Schools Embrace High-Tech: Will Your Company Make the Grade?

Textbooks are going out of fashion, fast. You can thank, or blame, the high-tech industry for this, but indications are that we have yet to see the full impact of technology on the education sector.

Publishing companies may be biting their fingernails at the prospect of vanishing textbook sales, but high-tech companies will see a windfall as more of their products are sold into, and adopted by, educational institutions from elementary to university levels.

The list of products that may be drafted into the educational service is mouth watering. They include the usual candidates, such as personal computers, digital voice recorders and players, e-readers, and other tablet computing devices, plus flat-screen displays, projectors, laser pointers, and servers required for serving up the hearty dishes of assignments, tutorials, video, and cameras necessary for the proliferation of online education.

We have certainly come a long way since 1993 when {complink 3426|Microsoft Corp.} founder Bill Gates launched Encarta, the world’s first digital encyclopedia. In 2009, Microsoft discontinued its Encarta encyclopedia although it continues to feature the online dictionary feature.

A recent survey in the UK indicates just how far technology has invaded the education world and, more critically, how much deeper it will likely penetrate.

According to the report, more than a quarter of teachers polled believe textbooks will become a thing of the past due to the rise of the Internet. The poll of almost 600 primary and secondary school teachers indicates respondents believe “more learning will be done online.” Also, a majority of the respondents believe that information technology is now more important than traditional teaching methods. I’m thinking: Is this true, is it plausible?

Hear this: 27.4 percent said that textbooks would become obsolete as more teaching materials will be posted online. (This is already happening here in the UK and in advanced economies worldwide.) More than two-thirds (67.9 percent) said the use of IT, whiteboards, and computers, for example, has increased in place of the traditional chalk and blackboards.

This is innovation in action. Who would have foreseen this even 10 years ago? In support of this survey, William M. Habermehl, superintendent of the 500,000-student Orange County Department of Education in California, said: “In five years, I think the majority of students will be using digital textbooks,” which in his view “can be better than traditional textbooks.” I agree.

If your company is not already directly serving the education sector or planning how to, this is an eye opener. Due to budgetary constraints, educational funds will in future be directed to optimal services, and high-tech products are likely to feature greatly as institutions seek ways to get the most bang for their money.

The opportunities are tremendous, but so are the likely pitfalls, as this is a new area and many products could end up not making the grade.

21 comments on “Schools Embrace High-Tech: Will Your Company Make the Grade?

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    November 17, 2010

    Anna–you are absolutely right that this is a huge opportunity for makers of PCs, peripherals and tablets.  In Massachusetts, several school districts began requiring laptops as part of students' school supplies this year. Needless to say, parents went nuts (I think some districts specified Macs) over the cost.

     I think part of the problem with schools will be the rapid obsolescence of technology. Say a school district gets a budget to buy x amount of PCs–they will be useless within a couple of years. A smart vendor would approach schools with a really good trade-in or trade-up program. In theory, schools shouldn't be any different than businesses–what business wants a bunch of obsolete laptops sitting around? I'm not even sure how that works….

    Anyway, good idea!

  2. SP
    November 17, 2010

    Although its a great progress in the field of technology and defintely a great revenue or profit making from business point of view, I personally think that nothing can replace textbooks. And its the best way to do lessons. Imagine how will an average earning household afford these gadgets. Yes it would definitely help if government bears the cost. Then we should be ready to pay more taxes. Another aspect is the real hardbooks would always be there when you want to study nomatter if there is power outage, or the system crashes or server is down. But I agree for university levels and post graduate programs it would be really a basic thing. We also talk about doing something for gloabl warming but at the end man wants more and more comfort and thats the biggest truth.

  3. Anna Young
    November 17, 2010

    I agree that this will amount to increase in revenue for high tech companies and all related businesses. However, on global warming issue raised, you're quite right. This is a point raised by my 11year old son, who felt that we'll be polluting the environment further. My response is that it will be a challenge certainly for the high-tech industry. It will be a time for further exploration into going green in this respect. Whatever “green” means now.


  4. bolaji ojo
    November 18, 2010

    What I find tantalizing is the wide range of products already commercialized that could be easily adapted by high-tech companies for the education market. Flat screen displays could be deployed in school hallways for students to get information on classes, appointments and other information. Homework could be done at home, e-mailed to teachers — instead of submitted by hand — who would be able to print them out or grade them online and wireless products could become a staple of educational instruction.

    Teachers, on the other hand, could accelerate video-based tutoring. In some higher institutions today many students don't even show up in classes. They roll out of bed, slip on a dressing gown and sit in front of their computer to watch a lecturer talk to a half-empty classroom several blocks away. High-tech companies are going to provide the tools needed for this and we'll chronicle it hear.

  5. elctrnx_lyf
    November 18, 2010

    The classroom and the study material everything is transforming to digital. The one major benefit i can see out of this is there will be no paper, so trees are at save and in turn humans are saved. The future only going to be technology generated by people using technology and yet still there is lot that can be done with electronics.

