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South Korea's Making the Switch to Digital Textbooks

No more heavy backpacks. South Korea is investing $2 billion to develop digital textbooks for all schools by 2015.

When it comes to digital textbook adoption, it looks like Florida's turning into a global trendsetter. This spring the state passed a law mandating that schools make the switch to digital textbooks by 2015. Now South Korea's Education Ministry has announced that it's making a $2.4 billion investment that will enable all of that nation's schools to go digital by 2015.

The investment is part of South Korea's new "Smart Education" plan, which will let the nation's students ditch heavy hardback textbooks and instead slip a comparatively light tablet, like the iPad, into their backpacks. The move will also save schools money since digital textbooks are cheaper there than in the United States.

South Korea's previously been recognized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Program for International Student Assessment as ranking "first in terms of digital literacy among developed nations." What's especially indicative of the national commitment South Korea's making to digital learning—and we here in the States should take note of this—is that the South Korean government plans to build an education-specific cloud computing network where students can store their digital textbooks. The cloud accessibility also means students will be able to access their books through smartphones or laptops.

Since building up the infrastructure to make the switch takes time, traditional texts will still be used during the transition. Elementary schools are scheduled for a full digital adoption by 2014 and middle and high schools by the final 2015 deadline.

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