Mixing it up: print vs digital

Gary Bryant, UK Manager for ITSI, discusses combined education, with the mix of tradition, technology, new skills and key skills for the modern world

As the recently released OECD 2017 Education Report shows, preparing students for the future isn’t an easy task. It is easy to understand the growing demand for education when the future economic benefits for the learner is writ large. However, for many, methods of teaching remained the same for a long time: students reading from textbooks, writing notes to process information, and gaining all the key knowledge needed for the world around them. The boom in technology at the turn of the millennium, however, saw traditional methods of teaching become overshadowed by new devices and software packages that promised to revolutionise the learning landscape. In all of this, the need for knowledge and skills remains. The focus is now on creating a 21st Century education for students. With this in mind, should we be ignoring traditional methods of learning altogether, or actually integrating these with technology? 

Choosing one method over another isn’t the answer to improving the education system; combining these two great methods of learning, however, is. Blended learning is a 21st Century approach which combines face-to-face instructions from teachers in the classroom whilst including technology as a building block, to expand on the content of the lesson. Although the use of technology in the classroom isn’t anything new, using technology for a one-hour computing class a week isn’t the same as adopting blended learning. This innovative method takes the use of technology further to enhance learning by providing opportunities for independent learning.

Undoubtedly, traditional methods of learning in the 21st Century classroom come with their limitations. Adopting technology alongside these traditional methods, can bridge the gap whilst also enhancing the learning process.

The consistent flow of updated information

For example, printed textbook learning can limit the information provided to students. Textbooks are often produced annually for the next academic year. Although the key information concerning theories are unlikely to change massively in a year, real-life examples can change dramatically. Take the subject of politics for example; sixth form students would benefit from the key theories found in printed textbooks year on year, but with unpredictable political changes – the huge upheaval of Brexit and the 2017 General Election for instance – it’s unlikely that textbooks would pick these up until the following academic year at best. This could hinder a student’s learning and potentially leave them naïve to the current changes of a topic in the modern world. Using eBooks gives students the opportunity to interleave and access updated and contextual information alongside the established theories.

eBooks can also be updated by teachers at their own discretion, adapting learning to the individual classroom. Teachers can also insert images, videos and hyperlinks alongside the original text in the book as examples to further enhance the learning experience for students.

The constant availability of new information allows for students to wholly learn about a subject at the tip of their fingertips in a fun and engaging way rather than simply viewing subject material as information needed for exams.

Providing students with freedom and independence

Adopting technology in the classroom can provide students with immediate information at the touch of an app. eBooks can be downloaded to their personal devices as well as accessed at school. Instead of carrying home various textbooks, students can simply download the app and access their textbooks through their personal devices. With many students owning personal devices, it gives them easy accessibility to their learning notes. This ultimately allows for students to access information at any time, from anywhere, creating many opportunities for them to carry out independent learning at home!

Initially, blending technology and traditional methods of learning has faced scepticism and fear. Increasingly, however, schools and teachers have realised that it undeniably enhances the learning experience. It allows students to learn in a multitude of ways providing undeniable benefits too. The use of technology in all aspects of our lives isn’t going away anytime soon, so instead of turning a blind eye to it within the education sector, it’s time for us to adopt a 21st Century attitude to learning and combine the new innovative methods of technology with the effectiveness of traditional learning methods.  

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