Thursday, May 27, 2010

Digital texts

The current seniors were the guinea pig class toting around their laptops in our 1:1 program, and we've added a class ever since until we reached full strength this year. The computers have gotten a bit slimmer and lighter, thank goodness. And the bookbags are a little less stuffed and somewhat lighter as well, and thank goodness for that, too, because students refuse to use their basement lockers and just haul everything around with them.

From the beginning, parents were promised productivity tools such as OneNote, but also online texts to lighten the backpack load. Naturally, in text selection, departments have leaned that way. That has not been the case in Religious Studies, however. I think it was around 2006/07 that I was calling publishers, who had reasons for not offering digital versions (I think one had to do with copyright costs for photos, though we did not quite understand how that was different from print).

This is not to say that there are not problems with online texts. Some pioneers in a Spanish class I taught three years ago had some difficulties with speed and reliability, either on our end or the publisher's. More convenient, perhaps, would be versions that could be downloaded, entirely or chapter by chapter, onto a student's laptop. And, it's true that we still have students in the digital age who prefer to handle "real" books.

Nevertheless, we were ready to roll next year with a brand new text offered digitally at a much lower price than the paper version. But it turns out that text will not yet be available, and we have to make a late shift in our book order. A couple of publishers I've contacted did not have definitive answers about other texts for the course offered digitally, so we had to just go with the old paper one for now.

I have to admit that we are scratching our heads a bit over the fact that publishers in this field seem to be slow in getting on the bandwagon that other disciplines have been riding for a few years now.

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