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Topic: Detroit schools replace junk books with $40 million of digital junk
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Domenico Rosa

Posts: 2,675
Registered: 2/16/05
Detroit schools replace junk books with $40 million of digital junk
Posted: Nov 2, 2009 8:37 AM
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In the 1960's Houghton Mifflin published the series of math books co-authored by Mary P. Dolciani. These books institutionalized the new math strand developed by the School Mathematics Study Group (SMSG), which demolished the traditional college preparatory mathematics curriculum in the U.S. More recently Houghton Mifflin has been producing 1,000-page doorstops that should be thrown directly in the dumpster. Now the shift is from abominable books to digital junk. The money keeps rolling in.

Publisher enters new chapter in textbooks
Houghton sells $40m high-tech teaching system
By D.C. Denison, Globe Staff October 29, 2009

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the oldest publishers in the United States, plans to unveil today the biggest deal in its history: a $40 million, multiyear contract with Detroit public schools. But this is not the typical agreement to sell a textbook to every student.

Instead, Houghton will be providing a computer-based teaching system it developed with Microsoft Corp. that will connect teachers, students, and administrators. It's a radical shift away from the classic textbook publishing model and represents an industry transformation, as technology supplants books.

"The textbook is no longer the center of the educational universe," said Wendy Colby, a senior vice president at Houghton, which is based in Boston.

The Boston publisher is selling some textbooks to Detroit, but most of the contract is for such software such as Learning Village--a customized, interactive classroom network.

Detroit's teachers will be able to prepare and assign homework through Learning Village and use its tools to measure how well students learn--even how well they understand a lesson taught earlier in the day.

"I wanted one central portal that everybody can tap into," said Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief academic officer for Detroit public schools.

The switch to electronic teaching tools is driven in part by school systems that want to prepare students for a digital world and by the availability of federal stimulus money for such programs.

"Textbook sales are definitely down," said Judi Mathis Johnson, assistant professor in the Technology in Education program at Lesley University in Cambridge. "Already, a few school systems have said, 'We're locking up the textbooks. We're only looking at digital products from now on.'"

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