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Digital library on horizon for MUSD schools
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Call it switching on a high tech light bulb.

Two months into the $30 million Manteca Unified Going Digital rollout that put a tablet in the hands of every one of the district’s 23,000 students, the impacts are numerous.

• A fifth grader described as having been lukewarm about math before, works a word problem on tablet and suddenly exclaims, “Oh man, I got it!”

• Teachers are finding students are enthusiastically doing more writing than they did before using tablets.

• Seventh and eighth graders trying to comprehend how to measure a cylinder make electronic notes on their tablets that shorten the time it takes to understand three-dimensional concepts.

• Teachers can quickly zero in on where individual students are struggling and tailor lesson plans accordingly.

And while there are bugs to still work out and endless possibilities to consider how the technology can be harnessed to improve learning, Superintendent Jason Messer is confident teachers and students will meet the objective of enriching and expanding learning instead of simply replacing pencil, paper, and most books with a tablet.

And the tablets aren’t just changing the dynamics of learning.

District librarians are exploring options where e-books can be downloaded from a Manteca Unified digital library to reduce the need for print copies.

That means instead of having perhaps 30 hard copies of Tom Sawyer on a shelf that have to be manually checked out, they would be replaced with e-books.

E-books would be quicker and easier to check out, they would not get lost, and pages wouldn’t be torn. Used in conjunction with the tablets, students can take notes in the accompanying One Note software.

The district is exploring all options including buying licensing to make multiple copies of books, buying a set number of copies, or using a subscription service.

“Any way we go the cost of buying the (library) books probably won’t change much from what they are now,” Messer noted.

Even if the cost is a wash it increases convenience, improves access, and reduces losses, as well as enhances the ability of students to use books more effectively.

As far as textbooks that will eventually become e-books, there will be definite cost savings.

Plus there is an additional bonus benefit — the potential for better student posture.

“With e-books for texts and (library) books, students won’t have to lug all of them around in a backpack,” Messer said. 

While Messer has indicated he doesn’t expect hard copy textbooks will all be phased out, he does anticipate a drastic reduction in their numbers which would result in lighter backpacks.