Imagine a school that passes out Amazon Kindles instead of printed textbooks. No books at all, zilch, zero, nada – everything electronic. Printing costs could be completely eliminated, along with a myriad of associated problems – replacement books, textbook obsolescence, and book disposal to mention but a few. A single high-battery-life device such as a Kindle would suffice for replacing all books.
Let’s take this electronic book thought experiment a bit farther. The next logical step would be for the teachers to pass out tests and other traditional paper handouts electronically, eliminating paper altogether. At that point, the Kindle or other reader or tablet would have to be able to allow student interaction, say on a multiple-choice test.
The stickiest problem with this scenario would revolve around having an easy-to-use input system on these devices that allowed students to write phrases, paragraphs, papers, and draw images or diagrams to send back to the teacher.
All of this technology already exists in various forms. Perhaps the iPad comes close to meeting many of these requirements, but some form of the dreaded pressure stylus input would still be needed. Also, two separate devices would be needed – a reading screen, and an input screen on which to write, type and/or draw.
Are we there yet? Not quite, but we are getting close. With the success of the Kindle, iPad, smartphones and maturing touch screen technology in general, the day of eliminating the need for tons of paper is finally becoming a practical, desirable reality.