My oldest child was home from college for semester break until last weekend. While home, he finalized his spring schedule and procured the necessary textbooks. The boxes arrived, and I told him his books were here, there was a glimmer of hope in his eyes and a smile on his face. When he realized I was talking about his textbooks as opposed to the other books he had on his Amazon wish list* that changed and he said, "Oh, I thought you were talking about books I will actually read."
Wow. Is this the rampant feeling about textbooks? Absolutely! Truth be told, the content for any textbook or value is bound to change and no longer be a valuable resource about twenty minutes after it is printed. Case in point: the knowledge from an html guidebook from grad school still comes in handy, but I long since ditched that book. I can find the information online when I need to refresh my brain and tweak coding. This is rare.
As North Carolina is poised to move forward with state legislation regarding a transition from funding textbooks to funding digital materials, it is time to reexamine the topic of textbooks. Who really needs them anyway - teachers or students? The answer is pretty obvious if you ask me. Staunch advocates exist for textbooks. My hunch is that those advocates don't include a great percentage of students. Physical textbooks can level the playing field and ensure equity until everyone has free, unlimited access to the Internet, but ultimately they are on the brink of extinction. As are the educators that rely on them.
Our district is making progress. Due to a grant, we were able to secure digital resources for multi-user access. These are in essence digital versions of printed texts, but they are a start. A large number of teachers are eager to move towards digital resources for supplemental course materials. That number grows each school year.
Change takes time. We have to take it one step at a time.
*By the way, he did get the books from his wishlist Christmas morning.