Digital school textbooks available now

For tech-savvy students, lugging books to class may soon be a thing of the past. Instead, they can use tablet computers to access texts currently in use across most primary and secondary schools.

Singapore publisher Marshall Cavendish introduced electronic textbooks for schools this month. It said the aim was to encourage self-directed learning and reduce the number of books that students have to carry. Instead of using print diagrams to illustrate a solar eclipse, for example, the e-books will allow youngsters to toggle between pictures of the sun, moon and Earth. This means they can make the eclipse happen on-screen.

The Education Ministry-approved "texts" are electronic versions of the print books used in most Singapore schools. Students can scribble on them digitally and highlight relevant parts - just as they do with actual textbooks. They are available for secondary level science and mathematics, and Primary 1 mathematics.

For Primary 1 pupils, for example, a mathematical memory game for two players helps them to match a numeral to its word equivalent.

More than 40 primary and secondary schools have signed up to use the e-books. They include Raffles Institution, Tao Nan School and Crescent Girls' School.

"Students today are digital natives," said Ms Joy Tan, general manager of Marshall Cavendish Education. "They are visual learners and they take in information in a different way."

Electronic textbooks have been used in countries such as the United States, Japan and South Korea, with varying degrees of success. Japan has piloted the use of tablet PCs for students to exchange ideas in real time while a teacher digitally monitors the work.

But South Korea has scaled back plans to introduce digital textbooks in schools due to fears that they will make students dependent on gadgets and harm their eyesight.

Housewife Gwen Cheng, 40, who has a son at Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) and a daughter at Nanyang Girls' High School, said: "Children's attention spans are short and they may use these gadgets for gaming instead, so parents and teachers will still have to check on them regularly."


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