Thursday, September 18, 2014

3 Steps to Sharing Meeting Docs with Your Team @evernote @postachio

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There are a variety of ways to quickly share meeting documents with your team. For example, you could take advantage of one of the following:
  • If you have access to a digital version of the handouts, you can post it in GoogleDrive or a web site.
  • You can run the documents through a copier-scanner, email those to folks (or post them online anywhere).
Another approach, if you have an Evernote and account, is to follow a workflow similar to the one below. Again, you can always adapt it to your needs, budget and available equipment.
Step 1 - Digitize the Document
In my role as a school administrator, I often end up in meetings where people hand me thick packets of paper. My first act is to take those back to the office, give them to my secretary and ask her to scan them to PDF. That PDF then ends up in Evernote. As a premium Evernote user, the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files become searchable. This is a real benefit when trying to dig up content sent to me a year or so ago that has new relevance (e.g. personnel handbook).
My secretary was so efficient at scanning my documents, that I felt compelled to invest in a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i. There are other scanners and I would label this one as “middle of the road" in terms of cost (approximately $250). Consider the mobile USB-powered DoxieGo ($162) or Fujitsu ScanSnap ($250), or the WiFi-friendly Fujitsu ScanSnap Evernote Edition ($495). The Fujitsu ScanSnap is fabulous and I just it daily to digitize documents, essentially, going paperless…the papers go in the recycle bin.
Step 2 - Save the Digital Document to Evernote
One of the advantages of the Fujitsu, and other scanners of this type, is that they come with support to save content anywhere, whether it be to a folder on my computer or directly to Evernote as a JPG (picture/image format) or Adobe PDF file.
For example, I recently attended a local event. One of the many paper handouts available was the beautifully designed agenda. While most of the paper will end up in the trash, I wanted to keep a digital copy. So, I ran the document through the Fujitsu Scanner mentioned above and ended up with this document (notice how when you view this on the web, all you see is a tidy Download PDF link):
Step 3: Share Using
If you’re like me, you have several options for sharing documents with others. I like to find the workflow that is most efficient because once that path has been identified, I don’t have to spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel. Instead of clogging people’s inboxes with emailed attachments, I just auto post the digital file to Evernote and then share it for download as an Adobe PDF file.
Another way is to post these documents—provided they are not confidential—into a blog notebook in Evernote. This would allow documents, along with any notes you might have, to be available to folks with the web address to your blog.
Note that you can add a password to your blog to limit viewability.
While there are many tools available, some may find it easier to use Evernote and to quickly share meeting notes and documents with others. Give it a try!

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stump the Tech Director

The future is here now—check out these pictures of the future--but some times, it’s hard to move organizations along. And, some times, it’s not the organization that’s the obstacle but certain folks—like technology directors—who have trouble saying, “Yes, let’s do that!" That’s why my motto is to do something different, but making that motto REAL is another thing altogether.
I love this Dilbert cartoon that Doug “Blue Skunk" Johnson posted:
Dilbert comic strip's character Mordac, The Preventer of Information Services, is regrettably an all too recognizable figure in many schools...A major cause of this disconnect is that educators and technologists have valid but very different priorities when it comes to technology. As educators, we need simplicity, abundance, convenience, and ubiquity. As a technologists, we must provide security, reliability, and adequacy.
Source: Blue Skunk Blog
Recently, Ben Rimes (@techsavvyed) asked the following via Twitter:

What a great question! Troy Hicks (@hickstro) wrote back quickly with this reply:
So, for fun, I decided to compile my own top 10 fun list from questions heard across the years:
  1. Why do we block YouTube and Facebook, but allow Instagram, Vine and Twitter? Schools have accounts in all of those.
  2. Why can’t we use Todays Meet in classrooms?
  3. Why can’t we use mobile phones in classroom for learning?
  4. How come we’re still using MS Exchange and Outlook WebMail when GoogleApps for Education (GAFE) is available for free?
  5. How come we’re still requiring teachers to create and manage their own class rosters in a “bajillion" different tech-based instructional delivery systems? Let’s require increased automation.
  6. Why can’t you hook up all my classroom technology equipment so that it’s ready to go when I get back from summer vacation?
  7. Why can’t we adopt as our district “storage area network" instead of fancy, expensive servers?
  8. Why do I need to encrypt confidential data before I send it via email? How do I do that? Would you do that for me?
  9. Why can’t you setup a local area network (LAN) and provide internet access in someone else’s building for an event? Or, a field?
  10. Why can’t we just all get Chromebooks? Wait, how do you print something? Nevermind.
…as well as ask others like you for YOUR list.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

