The New York Times has a good piece this week on the coming evolution of the textbook in the digital era.
The implications of the gradual shift from static, one-dimensional texts for classroom learning to dynamic, multi-faceted and ever-evolving platforms are huge for all learners and educators. Imagine a classroom where different levels of readers are all reading the same text - but the interface adapts to each student's individual style of learning. Built-in supports will be able to adjust text size and color for better readability; sections of text could be highlighted and converted into speech files with the click of a button; review tools can test a student's understanding of the material and review key segments if appropriate standards have not been met, all the while reporting to teachers and administrators who can then use the data to pinpoint interventions and support for those readers who are lagging behind.
While this scenario may still be years away from fruition, the momentum for a better, universal access to texts is building significant momentum.
Our partners at CAST (The Center for Applied Special Technology) have been at the forefront of the technology behind the digital textbook and have an assortment of programs underway to address the needs of all learners with a universal design for learning.