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Tablets or Textbooks? Lawmakers pushing for schools to go digital

The push for technology in the classrooms is taking another step forward. Two state legislators want to swap traditional textbooks for electronic ones.

Tablets or textbooks, Alabama schools could be going digital.  There's a push by two state legislators to ditch the traditional textbooks for electronic devices. E-book pilot programs are already popping up, and some right here in the Wiregrass. The Houston County School System tested the technology, but decided not to expand it throughout the district for a couple of reasons.  Funding was one. "Implementing the iPad program for all of our students in Houston County each year was $3.25 million. It's going to be a financial burden no matter which way we go,” explained Superintendent Tim Pitchford,

He’s also concerned about funding for this state-wide effort to bring more technology in the classroom. Pitchford asked where will the money come from and will it take away from school districts textbook allotment that's already seen a drop since 2008. Houston County Schools went from nearly $475,000 five years ago to just over $200,000 this fiscal year. "The textbook companies are not going to just give you these additions on your electronic devices when it's time for an upgrade, which creates a major issue. That means more money. We would have to pitch in some of our local funds and that’s with a textbook or an iPad program. "

Representative Paul Lee of Houston County also had questions about funding. The legislators pushing the bill want to borrow $100 million bonds to implement the program. Participating school systems would also have to contribute 25 percent of the funding for the devices.  "We've done an excellent job on preventing proration since 2010 and we certainly want to continue that, and not step out too far, too quickly,” said Lee.

He’s also worried students could lose fundamental skills you can’t get on a digital device, like writing with a pen and paper. The program is optional and if the bill passes could be implemented for the 2014-2015 school year.

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