@Postachio Rolls Out New Interface?
Earlier tonight, as the rain poured down in Texas, I noticed that when I added a new note to my Evernote notebook ("pmg"), nothing happened. The note wasn't automatically published to my blog, ATC-Clips at and it appears, I wasn't the only person once this blog entry was shared via twitter:
@mguhlin thanks! I thought I was losing my mind when it wasn’t working.

Update, Next Day: All is now working! I had to rename the notebook in Evernote that housed my notes to mirror the notebook name (after I deleted the one made) and all my entries transferred over. I was also using a non-standard tag ("mg","pub") instead of the standard "published" so I quickly tagged all the entries "published" and everything started appearing.

I had a similar problem with my PostachioEd Series, a "page," so I decided to go check out and see what was going on.

I became aware that they are doing a whole series of upgrades and bug fixes! The new interface for connecting Evernote Notebooks to looks like this:

The biggest change--as far as I can see, and this may be temporary--is that you can't choose your notebook in this interface. Rather, creates a notebook in Evernote to house your "blog-centric" posts. I quickly moved my 186 notes from my "pmg" notebook to the "new" notebook,

Here's what it looks like when you are connecting a notebook in Evernote to In the screenshot below, it was my blog. Unfortunately, this connection didn't take, so I must be on the bleeding edge of some change and will need to wait patiently....

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Learning Together

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For a self-styled hermit, loner, and, according to personality profiles, an introvert (INTJ), I am amazed at the value I can get by reflecting on my own work. Often, this results in a "You're too tough on yourself" perspective but I find that to be helpful when focused on moving forward.

Some questions I try to ask myself regularly include the following:

  1. How could I have had handled that better?
  2. What could I do differently to move the organization forward in ways that it hasn't before?
  3. How can I motivate myself to build better relationships with others to achieve organizational goals?
The questions are hard ones to answer and easy to avoid during the busy, crazy lives we all lead with myriad priorities. These conversations, self-dialogues of a sort, often take the place of community learning. Community learning insights fuel these self-dialogues, the self-reflection, making me come up with new ideas to apply to my life and work. I have complete control over these, which I have found is necessary for me as a learner. Obviously, I don't like to have my cheese moved any more than the next person...that's why it's important to move my own cheese, so to speak, so that I can stay ahead of the change.

In the Catholic tradition, there are two insights that a member can have. I do not pretend to know this with any certainty, only repeating the words of a spiritual mentor many years past. If that mentor only knew how long I would hold onto these words. Yet, I find those ideas of personal salvation contrasted with community salvation, eisegesis and exegesis. In the former, we interpret our sacred learning as individuals, gaining insights into it and our interactions with it. In the latter, we make connections directly from the sacred learning (e.g. Bible). The call is to community, whether at work, at home or in church.

These concepts come to mind while reading Howard Rheingold's Reflection, Conversation, Co-Learning Communities, where he writes:
Reflecting on material is a path to understanding by an individual learner, but when a group of learners reflect in public, they provide a rich field for conversations about the material. Debates. Conjectures. Contrapositives. Analysis. Conversations can lead to co-learning when other elements — trust, shared purpose, lead learners, skilled facilitation, serendipity — combine to influence groups of learners to be co-responsible for each other’s learning. And co-learners over time can grow into learning communities. 
As a blogger, reflection on other's learning--what can be more sacred than that?--and how we introduce our own biases into the conversation are powerful. The saving place is community. As a hermit, my success as a learner is limited, but a blog also provides me with the opportunity to dig deeper and share my insights, foolish, profound, or garbage with a greater world. In a real way, an introvert can connect with others in safe ways.

The Call IS to Community....

