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Education Technology

South African Schools To Go Textbook Free 76

An anonymous reader writes "South African education authorities are about to embark on an ambitious plan to take their schools textbook free, using the familiar refrain of one-tablet-per-child to do so. The education minister in Gauteng (the province which covers Johannesburg and Pretoria) has announced a plan to model new schools in the area on Sunward Park, a government school which went all-digital at the start of 2012. Other schools in the state will then follow, along with a plan to extend the project nationally."
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South African Schools To Go Textbook Free

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2014 @04:40PM (#47197945)

    South Africa, welcome to ridiculously marked up pdfs of textbooks, no way to "sell back" or "buy used," and licensing/broken device issues. Enjoy!

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @04:49PM (#47198017)

    Agreed, I think this is less a sign of progress and more a sign of texbook publishers cracking down on used books. School districts will initially think they're getting a great deal, until they realize that all the textbooks they thought they had "bought" will disappear the second they stop making their monthly licensing payments.

  • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @05:17PM (#47198203)

    I don't know what the practice in South Africa is, but in the U.S., most public school textbooks are provided by the school. Students can't take notes in them or highlight them. That's still the major advantage for me for paper books: they're easier to annotate quickly and informally (particularly on a tablet). But if you can't do that, why do you need the paper book?

    Textbooks from the past couple decades are ridiculously heavy, loading with unnecessary illustrations and other bulk which seem to be there simply for eye-candy for textbook adopting boards. (Completely unnecessary in an internet age when a teacher can project photos of just about anything up as necessary.) But this is beside the point.

    I've seen many middle-school kids lugging around backpacks that weigh almost as much as they do. Is that really necessary?

    With a tablet, it's not necessary anymore. Textbooks can be filled with not only illustrations but audio and video examples or animations, if needed. And that's not even exploring the possibility for new types of interactivity.

    As I'm sure many will point out here, the concern is probably about licensing fees, which will probably require an annual fee to keep using textbooks. So, in the long-term, we need to move toward adoption of more free textbooks (or textbooks that can be simply downloaded, without requiring licensing), many of which already exist online. Heck, for many subjects (primary and secondary math, grammar, etc.), public domain PDF textbooks from 100 years ago would cover almost the same material, saving a lot of money to be spent toward, say, actual interactive apps that teach in innovative ways, along with the few concepts left out of the old textbooks.

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta