Surely conventional wisdom can’t be right

Jeff Jarvis says:

[…] The problems with books are many: They are frozen in time without the means of being updated and corrected. They have no link to related knowledge, debates, and sources. They create, at best, a one-way relationship with a reader. They try to teach readers but don’t teach authors. They tend to be too damned long because they have to be long enough to be books. As David Weinberger taught me, they limit how knowledge can be found because they have to sit on a shelf under one address; there’s only way way to get to it. They are expensive to produce. They depend on scarce shelf space. They depend on blockbuster economics. They can’t afford to serve the real mass of niches. They are subject to gatekeepers’ whims. They aren’t searchable. They aren’t linkable. They have no metadata. They carry no conversation. They are thrown out when there’s no space for them anymore. Print is where words go to die.

My tech preferences make me want to agree with Jeff Jarvis. I prefer reading (learning) with my computer and online for many of the reasons he cites. To me, books and other printed media are less useful.

So what to make of this, reported in today’s Telegraph:

Books are more than twice as effective as computers in raising standards among pupils, says a senior academic who spent 30 years training teachers to use computers. Spending £100 a year on books for each primary school pupil raised test scores by 1.5 per cent while the same amount invested in computer technology was less than half as effective, according to the study by Steve Hurd, a former teacher trainer specialising in computer assisted learning.

[…] Mr Hurd’s research team concluded that the average test scores for English, maths and science would rise by 1.5 per cent in schools spending £100 per pupil on books, a higher than average figure. The equivalent spent on technology made a difference of 0.72 per cent. The findings were based on data from 6,000 primary schools over three years.

Does the UK research mean British schoolkids are stuck in a conventional learning pothole? It seems to me more to be about school teachers in a pothole rather than the pupils.

My daughter’s a school teacher who teaches primary school kids in the UK, and who lives on her laptop (ok, so she’s a bit of a geek). Perhaps she’s representative of the new wave of teachers, those of a younger generation who clearly understands the role of technology as a learning and educational tool.

Yet it looks as though it might still take a while before computers supplant books in schools.

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