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Dr John Spencer began his teaching career in 1981 armed with a Sinclair ZX81, thereby demonstrating two things at once: Firstly he was in at the very start of ICT in the classroom and secondly he is a sucker for duff technology. Thereafter he taught joining a start-up open source company as their Head of Education in 2002. Now John is bringing his iconoclastic disposition and tendency to throw a spanner in the works to blogging.

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eBook revolution postponed

ebook readers are fantastic, I love them.

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I love the dinky screens (especially that square one), the sharp text, the battery life and the storage capacity. I don’t love the union between hardware and ebooks that the major vendors are so keen on, for Kobo, Kindle and Sony substitute, Amstrad, Acorn and Sinclair. 

Yes, all of the latter did similar stuff, but personal computing did not really take off until the IBM’s PC was cloned into a universal platform. 

ebooks have enormous potential as the only ‘book’ a child will ever need for school. The entire knowledge base (a.k.a. all the text-books and work-sheets) for the whole of a child’s education would fit onto one reader and could be mass-produced/purchased by the State for commodity pence. 

The first paragraph explains why schools are so wary of diving into the ebook world and the second paragraph tells us why they should. This impasse is not helped by particularly wet comments like the one below from BESA*:

Caroline Wright, director at BESA comments: "Various research projects in recent years have indicated that ebooks have motivated children, particularly boys, to read. Anything that inspires children to love reading has to be a good thing. While the low levels of adoption of ebooks in schools is disappointing, I am heartened that the forecast is more positive."

I so object to this kind of drivel. We have heard similar for years from people who haven’t got proper jobs. Phrases like 'motivated children' and 'especially boys' are hackneyed buzz phrases that 'decision-makers' and 'stakeholders' are supposed to pick up and be enthused.

For goodness sake, why is she disappointed in the 'low level of adoption'? 

We have a hegemony of paper-based publishers committed to the profitable gravy-train of textbooks and photocopy-able worksheets and we have a bunch of ebook 'Neo-Amstraders' carving their own hardware niche, and of them, which will survive ten years? Is BESA 'disappointed' that schools have worked it out for themselves?

Cynic that I am, I take a perverse pleasure in observing the sheer impotence of the worthy. ebooks offer a massive prize to schools with phenomenal cost savings. We spend many, many thousands of pounds annually on text-book revisions, photocopy licences, paper and reproduction costs. Will it change? 

No of course not, that would require action. Let’s create a report that’ll do the trick.

BESA*: No, I don’t know nor care whether this acronym is still an acronym or now a brand, suffice to say it’s something to do with education and tech.

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