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State Reviews New Batch of Digital Texts in California

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced on Friday that state reviews have recently been completed for more than a dozen free digital textbooks for high school history, science, and higher-level mathematics. The texts were reviewed against the state's academic content standards and are now available for use in California classrooms.

A press release from the governor's office says that 17 reviews were made available last week, but Brian Bridges, who heads up the state agency that conducted the reviews, tells me that two of them have not yet been published, but will be shortly.

This action follows the review last year of 13 digital texts focused on high school science and math, including geometry, Algebra 2, physics, chemistry, and earth science, among other subjects.

"We now have more than 30 free digital texts available for use in the classroom that can provide a more interactive experience for students and cost districts less—a win-win that can allow educators to engage a new generation of tech-savvy students," Gov. Schwarzenegger said in the April 30 press release.

Under the California initiative, digital resources submitted by textbook publishers, teachers, and "other experts" are reviewed against the California content standards by the California Learning Resources Network "to give teachers confidence that these materials are appropriate to be used in California classrooms," the press release explains.

Students and teachers can use the materials in a variety of ways. The release notes that they are downloadable and can be viewed on a computer or hand-held device, but also can be printed chapter by chapter and bound for use in the classroom and taken home by students.

In an interview, Bridges, the director of the California Learning Resources Network, explains that the reviews do not constitute approval by the state of the textbooks. But the reviews provide detailed information on the extent to which the digital texts meet the state's academic content standards.

And he notes that of the 15 completed in this second round, 10 were deemed to fully meet the state standards. The texts were developed by the nonprofit CK12, as well as a range of college professors, Bridges said. In fact, he noted that CK12 made changes to three texts that were reviewed last summer, when they only partially met the state standards, and now fully meet them.

"Their whole purpose is to create open-source textbooks in high school around STEM, and they've done a superb job," he said.

I made a brief mention of the California initiative in a recent story about evolutions in the textbook market in Texas, which include recent legislation that is expected to make available new sources of digital instructional materials to school districts.

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