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That Other Screen

Someone was bound to suggest it. And Jack Christie, chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, stepped forward. Why not drop textbooks made of board, cloth, and paper, and issue students a laptop and software instead?

No more constantly upgraded editions. No more bulky shipping and handling. Just relatively inexpensive course updates on CD-ROM.

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It's a vision with blind spots, however. Think of how kids treat textbooks. How long would the laptops survive? They require a bit more than protective paper jackets. A bit more maintenance and training than the familiar hardback, too.

The computer age is coming to the classroom in fits and starts. Universities that require professors to have a Web home page for their courses, such as UCLA, find that some leap at the chance and some resolutely resist. The same would be true among school teachers required to shift to laptops and CDs. And the teacher's role in all this can't be overstated.

Many schools already have made digital technology an integral part of the learning environment. But, of course, the basic tools are within the student: the ability to read, and think. For the foreseeable future, they'll likely be honed on both the computer and the book.

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