Tablets the answer to SA textbook crisis

Talks on the possibility of replacing printed materials with curriculum-loaded tablets are underway, following the dilemma of insufficient textbooks for schools in South Africa.

The main problem of why tens of thousands of learners in Limpopo could not be educated with appropriate source materials this year was due to lack of organisation of government funds. However, fundis are buzzing about the possibility of lower cost in replacing textbooks with iPads.

There is evidence to suggest tablets with pre-loaded content are more cost-effective than sourcing printing course material, News24 argued. Speaking to the MyBroadband, Christian Sunward Academy principal Adele Huyzers said: “A parent buying textbooks for their child would spend about R3500. Using e-books will cost about R800.”

Tablets are becoming progressively more attainable with the favourable cell phone contracts including tablets at low premium rates.

Android news also reports that Wise Tablet, a local developed tablet for the SA market, “aims to deliver budget friendly tablets, aiding in and delivering education, communication and entertainment to the masses”.

MyBroadband lists a variety of cheaper tablets, starting with the Aakash at R302.69 (US$37 ) and including the CherryPad, Simmtronics X pad, Velocity MicroCruz and Coby Kyros MID7015 –all varying between R500 and R700 (US$58 –US$81).

Another technological alternative under consideration is Android. Most state schools will not be able to afford and maintain the iPad replacements of textbooks as the basics were even hard to come by.

However, there are some Android alternatives slicing the cost in half. These would be better suggestions to spend government subsidies on. For schools not entitled to government funds, personal ownership of tablets will be encouraged.

The pressure that it would put on schools to be sufficiently technologically equipped (and possibly parents to too), could increase the gap between the richer and poorer groups of society.

“The rapid adoption of [information technology] infrastructure at private schools is widening the gap between the haves and have-nots,” Melanie Hartgill, an Educational Psychologist explained to the Sowetan Live.

Rather than implementing this immediately, the government should perhaps look into a 5-year plan of integration. Despite facts pointing out that some 23 percent of South African schools have Internet access, the initiative is growing in support groups of this media.

As elite schools countrywide have already taken the step towards becoming an e-school, the possibility of this movement towards Internet transformation is shown to already be a reality within reach.

In terms of the way that the school system would change, experts are rather positive. Although the lack of listening skills could be a disadvantage, e-schools could still require the submission of test in written format. IT expert Arthur Goldstuck told Sowetan that children struggling with handwriting would not have to fear lagging behind anymore as they could use the touchscreen keyboard.

According to MyBroadband, the operation of the daily education system includes downloading lessons, e-mailing homework and even sending parents updates on their children’s progress on their cell phones.

Wesley Lynch, the chief executive officer of Realmdigital, was quoted saying tablets are not just a replacement for textbooks as it is in many ways a gateway to an entire access of human knowledge and the Internet.

Realmdigital is a South African e-business strategy and technology partner, specialising in internet and mobile platforms.

Posted in: Gadgets

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