Death of the School Text Book?

Ed Whittaker

Ed started his career in chemistry, working for ICI Organics Division in Blackley. Having decided that 21 days holiday a year was simply not enough, he left industry to take up teaching at the age of 30. He spent the next twenty odd years teaching chemistry to GCSE and A level - and learning about behaviour management the hard way. Early in his teaching career he became interested in classroom management techniques following some Keystone Kops style episodes in his Y9 lessons. For the last few years of his teaching career Ed was the behaviour lead in a large Manchester comprehensive and was responsible for the successful introduction of BFL into the school. In July 2008 Ed left teaching to form Schools Data Services Ltd, specifically to promote IRIS, an on-line behaviour and rewards management facility devised by Ed and ex school MIS manager Andrew Rose.

Ed lives in Rochdale with wife Helen, two boys and a dog of very small brain called Archie. His main ambition is to make a difference in education by providing an alternative low cost, high value MIS to schools.

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Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tom Stoppard has recently spoken of his fear for the future of the printed page. In this age of digital media, does the old fashioned medium of dead trees have a future?

Perhaps it's just me, but I find it difficult and tiring to read off the screen. It's only when I print my documents off that I see all the typos and errors! I was a science teacher until quite recently and as far as I'm concerned, there's no danger of on-line text books taking over from real, hands on, dog eared text books. I have many years’ experience of using both media in my classes:

Scenario 1: waltz into class, hand out text books, turn to page 34 and get on with the lesson - max time taken, about 4 minutes.

Scenario 2: Waltz into class, find the laptop cabinet is locked, send pupil to prep room for key. Hand out laptops, 25 machines for 28 kids, hmm! Spend time persuading kids to share. Find that 6 machines have flat batteries, organise more sharing. Wait 10 minutes while the machines boot up and find the feeble signal from the school network. Four kids claim to have 'forgotten' their passwords - send to IT room to get them re-set. Discover that three machines have ‘just turned themselves off, sir, honest’. Find that some little tyke has altered the resolution on half the machines and we've got 4inch high text and four words on the screen. Finally get 28 kids around the 8 working machines and onto the website - except that half of them are on Facebook. Max time wasted? Well, in one case 45 minutes, before finally giving up.

Also, it’s not just that, from a technical point of view, books are infinitely more robust and reliable than computers. No, from the teacher's point of view, you can't 'cut and paste' screeds of irrelevant twaddle from a book; thus making marking a lot less tedious and the content more relevant (well … sometimes). And the big winner for the kids is… you can't draw exaggerated reproductive organs and vulgar speech bubbles in biro to a screen like you can to a book! 
Need I say more?

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