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ITSI: Blowing the dust from textbooks

OpinionSecondary Education
By Heather McLean | 9 May 2017
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Create DateMay 9, 2017
Last UpdatedApril 20, 2017

By Gary Bryant, UK country manager, ITSI.

For teachers, finding educational materials that support them in teaching the curriculum while also enhancing the learning experience can be a difficult and time consuming task. However, with the increasing edtech resources available, how can teachers be supported in delivering a well rounded and comprehensive education for students?

For a number of years now, English schools have seemingly lost their enthusiasm for the traditional classroom textbook. After all, with the range of exciting technologies out there for education, it often feels like schools are under pressure to leave the old behind in favour of the new. Indeed, from a teacher’s perspective, asking students to work from printed textbooks is hard to manage and monitor, as there is no guarantee that they are engaging with the material, other than the notes they create in their personal exercise books.

Traditional and technological

However, when you look at the Programme for International Student Assessment’s (PISA) report, high performing jurisdictions, like Singapore and Finland, use of textbooks in the classroom is distinctly higher (upwards of 70%). So why is this? And how can we properly balance the use of the traditional and the technological to the best effect?

Textbooks are a rich source of information, and more often than not bring all of the necessary elements of a subject together in one place. In many ways, it is a perfect learning resource, but in others, it is also problematic. For instance, with events and theories changing and adapting all the time, new versions of textbooks have to be published frequently to keep up with this, meaning that the expensive copies bought for the classroom could be out-of-date within a year or two.

For students, working in this way is also challenging, as they cannot write notes within the books themselves, as the copies will most likely be used by a number of classes in the same school. This means that the notes they make in exercise books are disconnected from the original material in the textbook, unless they take the additional time to copy down an entire section.

Strike a balance

This is where technology comes in to strike a balance. We’re all using technology more and more in our daily lives, and with many future jobs likely to involve digital skills of some form or another, ensuring that students can use technology well is essential. With more classrooms making use of tablet devices in lessons and the increasing amount of published material available in e-book form, we have the opportunity to make the best of both worlds.

Digital copies of textbooks can make a real difference in several ways. For example, if a teacher is looking to share a useful article or video clip that relates to a passage in the book; rather than simply providing the URL on a worksheet, the link can be embedded in the ebook itself, so that all the necessary resources are stored in one place. The teacher can even create assessments that are directly linked to the content for lesson activities or homework. In terms of monitoring, having all students linked to a master copy of the textbook means that the teacher can see from their own device exactly who is reading their book at any given time, what content they’re engaging with and what notes they’ve made, to ensure that distractions are minimised.

This empowers teachers to deliver high quality lessons and also means that students can take ownership of their materials, rather than relying on the school’s textbooks that need to be kept immaculate for the next class. Students can highlight and annotate sections of the text digitally, meaning that their notes are directly linked to the subject material, and not floating around in exercise books, which also improves the revision process.

Technology is having a revolutionary effect upon education and the learning process, and it’s not surprising that schools are jumping at the chance to innovate with the latest and greatest devices. However, by stepping back and looking at the traditional elements of learning and how they can be incorporated with technology, teachers can create a truly comprehensive and immersive learning environment.

ITSI provides educators and students with a digital solution that enhances and simplifies the teaching experience.


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