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Swedish schools aim to ditch books by 2013

Swedish schools aim to ditch books by 2013

Published: 01 Feb 2012 12:43 GMT+01:00
Updated: 01 Feb 2012 12:43 GMT+01:00

The Stockholm suburb of Sollentuna plans to get rid its schools of text books entirely by next year in favour of tablet computers like the iPad, but Sweden’s education remained sceptical about the proposal.

Maria Stockhaus, chair of Sollentuna's children and education board, argued that schools in her municipality are in the ‘backwater’ compared to the rest of society, and that the time has come for three schools in particular to embrace the future.

“The schools will take a step into the now instead of staying in the old days. Computers are as natural in schools as paper and pens, yet the fact that only every other teacher in Sweden has a computer today is completely insane,” she told Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

Sweden’s education minister Jan Björklund slammed the idea, however, saying that reading books and writing by hand are still relevant today.

“Even in the future people will need to read and write. You can’t always have access to a computer in some places,” he told DN.

“Books have an obvious place in school, and national exams are still written by hand. I predict that they will not follow through with their proposals.”

The Sollentuna municipality has already issued computers to all teachers, and plans to giver every student from 2nd grade and upwards their own touch screen tablet computer.

The schools to be connected are Helenelundsskolan, Sofielundsskolan and Runbacka.

Stockhaus said that the students will not be given paper and pens at all until they are 8 years of age, by which time they will have already had time to acquaint themselves with the touch screen technology.

This, she argued, will set the students up more suitably for the future.

The benefits of assigning individual computers to students are clear, if only in terms of levelling the playing field for families with differing incomes.

“We know that not every student has computer access at home. These students who come from homes with tighter finances have worse grades. An even greater wedge will occur if they do not get the same digital competence as the others,” Stockhaus said.

On top of this, she claimed that the feedback is immediate on a computer, and the students can learn much faster, with less supervision.

The digital upgrade couldn’t come soon enough, according to Stockhaus.

Tegelhagsskolan, another school nearby, already has had complete PC access for three years and its students have consistently excelled.

The investment will cost 16.5 million kronor ($2.45 million) in the start-up phase and 3 million by 2013.

A portion of the costs will be paid by the abolition of textbooks and the switching to digital learning materials.

Oliver Gee (oliver.gee@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:50 February 1, 2012 by EP
Yes, get the kids in Sweden even more computerized and wired, so they lose all personality. Most people here are already like robots, why push this even further. Hope they will stop using ADHD in the future for failing grades though ...
16:01 February 1, 2012 by StockholmSam
"Tegelhagsskolan, another school nearby, already has had complete PC access for three years and its students have consistently excelled."

Hmmm. I would like to know how they measured the excellence of Tegelhagsskolans students. My experience as a teacher in Sweden is that there is no outside, objective control over how students are graded and many schools inflate their grades to seem as though they provide excellence, especially the freeschools (friskolor) that need to keep the seats filled in order to make money.

Not only have I been a teacher for nearly seven years here, I have also been the IT Coordinator for four years in two different schools. I can say that computers in the classrooms are NOT a great idea for most situations. Schools that invest massive amounts of money in computer systems for children are rarely willing to admit that the investment was wasted, but teachers know that putting computers in kids' hands in a classroom setting is a very arduous ordeal. In a perfect world, it might work. But the reality is that with 30 students in a classroom, over half of the students will be affected by dead batteries, lost power cables, viruses, and various malfunctions not to mention the lure of Facebook and game sites. Teachers often have to throw their well-planned lessons out the window and spend an hour trying to solve technical problems. I have seen it for years and it is very rare that a class of kids can function at a high level with computers in front of them. Only the top performing kids achieve well consistently when given computers in classes.

As far as life skills are concerned, I have 18-year-olds who have handwriting comparable to my nine-year-old's handwriting. Plus, they struggle to build cohesive thoughts. They have come to rely on cutting-and-pasting the ideas of others. This school's idea is interesting, but I predict it will not achieve the goals they hope for.
16:50 February 1, 2012 by Scepticion
Agree with StockholmSam. Throwing computers at kids will not solve any problems. Most likely will even make it worse. You train a generation of kids that cannot do anything else by use Facebook. It's too much of a distraction.

