Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Educational Deform

It's that time of the year: yesterday we bought our daughter's school books for the new term about to start. Two things struck me: 1) the horrendous price of school books, and 2) the fact that we still rely on books at the primary content platform for education. The two are, of course, related: the school books industry is as close as you get to monopoly in the book business - so there's lots of vested interests in maintaining the status quo (as there is with most things in the educational sector it seems). Another concern is the effect of carrying so much weight on school children's bones and bodies: but I guess that's a health issue, not an educational one.

Still, it did get me thinking: with all the complaining (yet again) about poor maths and science results and our inability to produce enough science and IT graduates, then why-oh-why are relying on medieval technology to deliver a 21st century education service? We could solve the school book cost and health issues overnight if we wanted to. As well as leapfrogging 15th century (and 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th century) technologies in one go.

We should issue every primary and secondary school children with an Amazon Kindle (I'm sure they'd give us a good price) and simply update the content on the Kindle with new books at the start of each term. The current retail price is $359 or just over €240. We paid €200 for just some of the books for one year yesterday. Something tells me we could negotiate something lower from Amazon in return for a bulk order of a million or so Kindles ...

And that would just be the start. Recently in the United States, the education sector ranked 55th out of 55 industrial and services sectors (after coalmining) for its usage of IT. I suspect our own educational sector in Ireland might not perform that well. But we've leapfrogged technologies before (e.g.: our national phone system in the 1980s), and we can do it again. Only this time the focus should be on education and we can go much, much further. Robot teachers anyone?

1 comment:

  1. You don't have to go far to see this taken to the next step - C2k in every school in Northern Ireland

    Not just about putting computers in schools - it's about having a complete support system including call centres etc - instead of relying on an undertrained teacher to take up the slack in each school.

    Full disclosure: one of the suppliers is a client. Regardless, the system is seriously impressive.

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