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A plan to put an Amazon Kindle in every backpack

By Amy Farnsworth / July 15, 2009

The Democratic Leadership Council is proposing a year-long pilot program that would give some 400,000 students in grades K-12 an Amazon Kindle.

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Could the Amazon Kindle help save the nation's struggling school systems? Yes, according to the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).

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On Tuesday, the DLC, a think tank in Washington, D.C., made a proposal asking the government to provide each of the nation's 56 million K-12 students with a Kindle, or electronic reading device.

The group's proposal, "A Kindle in Every Backpack: A Proposal for eTextbooks in American Schools," which was published on their website Tuesday, requests that the government fund a pilot program that would equip some 400,000 students with Kindles, or other electronic reading devices, for an entire year.

By providing each student with a Kindle, the DLC hopes to not only reduce the amount of money schools spend on textbooks, but to give teachers the tools they need to develop an interactive, digital curriculum. The proposal explains some of the advantages of having a Kindle in the classroom including the ability to instantly download updated versions of textbooks as well as literally lightening the heavy load of books students carry to class on a daily basis.

The initial cost of the program would exceed the $6 billion spent on paper textbooks each year by $9 billion. But the authors of the proposal, Thomas Z. Freedman, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, and Blair Levin, previously a member of the Obama-Biden transition team, estimate that the project would result in over $700 million in annual savings within five years as the demand for electronic reading devices increases and eTextbook costs begin to drop. If the year-long pilot program succeeds, the group eventually plans to expand the program to outfit every student in the nation with a Kindle, or electronic reading device, within four years.

Nationwide, school districts are attempting to provide students with electronic reading devices in an effort to save money and stay-up-to date with new teaching methods and technology trends. This fall, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a plan to implement the use of free, open-source digital textbooks in high school math and science classes throughout California.

Higher education institutions will also begin to utilize Kindle in the classroom. Seven schools, including Pace University, Princeton University, Reed University, the Darden School at the University of Virginia, Case Western Reserve University, The University of Washington, and Arizona State University, will receive free (or discounted) Kindle DX electronic readers for some of their students as part of the a Kindle DX pilot program. The program was announced last May when the Kindle DX was released and Amazon announced a partnership with textbook manufacturers: Cengage Learning, Wiley, and Pearson.

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