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Textbooks may fade into the past for Gainesville schools
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Most adults can remember pulling out their textbooks to complete homework assignments during their youth. But as technology improves, traditional texts may become a thing of the past.

During a recent school board meeting, Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer suggested that the system look into using more “authentic materials” and fewer textbooks. Authentic materials include handouts, hands-on projects and Web-based learning activities.

“The use of authentic materials has emerged, not as a way to save money, but as a way to improve instruction. For example, in the ‘old day,’ teachers taught from the textbook — the scope and the sequence. Now, teachers have the standards that are required for each grade or subject and can design lessons using a variety of materials,” Dyer said.

“The best products are problem-based learning modules, available in both software and hard copy materials; and (including) manipulative kits for math and simulations, which are kits that design a simulated experience for students to learn the standards.”

Although the main reason behind the use of authentic materials isn’t to cut cost, their use can save school systems money. Dyer said textbooks can cost anywhere from $75 to $150 per student.

“Each school budgets their own textbook needs. Each year, a different subject is on an adoption list,” Dyer said.

Although every book doesn’t have to be replaced annually for older students, Dyer said that “kindergarten and primary text materials have consumables that must be purchased every year.”

School systems used to receive state funding earmarked specifically for textbooks, but Dyer says that ended about 10 years ago.

While straying away from the use of traditional texts may seem like a stretch for some parents, local teachers say they have been using additional resources for years, especially in subjects such as math and science.

In 2008 when the Georgia Department of Education introduced the Math I curriculum of high school students — which is a combination of geometry, algebra and statistics — many teachers across the state had to rely on authentic materials to teach the course because textbooks for the subject weren’t available at that time.

Teachers have also been utilizing supplemental authentic materials such as handouts only when a classroom set of textbooks are available. Because a number of students tend to not bring their textbooks to class, some local educators have said that they prefer having a classroom set of books.

Although no decisions have been made concerning transitioning to authentic materials, system administrators are in the process of determining how many students have access to a computer and the Internet after school. Computer access could be necessary to access Web- or software-based materials, so administrators would need to know in advance which students have access in order to determine the feasibility of such a shift.

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