It's the start of a new school year at Archbishop Stepinac High School, but students’ backpacks aren't weighed down with books.
For the second year, students at the Roman Catholic school in White Plains, N.Y., are learning in an all-digital environment — the first of its kind among U.S. schools. The school did away with paper textbooks last fall in a widely publicized move that was heralded as the wave of the future in a 2013 USA Today article.
CBS News interviewed students and faculty at the school earlier this month and found that they say a year of experience in the all-digital classroom has been worth the investment.
For an annual fee of $150, students can use their tablets or notebooks to gain instant access to core course textbooks through a digital library that stores books across all grade levels. The digital library also eliminates the need for students to haul around heavy backpacks.
School officials told CBS News that the number of students with failing grades was cut in half after the digital library was adopted. Classes can now easily incorporate videos and audio clips that enhance the education experience.
But Archbishop Stepinac High School isn't alone; several other schools have found success by transitioning away from standard textbooks.
Students in Arizona's Vail School District rose to among the state's top performers in math and science after the district adopted a digital instructional program called Beyond Textbooks, which helps educators share notes and materials. In an interview with EdTech in 2013, school officials said more than 20,000 lesson plans had been uploaded to the service and were ready to be shared with other educators in the program.
Educators at the Bartholomew Consolidated School District, in Columbus, Ind., have leveraged a digital platform for use in their customized learning model. In 2008, a team of the district’s educators and school officials created a digital textbook that uses their own lesson plans as well as online resources to create a unique interactive learning experience for students.
The project created a “culture of innovation” at the school, technology director Mike Jamerson told EdTech in a 2013 interview. The district has since adopted other digital learning tools, including a cloud-based education service that’s a hybrid of a social network and a learning management system.