IN early American schools, the New England Primer was the textbook of choice for schools that could afford them. A slate chalk board at the front of the school room served as text for others.
In 1784, Noah Webster, unhappy with the nation's fledgling elementary schools, published the Blue Backed Speller, which for the next 100 years taught the majority of children fortunate enough to be enrolled in school how to spell, read and pronounce words.
Eventually, McGuffey Readers and an increasing number of new books and publishers sprouted to serve the nation's growing school population.
Adapting to changing times is as much a part of education as the teacher and the classroom.
Putnam County schools will begin a pilot program to allow students to use their own mobile digital devices in the classroom. The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program reverses the county's existing policy of prohibiting students from having their cell phones out during instructional time.
"While the BYOD thing may appear to be innovative, we think it's a necessity," said Superintendent Chuck Hatfield.
Kids are comfortable with digital technology. Many are rarely seen without a digital device in hand, while seeing a student with a textbook is not so common.
Figuring out how to bring instruction into the student's existing digital device is worth exploring. It may improve access to the student's coursework more so than a separate, printed, back-straining textbook does.
Putnam County is one of many experimenting with such a program. Fayette County announced a similar project earlier this year.
Sure there will be bugs to work out, but innovative teachers can make the technology work.
Bob Dylan surely wasn't thinking of school kids typing on handheld electronic devices when he released his 1964 "The Times They Are A-Changin'" album.
Yet the times are, and it's a good idea to embrace those changes in our school systems sooner rather than later.