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Submitted by JoeN on
Hugely valuable post as usual Mike. I've worked in the educational technology business since 2000 and watched the UK go through a period where gurus and techno-zealots had an open goal with a naive government who spent vast sums on everything and anything "21st century" or worse..."cool." Spending on educational ICT in 2008–09 in the UK was £2.5bn, and that did not include digital content. If you had attended the BETT show here between 2000-2005, you would have seen a huge growth in digital content suppliers, yet by 2009 it had shrunk almost without trace. The risk of wasted investment in anything digital, purporting to replace or enhance textbooks, cannot be stressed enough. I would also suggest that thinking about digital textbooks except in conjunction with e-readers, isn't currently viable. We have only the most cursory understanding of the psychological and hence learning differences between reading printed text and text on computer screen, and if you think of very young children who are learning to read, this ought to be a major worry. Yet, on the other side of the debate, judging by the numbers of people I see clearly engrossed in a "book" on the London tube these days, when what they have in their hand is a Kindle or something similar, then the e-reader really does seem to have arrived at last. I suspect using an e-reader is in some fundamental way, a different psychological experience to reading from a screen. And just an anecdote on digital textbooks. In about 2000 or 2001, a Chemistry teacher I knew invested in the very latest 'A' level Chemistry digital textbooks from the only major publisher in the UK who embraced new technology and earned a reputation as innovators. She said to me, "They are just like the printed books...only harder to use."