  6. AnalyzeThis
    November 18, 2010

    I am fairly certain that within the next 20-40 years, e-readers will be so affordable that buying one would be about as big of a deal as purchasing a standard spiral notebook is today. I really don’t think this is a bold prediction, especially given the drastic price drops we've seen with e-readers just in the past year.

    Even looking forward 5 years or so, is it really unrealistic to believe that e-readers may be less than $40? I really, really don't think so. And once you get into the $20-$40 price range, making them standard issues in schools becomes trivial. Especially at colleges, where students are expected to shell out hundreds of dollars for traditional textbooks anyhow.

    There are so many advantages to phasing out outdated and expensive traditional textbooks. Once the cost of e-reader technology decreases, I expect to see widespread and rapid adoption throughout much of the developed world.

  7. SP
    November 18, 2010

    Well this is a very interesting topic. I cant even imagine that kids gets up in the morning and open their laptops, starts an application, the teacher comes, greeting happens and the lesson for the day is done. So basically we there would be no need to go to school. It would be like correspondence courses where you hardly meet your teachers. In my opinion technology can never replace human touch. But I agree 20-40 years from now atleast in western part of the world there will be only e-reading and e-teaching. But in many Asian countries the trend of classroom teaching, using paper notebooks and books will continue.

  8. Anna Young
    November 18, 2010

    SP, Technology may not replace human touch, but we are seeing technology perform functions that human had been used to carrying out.
    The reality is that technology is reaching areas in education where it would not have been possible to reach.
    For example, in some African countries, the government is advocating a laptop per child.In my view this is the beginning of technology rearing it's head in developing countries
    Hence, the use of  textbooks and notebook may gradually decrease, if it's less required in the classroom.
    Consequently,as this technology takes off in the west, it is bound to creep into other parts of the developing nations.
    I don't think Asian country or any other nation of the world would want to be left behind technologically.

  9. Mydesign
    November 19, 2010

        The growth of IT in education sector is tremendous for the last couple of years. Recently I had a visit to one of the European country. So as a part of research conference, I just visited one of the departments in a famous school. There the teacher is taking class with the help of big LCD monitor, with supporting IT infrastructure. It’s teacher’s duty to prepare the study materials either in PPT with necessary animation or in some other supporting format. With the help of these documents teachers are taking classes and for clarifying doubts they can browse in internet at real-time. The students can also access the same study materials either by Bluetooth mechanism or WIFI methods.In my opinion, if technology is growing like this, in near future itself the text books way disappear.

  10. tioluwa
    November 19, 2010

    I Believe this is part of the future of eduction, however, i agree with SP, nothing can replace plain old textbooks.


    However, i don't think its about replacing textbooks, but providing more interactive, cost effective and more efficient ways to educate students. Textbooks will remain, as will note books, but the power of technology will offer something that textbooks can't offer: interactivitity, interconnectivity across the globe and many more.


    As for environmental issues, yes it will be a growing risk, but i think  Anna young answered that well, its part of the challenge.

    I know what technology did for my baby brother, He learnt to read and write in front of a desktop, learnt to operate a computer from power up to shut down, launch his own apps by himself at age 5, something at alot of adults down here can't do.

    So the risks may be there, but the benefits will be mind blowing for educators and Tech companies.

  11. Anna Young
    November 19, 2010

    Let me introduce you to Livescribe's “Smartpen,” one of those new high-tech equipment that I believe will revolutionize education and even the workplace sometime in the near future. It allows users to write digitally and, according to analysts at Outsell Insights who reviewed it, the device “records live audio in sync with handwritten notes and allows all this to be easily transferred to a computer.”

    This is not the only “smartpen” in the market. Companies are daily introducing devices that will make transform how students learn and impact business users. Here's what Outsell analyst Ned May has to say about Livescribe's Echo smartpen:

    “In simplest terms, the smartpen allows users to annotate and capture the audion soundtrack of their lives.Be it sitting in a lecture hall, attending an online webinar, or meeting in a room with colleagues, suddenly the disparate tasks of listening and noting become one and the same.

    These pens are not cheap and there are some initial obstacles that need to be overcome for adoption to grow.”

    If interested in reading more see LiveScribe: A Truly Mighty Pen. Registration is required for Outsell Insights.

  12. eemom
    November 19, 2010

    I do not believe that textbooks will disappear anytime soon.  I know a lot of parents that  purchased textbooks when the school did not provide them because versions were available online. We cannot assume that every family has unlimited access to computer resources.  Requiring wifi access full time in the evening for each member of the family is still a challenge. 

    Also, I believe that in the US, education has taken a step back due to state as well as federal budget cuts this year.  With the economic downturn, schools are also not able to raise taxes to make up for the delta in funds. Schools cannot continue to provide state of the art technology for the students and advance to keep up with the rest of the world with little or no money in their budget.

