer a network at a high school where 900 students have laptops, and all I can say is that it's going to be a challenge for them. We have to use, among other things, BIOS passwords, group policies, router access lists that block Internet traffic from all systems except for an internal proxy server, monitoring software, hidden services, authenticated DHCP and DNS serve

    • Won't a bad teacher still be relatively bad given the same training as good teachers? Won't a new batch of teachers contain the same percentage (if not higher) of bad teachers? Even if we put money in to raising teacher salaries, hoping to attract better teachers away from other careers, won't we also attract a lot of bad teachers looking for a relatively easy buck?
      • by GileadGreene ( 539584 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @06:17PM (#13037379) Homepage
        Won't a bad teacher still be relatively bad given the same training as good teachers?

        Possibly. But the bad teacher will presumably still be better than they were before the training, so the quality of education provided to students will improve. Does putting tech into the classroom actually improve the quality of education, or is it simply change for the sake of change?

        Even if we put money in to raising teacher salaries, hoping to attract better teachers away from other careers, won't we also attract a lot of bad teachers looking for a relatively easy buck?

        The point of raising teacher salaries is to make replacing the current crop of bad teachers with good teachers feasible, by increasing the pool of potential teachers. If there are few or no good teachers available, you have little choice but to hire bad teachers in order to fill your staffing requirements. With more candidates to choose from, you can choose to hire only the good ones.

      • I'm not going to delve too far into economics; it wasn't my field of study, and I don't pretend to understand much beyond what the introductory courses teach you. So I'll say this.

        I teach English at a public high school. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.8 GPA, Dean's List, glowing marks during internships, etc. All the things a major employer would look for in a prospective employee who had just graduated. I am an exception in public education.

        Don't get me wrong, I work with brilliant people, many
    • by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @06:11PM (#13037318) Homepage Journal
      Imo, this money should go towards more teacher training/more teachers.

      Yeah, but mindlessly pissing money down a hole has been touted as the way to fix education for so long, hardly anyone knows how to do anything else, even though it has never worked.

      Hire good teachers. This requires paying a decent salary. Dismantle the teachers' unions, which serve only themselves and are largely responsible for the horrible mess our education system is in, by locking in bad teachers and bad ideas. Hold schools accountable by allowing vouchers, which will force competition.

      Based on my experience as a volunteer teacher and feedback from kids, parents and other teachers, I'm pretty good at it. Kids like me and I like them (and I've got 4 of my own). We communicate well and the kids seem to both learn and have fun. I would love to teach professionally, but I can't afford the huge pay cut and I will never take a job that requires me to join a union.

      • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @07:05PM (#13037757)
        You contradict yourself. You say teachers nee more money (I agree). You also say to kill the union. If teachers aren't making more money now *with* the union, do you really think it has a snowballs chance in hell of happening without?

        And vouchers won't help schools, it will simply destroy the public school system. The real problem isn't teachers, or tech. Its parents not doing their job at home and pushing education. This occurs mainly in poorer communities- if you compare test scores and literacy rates of only middle class suburbs to private schools, the public schools meet or exceed the private schools. Thats because middle class parents understand the value of education and push their children.

        So what will happen with vouchers? People will fall into 3 catagories. Catagory 1- parents who care and use the vocher. This will remove many of the higher performing students, making public schools even worse. Catagory 2- parents who don't care and don't use the voucher. No change. Catagory 3- parents who care, but still can't afford it. THey're the ones who get fucked. We now have an even more underfunded system, thats been given up on by the general public, and they have no way out. Their education level will fall even lower. The very group vouchers are touted to help are those most hurt.

        The correct answer is to address the root of the problem, not the symptoms. Engage the parents, make them care about their children's education. This is not an easy task, and it doesn't have a solution in less than a decade. Too slow for most of todays knee-jerk politicians. Then increase the quality of teachers in areas such as math, science, and computers. This requires paying more, to lure them away from industry. But engage the parents first, the change has to come from there.
      • by UserChrisCanter4 ( 464072 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @07:43PM (#13038014)
        I am a member of a teacher's union. I hate 98% of what they stand for. But $130/year gets me $6 million in liability coverage. When some kid decides to sue for bad grades, sue for "mistreatment" while being taken to the disciplinary office, or accuse me of "touching them" because I failed them, I need that. It happens more frequently than a lot of people would care to imagine, especially the first example. So while I disagree with the teacher's union on a lot of things, I can't afford to take the chance. I'm going to have to have that same kind of coverage from the state before I give up my union membership.