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Opera Mail as a Simple eMail client

Having played around with my share of email clients (e.g. Thunderbird, IceDove, the horrible (IMHO) Evolution, on GNU/Linux distributions (e.g. PeppermintOS, Lubuntu/Ubuntu (I hate kubuntu), #! and others), I found myself looking for something new and lightweight.

Although I started with Opera browser's Mail component, I promptly discovered that OperaMail is its own standalone program available on Windows. While I avoid Windows OS like the plague, it's nice to know I could use OperaMail on that if I had to. In the meantime, OperaMail is integrated into its browser but I simply stick the Mail part of it, and don't really use the other features.

Opera Mail Setup

I hadn't considered OperaMail as a viable alternative, even though it is cross-platform, supports IMAP and POP.  After a weekend of playing around with it--running 3 email accounts of my handful through it--I am generally pleased with it.

My plan is to setup BitTorrent Sync and sync the hidden .Opera folder with all the settings to other machines and see how that works out. Of course, one could also just copy the .Opera folder to a USB flash drive (gasp, encrypt it first).

These days, with so much email being archived in the cloud, I just need something to shuttle email from one cloud account to a private cloud one. Opera Mail can certainly help out with that...and it doesn't hurt that it has a built-in web browser, although not as robust as Chrome or Firefox.

An email client seems so boring in cloud mail and with tools like CloudMagic on mobile devices, but can be essential when you're moving emails from one account to another (e.g. GoogleApps for Education account to your personal Gmail or vice-versa).

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5 Leadership Lessons Fig Trees Can Teach Us

Fig Tree in the Desert

While I was having fun playing with the concepts behind 9 Ways to Become a Digital Nomad, I started to briefly explore the benefits of figs, "cultivated since ancient times," which I imagined are able to grow in extreme conditions given they are found in the Middle East.

Consider this excerpt from a Wikipedia entry:
The common fig tree has been cultivated since ancient times and grows wild in dry and sunny areas, with deep and fresh soil; also in rocky areas, from sea level to 1,700 meters. It prefers light and medium soils, requires well-drained soil, and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Like all fig trees, Ficus carica requires wasp pollination of a particular species of wasp (Blastophaga psenes) to produce seeds. The plant can tolerate seasonal drought, and the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean climate is especially suitable for the plant. Situated in a favorable habitat, old specimens when mature can reach a considerable size and form a large dense shade tree. Its aggressive root system precludes its use in many urban areas of cities, but in nature helps the plant to take root in the most inhospitable areas...The fig tree, with the water, cools the environment in hot places, creating a fresh and pleasant habitat for many animals that take shelter in its shade in the times of intense heat.
What could one learn from a fig tree? Quite a bit:

Fig #1 - Go Deep with Your Roots: If you are going to learn in arid spaces, which some characterize as inhospitable schools, you have to be aggressive and have a deep root system. Ever walk into a school system or organization that simply rejects your message or your approach to living? I've seen it often in colleagues who are depressed because their organization isn't supportive. Fortunately, they have already, or begin to build, an extensive network of fellow learners online that can support them.

This "deep root system" is diverse and doesn't rely on nourishment from their workplace, but rather, is able to sustain them and slake their thirst for personal reward and commitment in spite of drought. An added benefit is that the deeper and richer the roots you have, the more value you are to the organization, even when it may be doing its level best to slash and burn your initiatives.

Fig #2 - Learn to Spread Your Ideas In Spite of the Stings: Learn from those who might sting you a la fig's wasp pollination. In a similar vein as Fig #1, how do you share your ideas with others in a tough environment? Propagating your perspectives, seeds of ideas, to others in your environment can seem crazy when you have to rely on waspish partners. Yet, it is possible to adapt and find ways for people you wouldn't normally associate with to share ideas.

Fig #3 - Share Your Fruit: As you grow, don't be afraid to cast your shade and fruit to others in tough times. This one seems pretty obvious, but can be a tough one. In the midst of trouble, the desire is to isolate and withhold your goodies (e.g. figs, shade) from others. But then, we are all counselled to love our enemies, to do good to those who don't appreciate us. The reason for that is that being fruitful is a function of who we are, not something we choose to withhold or give. If you hold back, the only one you really hurt is yourself at first. Over the long run, leafy fig trees offer the promise of fruit to all who see them. Deliver on that promise to all who pass by.

