Digital textbooks for increasing educational outcomes

The best digital textbooks, interactive apps and learning managements systems are yet to arrive. Access to these learning tools will be paramount to the success of students, since the majority of jobs in the future will require knowledge and understanding of technology.

Because of this it’s important for young people today to be engaging with technology on a comprehensive level: from an early age, both inside and outside of the classroom, from learning the basic functions of word processing to understanding how software of that kind is developed.

At YUDU we want to make sure the products we are developing demonstrably improve educational outcomes, in provable ways with hard metrics. As a result our collective interest was piqued by a recent Technology in Education report, which calls for technology to be more strategically linked with the learning process.

Technology in Education: A System View

The Technology in Education report was developed by leading educational advisers from Microsoft, Tablets for Schools and a number of others. The report identified that future technological advancements will only work if they were delivered in educational environments with consideration for the current barriers to technological implementation. These barriers, even in 2014, include a lack of skills (perhaps most notably from teaching staff themselves) and limited access to internet and devices, caused by aging infrastructure in schools and a lack of any sort of comprehensive plan for addressing this.

In spite of this, some products and services are already uniquely suited to take advantage of this space. Digital Textbooks for example can override some of the initial barriers to implementation of technology in schools. Compared with other online teaching tools – particularly browser-based ones, they can give students access to content both offline and online, and some of the more sophisticated software enables for activity offline, to sync via the cloud when the user is subsequently online. The textbook format can also be easier for less technically proficient teaching staff to adjust to, as there are parallels to the teaching methods adopted from print and the format itself is designed to replicate the look and feel of a physical textbook.

School visits are key to understanding the real, everyday implications of technology in class talked about in the report. In January this year, we visited Honywood School in Essex and found that print textbooks had been completely replaced by a combination of video, Powerpoint and iTunes/Google delivery methods. Honywood is definitely ahead of the curve when it comes to implementation of devices, with each and every student owning an iPad backed by dependable Wi-Fi infrastructure running throughout the school. Teaching methodologies were led by individualistic student goals, rather than the tried and tested ‘goals of this unit’ as seen in traditional textbook models.

However, despite being one of the best examples of digital adoption in the country, there were still barriers similar to those described in the report; notably in terms of a lack of training and ensuing skills, underscored by teachers not understanding how various applications could be deployed. Could a straight-forward digital textbook on screen have eased their transition?

One of the key findings from Technology in Education, was that:

‘The use of technology to improve achievement must be recognized more prominently and systematically in inspection and accountability frameworks with clear guidance on what good and outstanding looks like in practice.’

In other words, schools need to practice and perfect and then get a clearer idea of how best to measure achievement in a digital world.

Later this month we will be running a focus group on mobile technology in technology with Rising Stars, so watch this space for an update on the latest findings from that.

YUDU work with top educational publishers like OUP, Folens and Pearson Education. For more information on YUDU Education, please get in touch.

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