        Incidentally, union memebership is totally optional in most districts.
    • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @06:21PM (#13037411) Homepage Journal
      All the money is being spent on "tech in schools"... partly offset in this case by not buying all those overpriced textbooks.

      Here's what's wrong with textbooks: they peddle an oversimplified, predigested, emasculated version of whatever they're trying to teach. You say the solution is better teachers? Good teachers hate textbooks. Good teachers know that the job is to teach student to do actual thinking -- a process not assisted by the unchallenging, anti-thought-provoking crap standard textbooks contain.

      Teachers have been trying trying to find alternatives to textbooks for decades. Thirty-odd years ago, I had a really good high-school history class (20th century U.S.) where the teachers tossed out the textbooks and replaced them with all the serious reading they could legally photocopy. Nowadays, they would just point us at the Internet, and save a lot of time and money in the process.

      Anyway, computers are an essential part of modern education. Aside from computer skills being a basic element of modern literacy, they just do a hell of lot to help with the process. If nothing else, they make writing a lot easier -- I mean jeez, no sane person does real writing by hand or typewriter any more. And writing is two thirds of a real education.

      • When the students have reach a level where they can synthesize ideas from different sources and reach their own conclusion, then you are absolutely right. But do you really think HS physics students should read Newton's writing? Should 1st course calculus focus on reading Leibniz?

        As for using the Internet, your teacher can still print texts from the Internet and give them as handouts to students. Laptops wouldn't be needed.

        If you just throw the students onto the internet, you'll get papers detailing th
    • Academia teaches the evil of singularity to human cubics - born of opposites. [] - Teachers are evil and this Time Cube guy bets USD10,000 he knows the truth.
  • Umm... vision? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JossiRossi ( 840900 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:44PM (#13037022) Homepage
    How many of us stare at a laptop screen for hours on end? How many of us realize how bad that is after a few days straight of doing it? LCD screens may not have the refresh rate issues, but still this can't bode well for the children's vision. Although optomitrists will likely be excited.
    • Re:Umm... vision? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rwven ( 663186 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:52PM (#13037116)
      they'll be about as far away from their eyes as the books they were reading last year... i highly doubt this will be an issue...
    • I'm curious as to what properties LCD screens possess that make them more harmful to look at than, say, paper (since this is a replacement for traditional paper-based books).
    • Re:Umm... vision? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pilkul ( 667659 )
      Actually, as someone recovering from a back injury from programming on a laptop all day, I can tell you that muscular repetitive stress injuries are a much bigger health risk than eye strain. With a laptop, either the screen is too low or the keyboard is too high, so there's no way to use it ergonomically. You end up hunched and it messes you up over the long run.
  • Ruining a laptop is so much more expensive than wrecking a textbook. Plus how are you supposed to draw mustaches and balls on all the pictures for the next class to see?
  • by avi33 ( 116048 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:45PM (#13037031) Homepage
    Plans are underway to do away with all science books except for one [].

  • by sacbhale ( 216624 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:45PM (#13037035)
    This should be an interesting experiment.
    I have had computers for years and I use them extensively to learn things but I have found that they are no match for good old books. Books are so much convenient to use.
    I think it is unwise to completely eliminate the books from clasrooms. It would be great to augment the books with online resources. But replacing them completely seems to be a dumb move.
    • Here here. Even though I work with computers all day long and have constant access, when it comes time to learn something new I will always head to the bookstore or
    • I gotta agree. Interesting experiment, but I'm glad they're not experimenting on me or anyone in my family. The technology just isn't there for e-books. It's quite often that I'm at work and run across some information which doesn't quite make sense and what do I do? I print it out so I can pore over it more closely. Maybe it's just the way I was brought up, and kids today have learned to do things the e-way, but I'm sure it's at least in part the tangible benefits of paper.