Fig #4 - Be Cool: Cool the environment around you so you can improve the situation. In work, and in life, situations can become super-heated by those who generate heat (never happy whiners who prefer to complain, criticize without doing anything), reflect heat (gossipers), or those who sap your resources without giving back to the learning ecology (lurkers who don't blog or share what they're learning). Instead, as a fig tree, you are called to tap into deep sources of nourishment that others cannot, and use that as a way to bring shade to cool.

Fig #5 - Thrive on What Burns Others: Seek the sun so you won't wither and die, but rather, thrive in tough locales. If you're going to thrive in the desert, it makes sense that you can take advantage of the greatest resource available--the hot, burning sun who provides light and energy. If you can't, then you probably need to move on to a more hospitable environment. A fig tree prospers in the light of the sun.
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These are only a few, small figs of learning from the Leadership Fig Tree. What figs can you spot nestled amidst the branches?

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Embrace the Torrent: 9 Ways to Become A #DigitalNomad

A colleague, upon listening to a presentation by another Twitter Illuminati, said sarcastically, and perhaps unfairly, "Spare me another presentation on how twitter has changed his life." I promptly ignored him and tuned in to what Dean Shareski was saying...sometimes, even when you know the destination, the experience of getting there can be fun.
Source: Egyptian Nomad . I love this nomad picture. Now, imagine this person at the center of
connections made possible by social media. Awesome to imagine!
And, isn't that what learning today is about? A collection of hyper-connected experiences that help deepen and widen our understanding of our own learning? This blog entry explores how you can embrace the torrent of learning, offering 9 ways to become a digital nomad.

Over at A Principal's Reflections, Eric S makes the following assertion in his blog entry, The Limits of Being a Disconnected Nomad:
Being a disconnected nomad limited my ability to lead and learn.  We fear what we don't know or understand.  When this happens we make excuses not to do something and in education we resort to blocking, banning, or pretending something doesn't exist.  This is how I saw social media and mobile technology back in 2009. The problem is that the majority of educators in 2014 still feel this way.  The epiphany for me was that I saw a professional opportunity in Twitter to improve communications with my stakeholders. From here I began to lurk and learn, which resulted in no longer being a disconnected nomad.
Eric's then elaborates on how his epiphany has had a transformative effect on his work, cautioning others to overcome their fears. The connection to the term "nomad," though, captured my attention.

Nomads have a romantic image, don't they? They travel from location to location, picking up ideas, surviving desert sandstorms and cultivating self-reliant attitudes and practices. But nomads are no longer isolated, if they ever were.

Let's rethink this idea of nomads as being disconnected, and more interconnected. How would that fundamentally change things? I've included my description of digital nomads, as I play with the idea, as well as how to get there.

  1. Digital nomads are interconnected, unbound by educational territories such as schools and districts, connecting the local to the global.
    How To: Don't let your current organization's approaches and curriculum limit you. Grow global, share local.
  2. Digital nomads migrate from Twitter chat to Google Hangout to Facebook Group to online conferences, seeking pastures of the mind for wildly rampaging neuron herds.
    How To: Find common ground where others are, pursuing the ideas and learning rather than sticking with one technology over another (e.g. Twitter, not Facebook). 
  3. Digital nomads have a rich culture and heritage that rely on face to face AND online relationships cultivated over time.
    How To: Lurk on social media, respond to other's questions, pose your own questions (and answer them if you wish to be self-reliant and learning something worth sharing--your own journey).
  4. Digital nomads have spatial awareness of the digital paths and byways they travel, and can act on that awareness to enhance to growth of those they nurture.
    How To: Map the digital pathways your learning has travelled, sharing that with others. "I learned this on Twitter from +David Warlick and then shared it via Google + with @wfryer.
  5. Digital nomads, over time, are state-less, transnational, potentially considered terrorists in some systems (e.g. those that ban the use of social media to connect, collaborate) and welcome friends and teachers in others.
    How To: Don't be afraid to reference technologies and good uses others have put them to in places where they are banned. The focus is on the benefits, not the foolish, albeit real, fear.
  6. Digital nomads can never be refugees because they remain connected to the culture, geo-spatial networks that nurture them.
    How To: No matter where you go, stay connected with your learning networks, adding new nodes every day, mapping new watering holes to find nourishment. While one oasis may go dry, another wellspring may be unearthed.
  7. Digital nomads believe in scattering their learning widely across disparate systems in what some may see as redundant fashion, relying on no one system or structure because it may be unavailable in the future. 
    How To: Don't imagine the manifestation of your learning as existing in one place, but rather, allow it grow wherever it may find roots, like seeds cast upon the wind.
  8. Digital nomads embrace encryption and security, not because they fear transparency, but because there can be no transparency without privacy.
    How To: Without privacy, there can be no transparency. It is from the security of my privacy that I can allow what I share to be transparently available for others. Make the effort to secure your privacy with encryption.
  9. Digital nomads take no one person as their teacher or mentor, but rather, recognize that the accumulation of eclectic experiences grounded in learning conversations support growth.
    How To: While you may wish to claim one teacher as your primary source, avoid that. Instead, realize that the rain nourishes all, even though it is but a single droplet on a grain of sand. Embrace the torrent.
I definitely see myself as a digital nomad, a person who can find himself at home with any technology and, transcending learning. Eric writes the following:
There still are too many disconnected nomads leading schools and teaching our students who have yet to experience the unlimited potential that connectivity offers.

