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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The media shift & the TX textbook revolution

Not everybody's idea of a national news story, but an example of the media sea change we're experiencing: "In a historic shift," Texas – the US's second-biggest textbook "customer" with a multi-billion-dollar textbook budget and highly centralized curriculum development and textbook purchasing that has been in place since 1918 – is broadening its definition of "book," the Texas Tribune reported recently. Part of the definition now seems to be "a living reservoir of content, freely edited and updated by educators and beamed to the classrooms, homes and handhelds of students statewide," and some of the budget will go to laptops and e-readers. Leading up to this development, the Tribune cites three fundamental shifts of power and money: "from the State Board of Education to the Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency; from three major textbook conglomerates to a broad array of computer hardware and digital content providers; and from the state to school districts." The bottom line: School districts in Texas will actually be getting some of the state budget to make their own decisions on content, curriculum, and delivery tools, it appears. One of the top three textbook adoption states (the others being California and Florida) is acting like one-size-fits-all doesn't fit well with the way children learn, socialize, or use technology (see "Online Safety 3.0" for the Net-safety piece of that). For a bit more context: "Most states allow local school districts to buy their own instructional materials, in print or otherwise," according to the Tribune; but 22, the so-called adoption states, don't. Texas, Florida, and California together have more students than the other 19 combined, but "none has held the reigns of curriculum and money so tightly as Texas," the Tribune reports. As for book-content delivery devices – "e-readers" like Amazon's Kindle – sales are growing. According to The Economist, there are about 5 million out in the world right now, and "double that amount will be sold in 2010, according to iSuppli, a market-research firm. Apple, with its record of improving upon existing technologies and triggering mass adoption, is expected to shake up the business by launching a tablet-style computer which would make an ideal e-reader in 2010." The article's a little old, but some more great background on textbooks can be found at Edutopia.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'Smartbooks' (more than netbooks) aimed at teens

They're different, Forbes points out, though the names of the devices are very new, and "smartbooks" haven't even hit store shelves yet. The jury's out on whether teens will want the latter, but marketers have been plans for the teen market. Qualcomm and Sharp "expect at least a dozen smartbooks incorporating their chips to debut in early 2010." Here's the theoretical difference: "Smartbooks will be more affordable than netbooks, with prices as low as $199. Unlike netbooks, which resemble laptop computers with their hinged or 'clamshell' shape," smartbooks will be flat and tablet-shaped. One market went to Savannah College of Art & Design graduate students to help refine the product, Forbes reports. The design students said teens want "intuitive, trendy and powerful devices that become extensions of themselves" and help them "keep up with their hectic lives at a low price point." Sounds like good advice that, if taken, might materialize into a hybrid between laptops and cellphones that might actually become a trend, fellow parents.

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