      The cost will likely be qui

  • EPaper (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kidtux1 ( 896975 )
    This textbook less classroom will begin to happen more and more once epaper finally comes to fruition. I know I would have loved to be able to download my books instead of having to buy a $200 text book for my college classes.
    • Re:EPaper (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:50PM (#13037100)

      I'm sure they'll still charge $200, only now it will be for a 1 year license rather than this year's edition.

      • Yea, I was just going to say its now $199 but you can't sell it as used next year. Nor can you buy a used version.
    • Re:EPaper (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tsiangkun ( 746511 )
      I'm so glad I was able to figure out how use a library card in college.

      Most students never figured out that the texts books were available to be checked out. Library late fees are a joke compared to the cost of buying the books.

      • There's also selling the book later to recoup some losses (or to make a buck if your books fell under a scholarship, as mine did), but my professors kept talking about how glad we'd be later that we'd kept our books, because we'd find ourselves wanting to refer back to them. I haven't found myself doing that for anything other than a few laughs, but I have co-workers who have bookshelves full of their old references and pull them out all the time.
  • by pudding7 ( 584715 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:48PM (#13037070)
    400 high school kids running around with laptops?

    My screen is broken
    My battery died
    My S key won't work
    I dropped it
    I lost it
    I lost the cables
    It won't turn on
    I spilled soda on it
    The wireless access point is down
    The network is down
    My wireless card broke
    I can't log in
    I forgot my password
    I locked myself out
    I deleted all my icons
    Billy deleted all my icons

    What an administration nightmare. Blah. Good luck with this little project.
    • Remember the old lady who would scold you if she found any dogeared pages or frayed covers?

      Well, I do. :X
    • Privacy concerns?? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by John Seminal ( 698722 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @06:27PM (#13037464) Journal
      Those are all things that can go wrong with laptops, and I suppose it would be funny to hear a kid say he could not do his homework because "my S key did not work", or "the battery died". Just wait til one kid decides to sue because the flicker of the refreshment rate on his laptop monitor drove him insane or blind or caused him to not finish assignments on time.

      But these laptops will belong to the school. And what is to stop the schools from monitoring what the students do. Keyloggers are cheap, can they be stuck inside the laptops? What about software monitors. Everytime you log into the school network for class, it downloads what you typed the night before, including the chat you had with your buddy about how you hate Mr. Teeths english lit class and want to stick a wad of dynamite up his ass and light it. Or worse, what if innocent Jenny, the schools love and joy was IM'ing with Johnson, the black no-no. Will teachers start looking at Jenny as a slut, worthless with no value? Can a teacher use this information to single out a student to expolit?

      Who will own the content that is typed in the laptop. The school can claim they own the laptops. Unlike a paper notebook, that is mine and it would take a court order to look in it. Plus, it is not like mail, which is even more gaurded. I can see relationships between people breaking down as everyone is worried about saying the wrong thing.

      My old highschool was in the newspaper last year. The decided to instal a new honor code policy, where students were expected to act a certain way on and off campus. That means if two kids get into a fight at the McDonalds, the school will get involved. When I was in school, the highschool did not give a rats ass what I did at 9pm, I was off grounds. What about laptops. How will this tie into the honor system?

  • I live a mile away from that school, now I'll have all the wifi access I can handle.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I can see this plagued with problems. where will most of the data be stored?

    1) What happens if you have internet connectivity issue before a test (night before).
    2) What happens when a web link gets out dated and you cannot reference it during your studies.
    3) Viruses and worms do bad things.
    4) Managing the secuirty on the laptops.
    5) File corruption.

    Well, all the problems listed above can actually prepare a student for the real world in an office built around MS technology.
  • by Lead Butthead ( 321013 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:49PM (#13037083) Journal
    Imagin the power government will weld when they can change education text of our children on the fly to suit the preveiling views of the government.
    • by Meshach ( 578918 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @06:13PM (#13037337)
      That is actually a very good point

      Tin foil hat on

      Anyone who has ever read 1984 [] knows that this is one of the hallmarks of a controlled society. As soon as a book can (untraceably) be edited much objectivity is lost

      Hat off

      This is a good money saving idea. And it will save paper and make it easier to do homework from home

      I am torn
      • On-the-fly textbook editing might be on the agenda, but what makes this initiative so retarded is the sheer gimmickry of it.


