Old School or New School?

By Khethiwe Shobede

Education is a very important part of society and different schools use different mediums to ensure the progress of their students. However, the question is, which method is more efficient – using textbooks as the traditional method, or the new age of digital?

Using textbooks, a chalkboard and a teacher being in front of the class teaching, has always been the way it has been since as long as we can remember. That method of learning and teaching has always worked in the past and still works now. Using textbooks as a form of learning and teaching in classes requires a teacher to be in front of the class and teaching. It also requires students to carry their textbooks to class every day. According to the Department of Education (Umalusi), using textbooks in the classroom is very effective as it helps conduct the lesson effectively. It also directs the lesson and helps with the communication between learner and teacher. Textbooks are provided in schools by the Department of Education, which means that they are free and every student has access to it.
“All my life of studying I have been using textbooks to and that was efficient enough for me. The way our teachers stuck to the curriculum, it made easier for us to learn in the classroom and also to study at home,” says Zama Khwela, a 3rd year, studying a Bcom at Rhodes University. She continues “I think it would have been very challenging for us to just start using our phones, tablets and laptops in class. We would all just get carried away and those who don’t not have, would feel left out in some way. So I guess it was easier for us to use textbooks and we really passed well.” Using textbooks as method of learning is an old tradition that has worked for many.

However, we also cannot deny the development and dependency students and even teachers have on technology. Most information is now found through the internet and that requires digital tools in order to access the internet. Technology in education is on the rise. More people are shifting towards digital tools and technology to gather information and this is because it is organised, efficient and direct.

Bonolo Masoka, a first year BSC student at Rhodes University says that her experience of using textbooks as compared to using e-books is different to Zama’s. She acknowledges how much knowledge textbooks has given to her, but the shift towards to e-books and online learning was amazing one.

“Using e-books required us to bring our phones or tablets to class, that made more eager to learn and do more work with digital tools.” Bonolo says. The use of digital tools can make the student more interested in what is happening because we can all agree that everything is now at the tips of fingers, so learning through digital makes easier for us to deal with pressures of school and having to go the library every time we need to do work. However, this could also see as a distraction because some learners would much rather do something else with their phones than for them to do work. It also in the learner’s interest to do what’s right in order for them to do well in class. However some argue that having direct access to so much information can lead to distractions.

Meshach Naidoo, a 1st year student studying engineering at Stellenbosch say that it is much easier just carrying tablets at school and not a bag full of textbooks, and the “I forgot myself textbook at home” excuse, just did not cut it anymore. “You know, one of the best experiences was seeing the bight smiles from students who could not afford tablets but were sponsored. That gave them a happy reason to come to school every day and actually learn. However, you also cannot stop using textbooks just because of e-books. Textbooks are still a good way to gaining information and using it efficiently.”

According to Questia: trusted online research, “one of the benefits of educational technology is that learning resources are available globally and without any time restrictions, while traditional courses classes are held at a particular time in a particular venue.” With educational technology, learning material is available to one at any time- phones, tablets and/or computers. However, with books, it is not that simple. One has to be at a certain place in order to get a hold of a book and not everyone has excess to a library that might have all the books that they need. Most students want to do things when they want to, at their convenient time and using digital tools helps them do that.

The different study methods used at schools determine the pass rate that school. “I think that using textbooks as a means of studying is one of the best ways students can learn and teachers can read. Yes, it has a lot of content but it also helps build the student-teacher relationship there should be at schools. As a history teacher, I feel like my students feel it is better when I stand in front of them and present the work,” says Mrs Bamford, a history teacher at Eshowe High School in KZN. “It is clear that most students want to be able to bring their phones, tablets and computers in the classroom but imagine how disruptive that would be when a student is on their phone and you don’t know whether they’re doing their work or just using their phones for something else. As teachers, we have a lot of work to do and we cannot be monitoring every student, every 5 minute to see if they are working.”

Tarryn Joubert, a 1st year at student, doing a BA in law says that doesn’t really prefer other, “I’m much of an oral person. I prefer just talking things out as I study, whether it’s through digital tools or textbooks. However, I also feel like kind of distracted at times when using my phone, tablet to study because I know the internet is just there and that Facebook sign is just staring at me, begging for me to log in,” Tarryn says as she continues, “but as much as I hate reading and using textbooks, I have no choice now but to love books.”

There is a huge debate about using textbooks in the classroom or digital tools as a way of learning. However, with everything starting to depend on technology, soon most schools will be using educational technology as a way of learning and teaching.

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