The Texas state government is working on implementing bills that give high school students access to digital textbooks – a topic of great interest at this year’s Connected Summit.
Sidney Burrus, Maxfield and Oshman professor emeritus of engineering at Rice University, will be sharing his work in this area.
Burrus worked on Texas House Bills 2488 and 4294. HB 2488 requires the State Board of Education to approve some open-source textbooks submitted by universities. These open-source materials are digital textbooks that students could download from the internet for free.
HB 4294 allows school districts to purchas technology to deliver electronic textbooks with any savings it accrues by purchasing open-source materials. Burrus said electronic textbooks would cut costs students and educators while maintaining and even enhancing quality.
“The current textbook is obsolete,” Burrus said. “We need a new digital option.”
Another benefit of open educational resources is that it is easily available to people across the world, Burrus said. The technology can also be used for students of all ages and levels.
Burrus authored a paper titled Open Educational Resources (OER) and Connexions earlier this month. Connexions is an online repository of educational content. It has tools for people or groups to author and publish content for all to utilize under the Creative Commons copyright, according to the paper.
Although anyone can produce content on Connexions, Burrus has worked to set up a peer-review system. All content posted on Connexions is available to users, Burrus said in his paper, but organizations can create “lenses” users can use to view material. Only material endorsed by the organization will be visible to the user through the lens.
The material posted on Connexions can be accessed through eReaders or iPads or printed as books. A book costing $130 through traditional publishers might cost $30 through Connexions, Burrus said in his paper.
Several universities, including Rice, have used textbooks from Connexions, according to the paper. It is saving costs for both a Californian community college and a K-12 school in Africa.
Burrus said the Texas state government recognized the value of digital resources to educational institutions. Now, it just needs to get the technology into the classroom.
“We’re looking at technology that can simultaneously increase the quality and lower the costs,” Burrus said. “The real question is the implementation of it.”