States should get with the times and switch to digital resources within five years.
That's the first of three recommendations the State Educational Technology Directors Association published in its report [PDF] on Monday, Sept. 24. The report shows examples of what states and school districts are doing now, and provides recommendations for government, industry and education.
The five-year time frame comes from the traditional textbook adoption cycle. If states don't transition to digital resources by the 2017-18 school year, they'll be stuck with static, printed content for five to 10 more years after that.
This recommendation includes a number of components, such as eliminating unnecessary regulations, establishing effective policies, investing in infrastructure and devices, and identifying effective models.
Policymakers, educators and business leaders should work on flexible models that make sense for digital content. These models touch all areas of the digital life cycle, including creation, acquisition, distribution and use of digital content.
A number of states are already making the shift from print to digital. For example, the Indiana State Board of Education allowed all school districts to choose their own textbooks. School districts can use textbook funds to pay for digital content as well as devices to interact with the content.
Texas made a similar change in regard to funding. A 2011 bill gave districts an instructional materials allocation, which provided more flexibility. It can cover digital content as well as professional development and technical support for the devices and network that schools use.
Utah took a big step toward developing open educational resources in January 2012. Open educational resources are licensed in such a way that others can use and modify them at no charge. The state's Office of Education plans to support this development and is encouraging schools to start adopting the open textbooks in fall 2012.