Laptops, exercise books and textbooks

Exercise books and textbooks are obsolete. Both are quaint relics in an era of search engines such as Google. Teachers and schools may well feel that ditching exercise books and textbook is too revolutionary. There’s also the possibility that entrenched teachers will need retraining. The transition to laptops can only be achieved with whole-hearted commitment. Embracing the opportunities presented by laptops requires commitment by schools. Ditching exercise books and textbooks is the opening gambit prior to wholesale changes to the management of classroom learning.

Exercise books: Exercise books are obsolete. They’re a relic of a by-gone era, completely at odds with the reality of 21st century Britain. They’re inefficient. Time is spent handling them at the beginning and end of lessons. They’re dog-eared, graffiti ridden obstacles to learning. Laptops should replace exercise books. Every subject stored in separate folders with back-up in the school cloud account. Classwork and homework will be downloaded to teachers, without any of the tiresome, and time consuming, collection procedures. Teachers and students can access the work as and when required. All their work will be searchable where strengths and weaknesses can be identified.

Even better, cloud storage is administratively convenient, bringing productivity gains to the school. A good example is the resolution of challenges presented when students transfer to another school. Their entire academic career would be transferred with them immediately. Thus the new teachers will have robust evidence as to what level the incoming student is. This eliminates the learning curve of the new school vis a vis the incoming student to the advantage of everybody.

Textbooks: Textbooks are as obsolete as encyclopedias. Search engines delete reliance on expensive textbooks. They have demonstrated that virtually instant access is available to the world’s knowledge. Teachers should develop skills in organising and managing the students’ access to the avalanche of knowledge which can easily swamp their learning. The National Curriculum offers opportunities in preparing ‘banks’ of lessons, which could become bespoke learning vehicles for individualised learning. ‘Best’ practice will be easily shared in other words.

Delinking from textbooks means that teachers can be far more creative in preparing individualised learning programmes. Homework preparation is simplicity itself. There wouldn’t be the risky lending of textbooks to students and the hostile environment in satchels. Source materials would remain in pristine condition no matter how often they were used: no doodling or graffiti!

Investment in laptops: The phrase ‘invest to save’ is often used by salesmen, not always truthfully. Laptops offer clear savings. The remorseless consuming of exercise books and, quickly out-of-date textbooks will no longer be capital expenditures. Schools buy thousands of exercise books and a great many expensive textbooks. Investment in laptops eliminates this constant drain. Obviously not every student would require a school laptop as very large numbers of them have the equipment already. In terms of classroom management it also removes the constant irritating discipline problems associated with students not have writing equipment with them.

Universities use Jstor, where learned journals are freely available to students. Best classroom practice could be disseminated in a similar way. The skills of the best teachers should be disseminated to every teacher. Naturally, teachers might wish to adjust the sources to suit their individualised learning programmes but this would be tweaking. The core downloaded lessons would be as acceptable as the textbook is currently.

Where many students have Siri and other voice activated equipment with them constantly, exercise books and textbooks are obsolete. The bullet should be bitten and the first stage of making significant productivity gains in learning will begin.

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