        Government schools, who cannot teach and indeed have no interest in teaching basic literacy, are buying laptop computers to hand out to the kids.

        What do I make of this? It is another distraction intended to waylay semi-literate parents of these public school inmates into thinking it will somehow foster education in some vague... **insert stream of government/corporate obfus

      • by Jherek Carnelian ( 831679 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @07:22PM (#13037881)
        Anyone who has ever read 1984 knows that this is one of the hallmarks of a controlled society.
        As soon as a book can (untraceably) be edited much objectivity is lost.

        This is already happening, and it is indeed scary.
        They just don't quite have the untraceable part down yet.

        About a decade ago, Time Magazine published an essay by Bush Sr and Secretary of Defense Scowcroft on why they chose not take out Sadam during the first gulf war. A lot of the points they made have been proven true today.

        Time DELETED the article from their online archives. It was as if it were never written, URLs that once worked are now road-kill on the information super-highway. Not only that, but significant changes were made to other articles in that same issues as compared to the print version.

        Fortunately it wasn't quite so untraceable and has been widely reported (not widely enough IMNHO). Here is one take on the story, you can find plenty more by googling for bush scowcroft "reasons not to invade". h.html []
  • 1) who's paying for these laptops? Taxpayers no doubt... 2) All-wireless network + destructive teen-boy hackers = disastrous combination 3) How many of these laptops do they actually expect to survive the whole school year? Kids these days run in the door and throw their bookbag up against the wall on the way to the Xbox... 4) Security? Spyware? Adware? Viruses? That's my $0.02
  • If you had asked me (Score:3, Informative)

    by Approaching.sanity ( 889047 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:49PM (#13037089) Homepage
    A year ago I would have told you that this sort of thing is far fetched and implausible. Since then I have moved to a Laptop University that is connected to several online databases and online journals. I regularily write five to ten page research papers from the comfort of my dorm room.

    The future of learning is in information being availible everywhere. This school will prove it.
  • Alter-universe (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dark Coder ( 66759 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:51PM (#13037108)
    Top 10 things you're likely to hear shortly after the bell.

    10. Canius Virii ate my homework.
    9. Not now, I'm IM'ing with my broker
    8. Press me and I'll press this button erasing your server
    7. Road crew didn't blog their detours.
    6. PDF Midterms -- Fresh off the teacher's home server, send $$ to PayPal.
    5. Check out Mr. Crabapple's latest decline at RateMyTeacher.Com
    4. Acrobat Reader is crashing... I couldn't bone up on it overnite.
    3. Microsoft locked out PDF in favor of XML. Do you have an XML reader?
    2. Not enough memstick-space
    1. I can't read.
  • by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:51PM (#13037110)

    Textbook Publishers Association of America. Yeah, I made it up, but we simply cannot allow for progress against an old business models. Trifles innovation, hurts the authors, and leaves the suits worried.
  • what a dumb idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:52PM (#13037121)
    "hey, let's replace $60 worth of books with $600 worth of fragile computer gear. I'm sure no one will drop one or anything."
  • E-books are great for things that change a lot, like science, and are good for things that are amiable to hyperlinks, such as information about Shakespear.

    However, when it comes to plain old literature, like Shakespear's works, paper-in-hand is a much more pleasing experience than laptop-on-lap.

    Sure, have annotated, hyperlinked copies of Romeo and Juliet on the computer, but for goodness sake give those kids an actual book to read if they want one.
    • However, when it comes to plain old literature, like Shakespear's works, paper-in-hand is a much more pleasing experience than laptop-on-lap.

      I agree! One of my favorite things is to grab a paperback and go out under a tree to read on a nice warm day. If everything changes to an e-text, exactly at what tree can a laptop be plugged in?

      And the feel of a book in my hands feels good. It is not to heavy to lift over my head, to lean back and read. I like the feel of flipping pages. With a laptop, my head w

    • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @06:43PM (#13037598) Homepage Journal
      (I'm about to leave the office for my "second job" as a Shakespearean actor, so you kinda pushed the button. Sorry.)

