What is it with new technology? Everywhere you turn schools are throwing out books and buying up iPads. Wellington college is soon to open a digital library, where children can tune in with their computers in specially constructed pods. The school has given away thousands of old books from its 19th century library to “worthy causes” in preparation for the grand opening of the digital library later this year.
But is this all sensible? Do kids really learn faster and better when they read on screen rather than on the printed page? Former chief inspector of schools Chris Woodhead (among many others) thinks not. Maybe a backlash is overdue. If your child’s school starts sending letters home demanding money for Ipads and new computers it might be worth asking could little Johnny have an old fashioned text book instead of the photocopied dog eared pages too many state schools use in lieu of books.
Which is not to say that there are not some wondrous new educational benefits to be had on the net, not least free online lessons for subjects as varied as maths and Japanese. My favourite is Salman Khan’s academy, which I came across last June while researching an article for The Sunday Times. Salman, who gave up a job in a hedge fund to start his online academy, has been called the “messiah of maths”. Bill Gates’s children, among literally millions of others, follow his classes — and the Khan Academy has grown into a virtual school that is one of the most popular educational online sites. Every month 2m users, including many Brits, choose from a library of 2,300 videoed lessons — all free. Check it out yourself at khanacademy.org