Come on...become a digital nomad. Share your reflections on this blog post by using the hashtag #digitalnomad

Doug "Blue Skunk" Johnson, Digital Nomad

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Same Old, Same Old

"What do you mean technology in schools won't work?" I was having a discussion with a college professor 12 years ago one summer day. His cynicism, for that's what I perceived it as, marred his leadership and humor. For him, the research clearly showed that technology integration was a failed strategy.  I certainly believed that technology could transform teaching, learning and leading.

And, when I read about Twitterbees swarming around new ideas, the concepts of PLNs, etc., it's clear that for many, technology CAN shift how each of us learns and collaborates. That aside though, school systems resist change. Although new technologies find their way into schools, they don't necessarily result in the desired change:
Individual change resistance is the refusal of a social agent (a single person, organization, corporation, etc) to fully support or adopt new behavior. Systemic change resistance is the tendency for a system as a whole to reject an attempted change, even if that change is promoted over a long period of time by a substantial fraction of the population. That's what's happening in the sustainability problem, so when we say "change resistance" we usually mean systemic change resistance. Source: Change Resistance
Through crucial confrontations and conversations, I believe we can see individuals change. In truth, though, those who won't change or who actively resist change, as one principal put it to me, "should be encouraged to exit." But I often find that resistance isn't about an individual, rather, a system that fights back.
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Over 20 years ago, I was introduced to the Levels of Technology Implementation (LOTI), a Concerns-based Adoption Model (CBAM) approach that took a hard look at technology integration in schools. I haven't seen anything better or more comprehensive since Dr. Chris Moersch introduced me to these ideas in Edgewood ISD, while teaching 6th grade bilingual at a school where the Mr. Demetrio Rodriguez--made famous by the legal case that names him--would often put in an appearance. Even then, CBAM and LOTI clearly outlined the kinds of fundamental changes we needed to see.

See more
Although the LOTI remains today, folks--as in The Importance of Change Management in Facilitating Instructional Technology Adoption (Kelly Walsh)--continue to hearken back to the original articles like this one, Implementing Technology in Schools, published in 1991:
The effective technology coordinator needs to understand curriculum, principles of staff development, organizational development, good pedagogy, and be especially skilled in understanding human dynamics...The technology coordinator needs to understand good pedagogy in order to assist teachers in being able to use technology to support and improve a good instructional program.
When I reflect on my years of serving in my role as instructional technologist, or technology coordinator, I see where this argument has gone wrong. While well-intentioned, it is plain wrong.

These days, when I wake up in the morning, I try to ask myself, What am I doing differently? What can I help others do differently? While I fear that different isn't always better, I'd rather not be caught up in the quicksand of yesteryear.

Here's how I'd revise that advice about technology in schools:

  1. Curriculum specialists need to take advantage of any and all technologies for facilitating teaching and learning.
  2. Adult learners need to organize and connect with each other to build their own learning networks that are independent yet collaborative with school district PD efforts.
  3. Pedagogy is only good if it employs the latest technologies that make learning possible in ways that were previously impossible without it.
  4. A "good" instructional program isn't one that teaches children how to learn the way we did, but rather, helps children learn in ways our teaching can only suggest.
That's all.