      Shakespeare (and literature in general) needs to be taught more like physics (wait, hear me out) and less like history and biology are usually taught. The goal isn't whether you can read the text and translate it well enough to figure out who killed Mercutio. The goal is to develop an appreciation for the process of reading, and for the pleasures of literature.

      Just throwing somebody the e-text isn't sufficient, but just throwing a copy of the Penguin edition and telling them to have it read by next Wednesday isn't substantially better. For Shakespeare, read it out loud. Don't just have them read it to each other, at least not at first, because they don't know what's going on.

      That's actually something that could be done better with the laptop. It's a multimedia device. Let them hear actors reading, or watch actors performing. Good actors can make the page come alive far better than a high school freshman can. That's their job.

      Using the laptop as a substitute for paper is worthless. But there are some great ways to start with the laptop and use it to change the way we teach. That's my rant for literature, but expand the thinking to watching demonstrations of physics, or using a fly-through 3D model of a plant in biology.

      I would love to be able to have a high school senior pick up a copy of Hamlet and be able to truly understand it, but only once you've given him or her the basics. I certainly don't expect a freshman to be able to do more with Romeo and Juliet than look up the hard words in the footnotes and try to parse the syntax. Which means that they're reading all the words and missing everything that's really there, and they'll never do any better with Hamlet three years later.

      If all they can do is tell you that Laertes' father is Polonius, you've wasted their time and yours. But if they've seen Laertes overwhelming rage and blame for Hamlet, and they have some idea why it sounds so awesome when he says, "I would cut his throat in the church," you've really accomplished something.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:54PM (#13037142)
    they can outsource the teaching jobs to India. Imagine how much cheaper those teachers are! We finally can pay the administrators what they deserve!
  • by Linker3000 ( 626634 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:54PM (#13037146) Journal
    Why does my '25 years in IT' brain shudder at the prospect of this? In a nanosecond the following flashed through my consciousness:

    Dropped it, flat batteries, can't see it in the sun, viruses, forgot to backup, stolen, central server outage, corrupt file, server cracked, can't type that fast, wifi down, wifi overloaded, forgot my password, not enough power sockets in the room, pulled off desk by someone tripping over power cable, broken keycaps, spilled drink on it, fighting for printer time, someone took my USB memory stick, unauthorised upgrade...I'm going pale at the thought!
    • I remember a friend of mine in high school telling every teacher he had that he had an iMac at home and as such couldn't take home any of the writing he had done in the labs at school to work on at home (we only had floppy disks). He didn't, but nobody ever questioned him.
  • Need Paper (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bhive01 ( 832162 )
    I don't know about everyone else, but LCD or not I can't stand to read anything longer than a slashdot article (or its impending dupe!) on a screen. I have to have paper.
  • by PogieMT ( 668493 ) * on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:55PM (#13037159)
    It seems like the superintendent promoting this and many of the posts here are ignoring a fundamental problem: content. While it is nice to write about how great e-texts would be, it's not as if publishers are going to give that material away, even if it exists. So the cost of textbooks will still be there. Additionally, the answer to better education away from the textbook doesn't seem to be taking away books, which, as it turns out, can be valuable resources. The answer would seem to be giving teachers better training and forcing them to be accountable. In my experience as a teacher, the answer has never been a different avenue for transmittal of information, it has been a better transmitter.
  • by Sigfried ( 779148 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:57PM (#13037180)
    The folks in Vail have obviously not read this slashdot article [] about the correlation between computer usage in the classroom and a degradation of academic performance.
  • Wikipedia [] should be somewhat useful in getting alternative views into the classroom that hadn't been covered in the past. Let's hope this weakens the anti-evolution and global warming denier crowd.
  • Horrible Idea... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by John Seminal ( 698722 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:58PM (#13037186) Journal
    The laptops cost $850 each, and the district will hand them to 350 Empire High School students for the entire year. The fast-growing district hopes to have 750 students at the new high school eventually. A set of textbooks runs about $500 to $600, Baker said.

