South Korea announced earlier this month that it plans to spend over $2 billion developing digital textbooks, replacing paper in all of its schools by 2015. Students would access paper-free learning materials from a cloud-based system, supplementing traditional content with multimedia on school-supplied tablets. The system would also enable homebound students to catch up on work remotely.
The Chosunilbo reports that the digital textbooks will contain the contents of ordinary textbooks and various reference resources to help students understand the materials better. The government also wants to build a cloud computing system in all schools, so that users can access a database of all digital textbooks and choose what they want from their tablet PCs.
This will require a massive server where all digital textbooks will be deposited to be set up at the Korea Education and Research Information Service as well as wifi networks in schools. The ministry plans to provide free tablet PCs for students from low-income families.
Is Going Digital A Good Idea For South Korea?
If all-digital is going to work anywhere, South Korea seems like a good candidate.
From Education Week:
South Korea is one of the most wired places on earth. More than 80 percent of South Korean households have broadband access to the Internet, according to the statistical office here. U.S. Web hosting company Akamai said earlier this year that South Korea enjoys the fastest Internet connection in the world.
In addition, a 2009 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-headquartered grouping of wealthy nations, found 15-year-olds in South Korea scored highest in their ability to absorb information from digital devices, beating runners-up New Zealand and Australia by a large margin.
At Sosu Elementary School in Goesan, principal Jo Yong-deuk speaks of a future in which his students interact in virtual reality with Ludwig van Beethoven and Abraham Lincoln. In the classroom, the children scribble answers in their tablet PCs with touchscreen pens as they watch the video clip explaining the scientific properties of frozen water.
“I liked this chapter, but my favorite clip is one where they show how flowers blossom and trees bear fruit in spring,” 11-year-old Jeong Ho-seok said with a wide grin.
South Korea Consistently Ranks At The Top
It’s also true that South Korea consistently ranks one of the highest for educational achievement in the world. Still, however ready the students are for this technology, it’s important that the teachers get the training they need. There are numerous research projects in the U.S. documenting the huge amounts of money wasted when new technology is introduced into schools, but teachers aren’t trained in its use.
Making iPads Mandatory
I’ll soon find out firsthand how well this works, as the high school where I teach is making iPads optional for students this year, but mandatory for all in the 2012-13 school year. And I have to say that this move is making all of us a bit nervous.
Perhaps I’ll be turning to South Korea to get great classroom-usage tips!
Photo Credit: aperutismo via Creative Commons