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Built for Schools: How efficacious are digital textbooks?

Yes, that is an important question. Many school organizations are moving to digital textbooks, but the question remains, how efficacious are digital textbooks?

In a lunch conversation with a retired Air Force Colonel, we briefly exchanged stories about our reading preferences. While I have no problems reading fiction content in digital format, reading non-fiction is problem-rich:
  1. I find I can't remember key ideas, instead have to write them down or blog them to remember.
  2. It's difficult to highlight content and share it (unless I'm reading on Amazon Kindle, but even then, I don't care for it since I end up re-formatting the content in Evernote).
  3. Simply, the non-fiction info seems more...abstract.
The "concrete" or tactile experience of reading non-fiction is preferred. In the audio book arena, only non-fiction works for me. Somehow, I remember more when I hear non-fiction. With fiction, I want to see the words on the page, digital or print. Sure enough, the Colonel's experience was the opposite of mind, reminding me that one-size-fits-all approaches to learning are problematic. 
The haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does' … an ebook reader. A new study which found that readers using a Kindle were "significantly" worse than paperback readers at recalling when events occurred in a mystery story is part of major new Europe-wide research looking at the impact of digitisation on the reading experience.(Source: The Guardian)

What's even more disturbing about digital textbooks is the following:
Mangen also pointed to a paper published last year, which gave 72 Norwegian 10th-graders texts to read in print, or in PDF on a computer screen, followed by comprehension tests. She and her fellow researchers found that "students who read texts in print scored significantly better on the reading comprehension test than students who read the texts digitally". (Source: The Guardian)
So, forgive me when I see content like this, which offers unstinting, unexamined praise for the use of tablets in classrooms for digital textbook viewing:
With tablets,  students can  type queries into their digital books as the questions come to mind, then sift through the answers themselves. And there’s a whole lot less peer pressure involved in entering a query into a search form, so hesitant students are more apt to ask questions in the first place. Source: Digital Book World
Admittedly, many of us will have little choice about adopting digital textbooks in schools. Consider this excerpt:
Education companies and organizations are getting on board by leveraging the technology of tablets to bring digital textbooks and all-in-one, next generation curriculum products to the classroom... “Noting that annual textbook costs for U.S. K-12 public schools has reached nearly $8 billion", the FCC and the Department of Education have encouraged the country to transition to interactive digital learning within the next five years (T-mobile helping to advance, 2012). There is no doubt that with the integration of tablets and the digital curriculum, apps, e-readers, and e-texts that will surely be paired along with them, will necessitate a shift of those textbook costs. 
Pearson’s Common Core System of Courses comes preloaded with Pearson’s math and English language arts curriculum, apps such as iWork, iLife, and iTunes, and a variety of educational third-party apps (Bowman & Muller, 2013).  With a complete math and English curriculum and additional built in resources, the need for textbooks is unnecessary. Students are able to access media and web resources related to the curriculum as well as engage in learning without difficult-to-plan trips to the library or the run down lab. 
The ultimate costs of digital textbooks and curriculum, coupled with the resources of the world wide web brought to the classroom via tablets, will eventually make more sense than printing, binding, and delivering textbooks that are often instantly dated the moment they are printed. 
“Although [digital textbooks] might be more expensive initially, the volume of sales should result in increased opportunity for lower unit costs. The logical result is more faculty demand, more publisher investment, and faster growth" (McFadden, 2012). Source: Why Digital Learning Is Here To Stay
What does this mean for schools? It means we'll need to soon start equipping students with low-cost tablets or Chromebooks. My money is on Chromebooks, which come equipped with keyboards, are being supported by state-wide tutorial/assessment initiatives--in Texas at least with offer the biggest bang for their buck.

This doesn't mean iPads or Androids are out, only that a more strategic approach is needed...but the search for one device may be so much jabberwock. The rush is on, not to provide efficacious textbooks for students, but rather, to simply provide access to devices that allow access to digital textbooks.

If not, we risk a digital divide built for schools.

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