    First, if the laptops are $850, don't also forget to add the tech support that will be required for each laptop. Will students be able to take the laptops home? What if one gets a virus, and infects the others. What if a few students decide to destroy all the laptops. In a wireless community, that can be done. Yet, it would be impossible to burn all the books.

    Add to the list of concers, that Ferenhite 451 is comming. No more books. No more written records. Students will start using only computers, and trust the content as accurate. I can see in one years curriculum "we are going to war because of weapons of mass destruction". Next year the laptop says "we went to war to liberate a people from a ruthless dictator". If the first sentance was in the book, it could not be erased, and students would ask "what? why? how did it change?".

    And what about lost laptops? What is a more attractive target to steal? Laptops or books? I know on college campuses, people try and steal books, to sell them back to the bookstore for $20. Now imagine something worth 10 times as much.

    This is a bad idea for so many reasons. It will raise costs per student for the school to operate. Either students will have to pay, or the property tax will increase. Laptops are more vulnerable to 14-17 year olds for thieft and malicious viruses.

    And how good is it for the eyes? Most of my friends who spend 6+ hours in front of a computer have bad eyes by the time they hit 25ish.

    • by Jerf ( 17166 )
      I can see in one years curriculum "we are going to war because of weapons of mass destruction". Next year the laptop says "we went to war to liberate a people from a ruthless dictator". If the first sentance was in the book, it could not be erased, and students would ask "what? why? how did it change?".

      Read current textbooks much? You hardly need computers for such historical revisionism.

      (Of course, while the 'right wing' efforts, mostly unsuccessful at that, of some people to get ID into textbooks and E
  • Huge Mistake (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hungrygrue ( 872970 )
    Great. now the kids won't read a damn thing. As long as they can just search the text, they won't even have to do a half assed skim of it to find answers. Say goodby to what attention span they have.
  • It has a total population of less than 2500 people, it is 20 miles outside of Tucson, and the public high school there has only about 1000 students total. Oh, and try to find it on Google maps [].
  • by KoReE ( 4358 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @06:04PM (#13037257) Homepage
    I think it's a great idea, but where is the content coming from? Is there any board that's looking over the content to make sure it is sufficient? Not that schools can't do that themselves, but I know many states have strict guidelines for their textbooks, and I'd be curious to see how these online books/articles compare...
  • Reasons not to. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Antony-Kyre ( 807195 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @06:06PM (#13037273)
    1) Dropping a book versus dropping a laptop. Which will survive?
    2) Power surges.
    3) Do I have to buy my own electricity over spring and winter vacations?
    4) Eye problems.
    5) Eye problems.
    6) See above.
    7) People don't steal textbooks if left someplace. But someone definitely will if it's a laptop.
    8) May I remind you of 4-6? (Someone else mentioned this in another post, but eye problems with monitors is such a problem.)
    9) Computer malfunctions. Homework completely lost. Do it on paper? The move from paper books to laptops will make that more difficult. Try having a laptop next to you and a paper to the side of it. Writing surfaces.
  • Not a good thing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mjkjedi ( 717711 )

    I'm sorry, I think this is a lousy idea. Other people have commented about the dangers of giving a schoolful of kids expensive laptops, but there's something else: it SUCKS to read tons of text on a screen.

    I (obviously) like computers, and I read tons of technical documentation online, since it's usually extremely interconnected, and hyperlinks help. But if I'm reading something that's pretty much linear (TFA didn't mention the structure of these "online articles", so I may be wrong there), or w

  • Will the students be given free eye healthcare to cover the cost of corrective lenses?

    This is a pretty bad idea that stems from the belief that you can throw technology at a problem and fix it. In this case, give the kids laptops and they'll get smarter. Don't get me wrong, laptops/computers/other technologies used in conjunction with other tools is a good idea. I'd suggest using the right tool for the job which would result in a helpful exposure to a variety of
    learning tools- be it book or notebook.
  • by jim_v2000 ( 818799 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @06:07PM (#13037281)
    Whoever thought the idea of give laptops to highschoolers must never have worked with any. I remember from my days in highschool. The kids are a destructive force. If it can be broken or stolen, it will be. I mean, seriously, how long until these things start getting stolen and showing up on Ebay? How do they prevent that from happening? Also, how do you stop some hormonely charged punk from getting mad and throwing a laptop on the ground? You know that it won't take but a day for some kid to forget that he's got a laptop in his backpack when he's throwing it in his locker. Books on the other hand don't break, and aren't hot items to sell. (College books are another story)

    Plus I can see all kinds of new I got a virus! Or my batteries died! Or Windows crashed/Clippy ate my paper! Books don't lose power, don't get virus, don't crash.

