PDF Software in Education

Walk into any classroom in the United States and it’s clear that there’s a big push to make technology more available to students. Annually, the 99,000 K-12 schools in the US spend $17 billion on instructional materials and technology, according to The New York Times. For many schools, a portion of this money is going towards transitioning their instructional materials from regular textbooks to digital format.

As shown by President Obama’s January 2011 State of the Union address, in which he said, “I want all students to be able to learn from digital textbooks,” the federal government supports this investment. States such as Florida are also on board as seen by their mandate that all K-12 instructional materials be provided in electronic format by 2015-2016.

PDF software is at the center of this push for modernizing and digitizing educational materials. PDF software makes it possible for a school or district to convert existing materials and create new resources in a digital format. Not only does PDF software digitize material that was once delivered via paper, it does so in a format that’s not reliant on a specific operating system or other software. You can read the document in any environment, on any device, browser or operating system.

There are, however, other benefits to using PDF software in education for teachers, schools and students alike.

How PDF software benefits the school

It’s rare for a teacher to rely on one resource when they’re teaching their classes. They typically pull information from textbooks, workbooks, periodicals, Websites, and more. Having a tool on hand that allows instructors to organize these materials and package them into one file makes things easier. They can spend more time planning rich, informative lessons and spend less time copying and preparing paper handouts.

Schools also find cost savings when they turn to digital materials. Textbooks, which are expensive, are not lost or damaged so there are less replacement costs when you deliver materials via PDF. The time spent inventorying and storing textbooks is also reduced since no one has to do this for digital textbooks. Students also have access to their materials at anytime since they can download these resources at anytime from the school’s website. And distributing updated materials is faster and more efficient, too. It can be a simple matter of downloading, instead of printing, shipping and stocking.

Student benefit from PDF software, too

Aside from no longer having to carry heavy textbooks from home to school and back, there are other benefits for students who use PDFs instead of paper textbooks.

eBooks in formats such as PDF can go anywhere students go on the devices they use most these days, such as tablets and smartphones.

While some are as simple as a straight PDF conversion of a printed title, eBooks in PDF can also incorporate other features, such as annotations, audio and video files, and hyperlinks that take students to other resource materials and further learning.

Also, for those students who struggle to read because of physical, sensory, cognitive, or learning differences, printed materials are not as effective for learning. These students need instructional materials in accessible, specialized formats, such as PDF, in order to have usable and equal access to the curriculum. More than convenience, this kind of access is guaranteed in federal education statutes, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

What’s more, students who use PDF software to create their own documents learn 21st century workplace skills. While they’re putting together projects or digital stories, they’re also gaining experience with a commonly used business application. Students learn best practices for creating digital content by learning how to design a document file, embed relevant images and learn which fonts work best for easy reading.

Of course, budget strapped school districts might be hesitant to add another software application to their current offerings because they believe that their current word processing software will work just as well to accomplish these goals. Utilizing a solution such as Foxit PDF Editor, however, helps schools meet other learning goals as well.

PDF software encourages collaboration through rich features that allow multiple students to work on a project in a cooperative environment. Other features such as fillable forms, document security and verification meet the needs of school administration in ways that word processing software lacks.

Choosing to roll out PDF software in a school setting will always come with certain costs, however, the benefits to both the schools and the students may well be worth the investment.

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