One of my professors at Paichai University is an enormous tech-guy and he was very excited the other day because, it seems, Korea is on the verge of replacing its paper books with e-book enabled iPads (or their Samsung/LG made equivalents). My first reaction was, typical of my largely tech-indifferent self, to shrug and go back to reading chapter four. However, I got to thinking and I’m now indifferent for a whole new set of reasons.
On one hand, e-book enabled iPads potentially save money normally spent on textbooks, which should be one of the administration’s first priorities. They also have the potential to cut down on clutter and save a forest or two. Throw in some internet connectivity for dictionary/reference access and you really do have a chance to streamline classes.
On the other hand, iPads or their equivalents are a distraction waiting to happen. Chemistry 101 is going to lose in the attention sweepstakes if it’s going up against Angry Birds. They’re also expensive. Last time I checked, an iPad ran at least $300 a pop. That’s a lot of paper books or, better yet, trips to national parks, summer projects and visits to factories.
Which brings us to the part of the article where I decide that, were I a principal of a school in Korea or the US, I would not spend my money on replacing paper books with iPads. Computers are good, computers are useful and they are a huge part of the economy of the future, but they are also sensory deprivation devices. We are built to learn with our hands, our ears and our noses, not just our eyes. There is so much more richness to real experience over virtual experience, an orchestra in person vs and orchestra on TV is like comparing the sensations of flying and a cursory glance at a picture of a kite.
With three hundred bucks per student, I could send them to an electronics factory where they can wonder just exactly how those stamping robots work. I can send them to a nature reserve where it’s okay to get dirt on their pants, where it’s encouraged to catch creepy crawly things that live under rocks. I can send them to a summer camp making rockets with their hands, putting all those theories they learned in physics class to practical use. So unless those iPads cost less than the books they’re meant to replace, I sincerely hope Korean school principals spend the money getting their students real experiences.
Photo courtesy of Jake Ricci.
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