    In the end, considering the group in questions (Highschoolers) books seem like the better solution. Plus, if a system isn't broken, why fix it? Books have been working for a long time, and can for a long time to come.

  • $850 for the laptop vs $650 for the text books.
    Are the eBooks free? I *highly* doubt it. So it's more like $850 for the laptop + $400 (or more!) for the eTexts from Scholastic of whoever.
    Plus you gotta add in support costs (how much support do you have to do on a hunk of dead tree?), and a 1-2 year lifecycle (if you're *lucky*), vs. a 5-7 year life cycle for books. And now, if you drop/break/destroy/steal/loose a laptop, you don't just loose that Chemistry text book, but also that students entire course
  • Although I use the web for a huge amount of my research and entertainment reading these days, I still also depend heavily on "textbooks" for more in-depth treatment of material. While I'm sure that using good old-fashioned books will not actually stop, I wonder if the lack of emphasis is a bit of a slippery slope: less demand for textbooks will lead to less production of good textbooks which will feed back to less demand for textbooks. Even with such projects as Gutenberg [], Wikibooks [], and others, is it pos
  • The screen problem is a killer.

    E-ink [] is one way around the screen problem. Basically, it is electronically controlled paper.
  • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @06:27PM (#13037468) Homepage
    The textbook replacement cries out for something like an ebook. Why? If designed right you'd get:

    More rugged. Laptops have harddrives, keyboards, ports, etc. The more moving parts, and complexity the more likely it is to break. An ebook could eliminate all this via flash memory and touch screens. A gig of flash memory would likely be able to hold all the textbooks a kid would need for a year. Make it componentized so you could replace the touchscreen very easily.

    Longer battery life. You really need very minimal processing power for an ebook, so you could use very low power processors. Battery lifetimes of 12-24 hours would be easy.

    Lower OS complexity/OS access. If you make an ebook like an appliance and give the user only access to the core functions (no installing 3rd party apps for instance) then you solve all the problems of the OS being corrupted. Allow only data to be sent to/from the textbook.

    Lower value to thieves. How many people really want an inexpensive ebook vs a laptop? If all you can do is read textbooks from it, it's a much smaller theft target.

    What's the downside? Well the kids wouldn't be able to do homework on it. Big deal. They can't do homework on a printed textbook now.

    The problem is the textbook publishers don't want to do it. For the most part they make money because textbooks wear out, not because the information in them needs changing/updating. How much has Calculus changed over the last 20 years? My guess is not at all. Science changes a little, maybe you'd need to update the information every 10 years (barring creationist lies). History textbooks probbably need more updating, but that's more due to changes in the political climate.
  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @08:17PM (#13038232) Homepage
    I've written some reasonably successful self-published physics textbooks. They're free in digital form (see my /. user page), and I also sell them in print.

    My experience is that students hate electronic books. Of my own community college students, about 75% buy them in the bookstore for convenience, while the other 25% download them and print them out (saves a small amount of money, but it's a hassle, and the finished product isn't very nice). The percentage of students who don't use a hardcopy is zero. True, some might do it if they were forced to carry a laptop around, but that just begs the question of why anyone would want to force students to carry laptops around -- dopey idea, IMO.

    The same seems to be true at other schools that use my books. I just recently had a student at another school order some books directly from me, and she mentioned that she was very upset at her school's bookstore for not stocking enough. She had been working from the downloads, but that's not what she wanted.

    Coincidentally, there's a neighborhood grade school near me (not the one my kids go to) that provides laptops to some of their students, and soon is going to make it universal. My perception is that it's purely a PR thing to impress gullible parents with how high-tech the school is. (It's in a new development where a house with no yard goes for $600,000 --- I'm glad we bought a house in this town before the real estate craziness happened!)

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.