Some time ago I was listening to an interview on the wireless in which a publisher compared reading articles on the net to reading the slush pile. A perhaps cruel, but sadly accurate comparison.
So it was with some horror that I learned that there is a growing trend with schools purging their libraries of hardcopy factual texts in favour of online resources*. Let me share with you my top three ways that this is terrifying.
1: Quite a number of online resources are poorly fact checked, and when they’re wrong they stay wrong and accessable forever
2: Quite a number of online resources are poorly copy edited. How can we expect high standards from our students when their models are such a mess?
3: It can be really hard to monitor what students are actually looking at online, especially if the teacher is good but not as technically savvy as their students.
While these are real concerns faced by educators I suddenly realized that just be because the students are not using paper they could still be using well researched and thoroughly checked texts. Traditional publishing houses are rising to the digital dawn and incorporating eBooks into their catalogues. Also, it’s a great teaching opportunity. Students must be taught to be critical in this age of digitally enhanced photographs and news papers completely devoid of scruples. And if teachers are worried that they can’t monitor children’s reading as easily there are technological safeguards available – turn off the Internet connection and allow only catalogued eBooks or electronic resources. We have to bare in mind that electronic resources encompass so much more than just the written word and perhaps these pioneering teacher librarians are to commended for their bravery. This is as giant a leap as from the cave wall to the papyrus scroll. I predict that within the period that my own daughters attend school this will become common place in the developed world. If teachers are still intimidated by the technology they must remember the reason they rose to their calling – which was to inspire the next generation to become inquisitive life long learners. Maybe the eeeeekBooks aren’t so scary after all.
* See comment on the CBCA NSW Facebook page dated 17 December, 2011.