Numerous thinkers have flirted with different ways to provide children around the globe with the kind of technology that can enable advanced learning. Perhaps no program has gained more traction in the past few years than One Laptop Per Child, an ambitious program to provide the world’s poorest children with educational opportunities by handing them low-cost laptops. Now, a new American concept is embracing advanced, cheaper technology to help kids learn in this country.
The proposal comes courtesy of the Democratic Leadership Council, a prominent group whose leadership team has included Harold Ford Jr., Senator Tom Carper, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Their goal: to provide America’s students with trusty eTextbooks, thereby eliminating much of the overhead associated with print textbooks as well as generating growth in a potentially-valuable segment of the tech industry. Entitled “A Kindle in Every Backpack: A Proposal for eTextbooks in American Schools,” it could potentially provide a new model for modernizing education in the United States and eventually the world.
The proposal’s author, Thomas Z. Freedman, was a senior advisor to President Clinton and currently serves as the president of Freedman Consulting, whose clients include American Express, Cisco Systems, Clinton/Gore ’96, and the ONE Campaign. Spotlighting Amazon’s (from the looks of it, not a Freedman Consulting client) Kindle, Freedman’s basic assertion is that the eTextbooks would provide a low-cost learning medium whose content could be instantly updated. While he does little to cover the numerous financial constraints plaguing the country’s school districts, he has presented an affordable tool that could modernize the American school system. “Traditional textbooks are learning tools whose time is passing; they are ready for replacement,” says Freedman. “We have a 21st-century technology that can help our children learn and drive a key industry, and it should be driving our innovation in school.”