The use of e-books in New Zealand primary schools
I am a masters student at Victoria University in Wellington and have just completed a research project as part of the degree requirement for the Master of Information Studies.
The project was a study examining the extent to which e-books are used in primary classrooms throughout New Zealand. The survey looks at attitudes towards technology, e-book use in the classroom and the obstacles in place preventing their use. A postal survey was mailed to 300 year 5 and 6 teachers throughout New Zealand. There were 76 respondents.
The meaning of what it is to be literate in today’s society is going through a transformation. It no longer only refers to the traditional tenets of reading, writing, listening and talking; it now includes the ability to cope with cultural and linguistic diversity and multimodal texts. Children are now exposed to a wealth of media combining text, sound, image, animation, gesture and space and they need the tools and technological savvy to understand how these elements are working together in order to make meaning from what they are interacting with.
There is currently debate about how best to provide this. Some experts believe a whole new pedagogy is required in order to bring the curriculum into the 21st century. One positively reviewed tool in helping to achieve these new literacy aims is the e-book.
This study aimed to find out to what extent e-books are being used in New Zealand primary schools, what influences teachers to use them and what obstacles are preventing their use.
The findings of the study show there is high interest by survey respondents in using e-books but relatively low actual use, with only 30.3 per cent of respondents being categorised as “regular users”. The study also found that the number of computers is not an obstacle to use but a lack of awareness of e-books and how to get them is the main impediment. Survey respondents also indicated a desire to have more training in using e-books and better quality materials to support the curriculum and learning goals, including lesson plans.
The study recommends that e-book use should be included in teacher training and professional development and those already using them should be engaged to support those who are not. There is an opportunity for the e-book industry to work with educators in the development of a product supportive of the curriculum and which includes ideas for lesson plans.
The Ministry of Education is actively engaging with schools to encourage planning for the impact of technology on all aspects of education delivery, including digital devices. The existing ICT PD programme is currently transitioning to a new model that will better support educators in developing the skills and knowledge to use these effectively in their every day teaching practice.
In terms of specific devices, it is up to individual schools to decide which tools best support the learning needs of their students, within the framework of The New Zealand Curriculum.