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      Should textbooks be obsolete in SC schools?

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Those big bulky textbooks everyone carried with them to school are already becoming a thing of the past and putting lockers out of business in schools like Blythewood's Muller Road Middle.

      "We do not use textbooks at all -- not even digital textbooks," said Lori Marrero, principal at Muller Road Middle. "We have tried to brainstorm how we could use empty lockers, but right now they're just empty lockers."

      And that's exactly how lockers should be, according to education secretary Arne Duncan, who has called for schools to move digital as quickly as possible.

      Many South Carolina schools have already integrated mobile learning, including textbooks designed by the teachers, but most are still hanging on to paper texts.

      "South Carolina right now as far as mobile technology -- we are moving in a good direction," said Wendy Gallagher, who trains schools in the Lexington 2 district on how to use mobile technology in the classroom. "As far as textbooks -- electronic textbooks -- we're not there quite yet. The funding isn't shifting."

      Gallagher says looking at the issue as a mom has helped her realize the technology shift needs to happen quicker.

      "I had just registered my son at high school," said Gallagher. "He was issued an iPad...but we had to buy three or four of those big huge textbooks. So I was very very frustrated because here we are in the school getting a device that I know can do all of these things, and then I had to pay a fee for the textbooks."

      Marrero says educators from other schools often visit Muller Road to find out how they can implement the same new learning methods and phase out their textbooks.

      "We have pockets of high technology use in South Carolina, but I think there is plenty of areas that really could use technology," said Marrero. "And my personal opinion is that if we would quit spending millions and millions and millions of dollars on textbooks and put devices in the hands of kids even in our rural areas, we'd get so much more bang for our buck as a taxpayer."

      Students at Busbee Middle School have seen big learning improvements when they've started using mobile technology, according to the school's principal, C.R. Hall.

      "We have noticed anywhere from ten to fifteen point gains from fall to spring with what the kids know and what they're able to do," said Hall. "We even had kids who speak English as a second language -- fifty point gains -- kids with learning disabilities -- fifty point gains. So they really dig what's going on with the technology."

      So why hasn't South Carolina moved more quickly towards new technology?

      "There's laws in place that don't allow us to do that right now," said Gallagher.

      But there are ways to change those laws.

      "I think the best way to do that is to have parents start saying to the legislators, 'We've got to change,'" said Marrero.

      "We've got to open up the eyes to the lawmakers and say, 'This is what the business world wants,'" said Hall. "This is what we've got to do to help our kids get into the job market. So we need [lawmakers'] help in the funding aspect to make all this happen.'"