I’m sure every parent can relate to this scene. Your young, fit high schooler, lumbering home with a backpack full of weighty textbooks. This can be terrible for your child’s back and moral. They are literally carrying the weight of their schoolwork on their back. This simple act can make schoolwork seem dreadful and back-breaking work (mind the pun).
In fact, have you ever taken time to weigh those awkward and heavy backpacks? Out of curiosity, Nicholas Dadario, a high school student in New York, weighed his backpack last year when it was filled with textbooks for his freshman honors classes at Archbishop Stepinac High School.
It was 35 pounds, he said.
But that pack is going to be much lighter this year. Stepinac has become one of the first high schools in the country to drop all textbooks like dead weight and replace them with a “digital library.” When students started classes Monday, they were zipping to an app or website on their tablet or laptop and had instant access to all 40 texts in the Stepinac curriculum, not to mention all sorts of note-taking, highlighting and interactive features.
“It’s not only lighter, but you’re mobile,” said Dadario, 15. “You can bring your computer to your friend’s house, wherever, and you’re all set.”
It’s a given that everything in K-12 education is going digital. But Stepinac, a Roman Catholic school for boys, is out in front when it comes to letting go of expensive, heavy, environmentally unfriendly and instantly outdated books in favor of video review lessons for calculus and Latin stories that can be read out loud.
Stepinac officials worked for a year with Pearson, the giant education company that has long dominated the textbook world, to design and create a unique digital library that is bound to be studied by other private and public schools.
“No one else in the country has this,” Lisa Alfasi, an account manager at Pearson who led the project, told teachers last week as they sat down for training.
Indeed, Dennis Lauro, executive director of the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center, which provides technical supports to public schools in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, said that neither he nor his colleagues across the state were aware of a similar digital effort in a public school setting.
“This is the wave of the future,” Lauro said. “I’m not surprised that a private school would beat the public schools to it. They have the ability to just do it. There is so much politics involved in the public schools when it comes to a move like that, needing approval from boards and committees. There will be a lot of interest in what Stepinac is doing.”