Digital Textbooks in Jewish Day Schools: Is the future now?



I just posted the following question to Lookjed, the Jewish Educators listserv sponsored by the Lookstein Center. You can follow the Lookjed discussion online here. I will share feedback from the List as I receive it. I welcome feedback from my blog readers as well. Please share your experiences in the comments to this posting.

Dear Shalom and List:
With the recent announcement by Apple about their K-12 textbook publishing partnerships and new software for creating and customizing textbooks for the iPad (http://www.apple.com/education/ibooks-textbooks), I was wondering whether anyone could share their experiences using digital textbooks in Jewish Day Schools. I know that there have been similar discussions on the list in the past here and here but it might be worth revisiting since technology keeps advancing at such a steady pace.

The way I see it there are 3 advantages to using digital textbooks on iPads or other e-readers.

1. Convenience: Having one small tablet to carry back and forth from school is much easier and healthier for our students than lugging large backpacks full of books. The present situation forces many students to leave their textbooks in school or at home rather than transport them back and forth or to own 2 copies of their books which is obviously not the ideal.

2. Multi-media content: Digital textbooks can offer much more than the traditional text and pictures. They can include audio, video, animations, and interactive content that can greatly enhance the educational experience.

3. Cost savings (maybe): Digital textbooks might be cheaper than purchasing all those traditional books although, since paper books can be reused for many years, the veracity of any promised cost savings has to be carefully examined.

The drawbacks of digital textbooks are also many. Ipads or similar e-readers can be lost, broken, or stolen; content needs to be created for Judaic subjects as well as General Studies; they cannot be used on Shabbat or Yom Tov; and there is a large cost for purchasing iPads or similar e-readers for every student and creating/replacing current textbooks.

My question to the List is does anyone have experience implementing digital textbooks in Jewish Day Schools for General or Judaic Studies and/or does anyone have any plans to pilot such an implementation in the near future?

I welcome the feedback from the collected wisdom of the various educators on this list.
Kol Tuv,
Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky
Director of Educational Technology
The Frisch School