Modern information technology has dramatically improved our ability to work, get health care, stay in
touch with family and friends, and inform and entertain ourselves. In only a decade, the Internet has
fundamentally transformed the way we live as consumers, as citizens, as patients, and as family
However, information technology has been slower to produce meaningful systemic improvements in
K-12 education. The dynamic in many classrooms around the country remains decidedly 20th Century:
teach the paper textbook, test the students at a fixed point in time, and move on. There also remains a
profound disconnect between the learning that happens in school and that which takes place out of
Educators are challenged to satisfy the learning needs of today’s diversity of students while meeting the
increasingly complex definition of what it means to be educated in the 21st Century. Two recent indepth
government analyses, the National Education Technology Plan and the National Broadband Plan,
called for leveraging the best of modern technology to transform how teachers teach and how students
learn and for improving access and equality of opportunity for learners of all ages.
What are digital textbooks?
In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama said, “I want all students to be able to
learn from digital textbooks.” The digital textbooks envisioned will come in an ever-evolving
variety of technological and instructional variations to meet diverse educational needs and
interests. But they will all have in common digital devices with access to rich, interactive, and
personalized content that will encompass the primary toolset in digital learning.
No longer will students have to tote 50 pound backpacks with outdated print textbooks. New digital
textbooks will be light digital devices – such as a laptop or tablet –that combine Internet connectivity,
interactive and personalized content, learning videos and games, and other creative applications to
enable collaboration with other students while providing instantaneous
feedback to the student and teacher. Digital textbooks can revolutionize teaching and are not simply the
digital form of static textbooks.
Making the Transition to Digital Learning
A modern day approach to digital learning is a personalized experience that dynamically
identifies and addresses each student’s unique learning needs in a manner appropriate to their
learning interests, styles, and aptitude, and does so anytime and anywhere. This personalized
learning model is made possible by digital learning that leverages persistent connectivity,
large-scale data processing, and rapidly advancing device capabilities to individually
engage every student.
Why make the change?
There are many indications that leveraging technology can improve the opportunity for educational
access, improve student engagement and achievement, and improve learning productivity:
• According to the U.S. Department of Education and recent studies by the National Training and
Simulation Association, technologybased instruction can reduce the time students take to reach a
learning objective by 30 to 80 percent. According to a meta- analysis and review of online learning
studies by the U.S. Department of Education, on average, students in online learning conditions
performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.
• According to Project RED, a national research and advocacy initiative focused on how
technology can revolutionize education, continuous access to a computing device for every
student leads to increased academic achievement and financial benefits, especially when
technology is properly implemented.
• Online collaboration contributes to improved graduation rates and other academic improvements,
according to Project RED
Today’s students are “digital natives” – they are growing up in a decidedly digital world. Digital learning
educates students using the same technology they use for communication and entertainment outside of
school – smartphones, tablets, and laptops. It is not that students are only engaged by technology, but
instead the passive, one-size-fits all education practices are not adequately adaptable to each student’s
needs and aptitude.
Richer, more personalized classroom experiences
The digital learning environment has modular lesson plans and content, adapts to individual learning,
monitors student performance, and encourages small- and large-scale collaborations among
Digital learning can improve the opportunity to learn for ALL students by ensuring access to a full range
of tools, resources, content, and courses regardless of zip code or socioeconomic
status, as long as the student has access to broadband at home.
Digital content includes richly diverse fields of knowledge, supporting opportunities for
interaction with materials, resources, and experts beyond the classroom. And digital
content is always up-to-date and virtually infinite, supporting a wide variety of interests