    With that being said, schools have come a long way and the companies that not only have the product offering but know how to make it affordable to the schools will be able to proifilerate their technology and get a leg up on their competition and perhaps establish an educational standard.  Unless a technology provides a clear cost advantage, school districts will not be able to adopt new technology in the short term in light of all the budget challenges.


  13. Ms. Daisy
    November 19, 2010

    As much as I want to join this chorus on 'books will continue to be the medium of reading”, I am weighing on the NO side. The reason being that younger children are now being rainsed on electronic learning like “Dora” with little to do reading paper materials. We should also take our cue from the news media. The newspaper  is dying and taken over by the electronic media. That is even among the older generation that started out with textbooks. Any company thar is not getting on board now and acttually making it their goal is doomed for extinction!

  14. Ms. Daisy
    November 19, 2010

    Count me in on the “smartpen”. Any device that will merge the task of listening and note taking is welcomed. My only worry is the voice recognition component. Products that were to assist with voice recoording and transcribing had been problematic even with the initial investment of time to program them to personal speech. I hope this ones have better reception and accuracy.

  15. Anna Young
    November 19, 2010

    Well said! Books are already dying even in the adult world. First came Kindle from Amazon, then the bookseller Barnes and Noble chipped in with Nook. Apple's iPad is more or less a reader and so many others are jumping on the bandwagon. I was on a flight recently and the older gentleman beside me was cradling his Kindle. I asked him if he just got it. “I got it a long time ago,” he said adding. “it's a first generation Kindle.” That says it all.

  16. eemom
    November 20, 2010

    I agree with the point that digital books are starting to be more prevelant but the market for digital books is still in its infincay as far as consumer adoption.  It certainly has not hit the tipping point yet or you would not see the brick and mortar buisnesses still succeed.  That time will come, however, and that is why companies are preparing for it now.

    The education field is a little different though, especially in public education, since they are hampered by budget limitations.  While we can implement new technology in the home, schools have to cater to a wide variety of socioeconomic community residents and ensure that the education they are providing can reach each and every one.  The elimiation of the textbooks will probably happen at the higher grades first and then make its way down to the middle schools and elementary levels.  I do believe though, that its a long way away before we say its complete elimination.


  17. Tim Votapka
    November 20, 2010

    I concur with the folks who recognize the upward “digital” trend in education. I certainly have sat through a few middle school orientation sessions to see the indicators myself. Interactive white boards now hang in front of the traditional chalk board and web-based portals provide instant access to assignments and other vital content. All good tools to have in the budgets and in practice. Nevertheless, I don't see educators abandoning conventional textbooks any time soon. The “old style” textbook carries a great deal of value by virtue of its format and gradient. Solving inequalities or classifying polygons needs a certain amount of mass to aid learning and the printed text – in my opinion – is far superior than the “paperless” media. What's more, my son spends too much time on his I-Pod Touch as it is!

  18. Tim Votapka
    November 20, 2010

    I'm leaning in SP's direction on this one. The great and wonderful tech curve has brought us up out of the bear skins and knives age. We can run limitless meetings with staff, prospects and suppliers without having to buy a plane ticket. Yet when it comes to education, I'm a bit more wary. In my line of work, I follow the maxim that absence of mass is a barrier to study. If I'm asking a youngster to have full conceptual understanding of any subject, he needs to have enough mass in front of him to get it. Leaving it up to what he may see on a handheld device or laptop screen dilutes the student's ability to grasp the concept.

    And don't think the concept doesn't apply to everyone. Bring a new employee on board in the admin area and start spewing EEPROM design to them. If they've never seen such a device, they have no mass on the idea. The sooner you put one in their hand the quicker they'll get the idea and how it may relate to a larger system. Try it out.

  19. saranyatil
    November 21, 2010

    i definitely agree that there s going to be a day where books are going to be obsolete already young generations are used technological gadgets hence fourth there is going to be a turn coat situation for all, this will lead to the growth of companies involved in this field. but at one side i feel the younger generation may miss out the beauty of a library or may not understand the happiness while reading books. digital books has its own pro's and cons. It industry will have to work in a right way to conceal the best things on to their gadgets.

  20. kumar1863
    November 21, 2010

    It is very hard to put boundaries between textbooks and digital education. If one need to get an overview of a topic, digital education will solve the problem in less time and also in a effective manner where textbooks failed to do. I prefer digital education at times when i don't have 1% knowledge about it to get acquainted to it by saving the time and also the money. 

    With the help of digital technology you can express your views in a far better way by using animations, and plots than just using a chalk on the blackboard.

    But at times if one need to get a insight knowledge about a topic its always better to go with a good text book. 






  21. Susan Fourtané
    November 22, 2010

    Hi, Anna 

    More and more educational institutions are using the Internet as an educational tool. The fact is that education is changing, incorporating more technology and online resources. Many universities offer Virtual Learning Environments. Students can access to e-libraries, discussion rooms with lectures and international students, e-Learning is not going to be different from e-Banking and e-Health. Text books will be replaced by e-books pretty soon and reading a paper book will become rare and enjoyable in a different way. 


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