Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Digital Textbook Initiative

After a slighting reference to 'Arnold' on Have I Got News For You, about the simple economic savings implicit in not giving children hard copies of non-fiction text books, it feels difficult to come out on the side of digital learning.

Terminating Education on elearning 3.0 blog found at elearninglearning (sic)

Full speech at Office of the Guv'ner

Actually, I still believe in the mixed economy.  Certainly for novels and poetry, I prefer having a copy I can carry around.

The argument for up-to-date information seem irrefutable, however - as digital copies remain available for all students, when limited copies soon leave the shelves, and either stay out for months, or never come back. And they also go out of date quickly, whether books on law, medicine, economics, etc.

I think it a rather extreme position to eliminate books altogether, as though all information goes out of date quickly.  We don't just study History (where new revelations, attitudes and approaches might appear) but also how people viewed it at certain times (some classics remain important for study, even if 'period pieces' in some ways.)  The idea that all information goes out of date comes from a rather superficial view that we in the present know more, and more accurately, than people in the past.  I do think completely deleting the past a rather dangerous approach, myself.  Just think how hard it can prove, to find an out-of-print, out-of fashion  masterpiece.

This remains a heated argument within libraries, as some of us think we should appear as up-to-date, clean and modern as Borders or Waterstones - just free, is all.  Others think we should represent an alternative to best sellers and a limited choice on display, and include an archive of 'out-of-date' material and hard to find items, rather than just the latest compilation summary of past knowledge, Dummies' Guides, etc. 

Of course, bookshops and libraries can both order you copies of books they don't have, to arrive later, whether to borrow or to buy.

As it happens, as I try to use e-learning options within the libraries, for staff training - I don't feel sure either way.  I don't get a great response from my initial efforts to make knowledge available digitally, but then again we work in a library, and I am not sure how many staff spend any time with the 'How To Use a Computer' books that we have, either.  Some people spend their time learning, and others don't - so motivation seems as important as access to tools.

No, I didn't reach a conclusion...

I have studied online for the last few years, and when working through a text my favourite option remains having a paper copy for reading on the bus and in the bath, and a PDF copy for searching, cutting and pasting etc.

I don't really believe in Either / Or.

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