"and the students can learn much faster, with less supervision." Less supervision - saving money with teachers, that's perhaps what the end goal is. And nobody is learning faster. Yes, perhaps you can look up things faster, but you are also more distracted, great to increase ADHD.
17:26 February 1, 2012 by Migga
The same old comments on every news coming out of Sweden. Always seeing the dark sides of things.

This will reduce costs. That means that money can go to hire more teachers. That means that money can go to improve other things in school that is already working well.
20:14 February 1, 2012 by TheWatchman
I hate e-books. The feeling of flipping a page is irreplaceable.
20:26 February 1, 2012 by Roy E
Looks like 'The dog ate my homework' is going to be replaced by 'My batteries died'.
22:30 February 1, 2012 by StockholmSam
@Migga

With all due respect, you are sadly misguided. Any time a school saves money the surplus rarely goes toward hiring more teachers, increasing teacher salaries, investing in special care teams, or even buying books. Read between the lines. As Scepticism pointed out in the text he quoted, the school is looking for shortcuts to supervision. If there is anything that Swedish students do NOT need it is less supervision. They already are out of control thanks to the lack of supervision from Swedish parents and the conferring of rights by Swedish society that they really do not know how to handle.
07:34 February 2, 2012 by Douglas Garner
I think the move to ebooks is inevitable. The shift will have a lot of problems as pointed out above, including attempts to pay for technology by reducing staff. Some of the etools are incredible and will allow for MOTIVATED students to progress faster. Just like a book or homework assignment... you have to turn it on or open it up to learn anything!
09:38 February 2, 2012 by star10
Well-said stockholmsam
09:47 February 2, 2012 by Stonebridge
The first paragraph of this article has two errors.

Maybe the reporter needs a book - one on English language.

"...plans to get rid its schools of text books..."

should be either

"...plans to rid its schools of text books..."

or

"...plans to get rid of text books in its schools..."

"Sweden's education remained sceptical."

Who or what remained sceptical?

The minister I presume.
20:29 February 3, 2012 by james_g
Just want to big up (I think that's what the young people say...) Stockholm Sam! Totally agree with you.
09:06 February 4, 2012 by Seseragi
Sad, but my former Sweden is a lost country. I left it many years ago though.
18:27 February 4, 2012 by D. ane
I totally agree with Stockholmsam.

Kids need to sit and think carefully rather than flic or click away all the time.

In maths especially, they have lost the practice of logical progression of thought and numbers. The very clever ones will probably survive but those who will need some help will lose out massively.

And not to mention the effect the microwaves of these technologies are having on their memories and personalities.

This is a sad day for all of us!
19:24 February 4, 2012 by Gustav Jung
If you want your education system to start turning out illiterate and ignorant children, as they do in the US, then bring in the computers! They can learn how to push a few keys anytime. Teaching them programming is a different matter.
20:16 February 4, 2012 by strixy
Idiots. This is idiotic and dangerous.
12:45 February 5, 2012 by socioform
Not a good idea indeed!
03:24 February 8, 2012 by jomamas
Maybe the Swedes - who are behind the Fins, Canadians, Koreans and many more - should take a cue from those who are doing better than them as opposed to inventing superfluous fake-progressive initiatives to make themselves feel smart.
18:14 February 10, 2012 by raandy
Yes, but they are not deleting the written word just the media they are portrayed on.

I do not see where this is going to degrade Sweden's educational system.
15:47 February 15, 2012 by Atlas
As if is not enough that today's children already have enough gadgets to "ruin" their childhood...

Yet another distraction for children in the name of technological leap...

Back when i was a kind, small 8 digit calculators were an absolute NO in the math class, teacher wouldn't accept the answer just straight, prove by pencil and paper how you did it. The result could have been wrong maybe due to an wrong digit, but if the procedure was correct it showed that you knew how to solve it, and the grading was better.
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