Schools minister Nick Gibb MP says that he loves text books, and that they are key to raising standards in schools. So he ought to welcome the new digital text book and learning resources platform – classoos – that debuted at the BETT 2018 educational technology show in London.
Despite his allergy to the digital world Mr Gibb wants to extend the use of text books, and classoos could well do that. It also lifts a great weight from children’s school bags and allows them to share all sorts of digital addenda, including YouTube clips to enrich their experiences. It should save schools on text books, but also on the expensive photocopying they generate for worksheets.
That's because the platform doesn't just distribute text books to student digital devices (from mobile phones and tablets to laptops and desktops); it also allows the contents to be used for worksheets which would otherwise have to be printed out.
Like most of the other digital platforms for schools, it allows teachers to pull pupil data, like class lists, from school information management systems like SIMS. So groups of users can be set up quickly and efficiently. Once that is done teachers and students quickly discover the flexibility and extended features of digital text books.
Teachers can distribute all kinds of worksheets based on the content, and students can engage with it in ways simply not possible with ordinary books. They can also links all kinds of useful digital material of their own to specific points in the books along with links to further materials online. It all makes up for a much more engaging and fulfilling experience.
"There is no doubt that textbooks are at the heart of teaching and learning," says classoos' UK sales director Tim Clark (pictured above). "And in the third millennium it is not unreasonable for schools to want to use digitised textbooks.
"Indeed, many publishers have been offering this service for a number of years which is great. The drawback to that however is that for every publisher a school uses they need a separate account login. What we offer with classoos are all the textbooks a school wants in a single platform, accessible via a single sign-on across all devices (PC, tablet and phone) both online and offline.
'It makes life a whole lot easier for schools'
"It makes life a whole lot easier for the schools. They get the same great content but it is all in one place. And there is the added advantage of being able to publish to the platform too. So teachers can add notes and direction to lessons and homework and provide feedback and review easily and in one place."
The classoos people were over from Israel for BETT 2018 to show how their service works on any digital device and with any learning platform. The publishers they work with include Pearson, Hodder and OUP, and they say they haven't been asked for a text book yet that they can't make available in digital form.
The feedback at the show was extremely positive. The service featured on TeachTechnologies website's "Best of BETT 2018 - My Top Five Finds" with "If you have 1:1 devices, or are thinking of introducing them, this platform seems like a no-brainer to me, and represents the future of the textbook in schools."
A similarly positive response was posted on the Mr Ashman New Tech blog "My Classroom: New ideas with new technology": "Although there are many companies out there, the great thing about Classoos is that they work with many publishers and help schools to create their own book shelves for classes and students."
While it's clear that schools ought to be able to make savings and get more value from their text books using classoos, there is no hard data available from user schools yet as the service is so new (apart from the feedback video (above) from Lady Eleanor Holles School in London, a one-to-one school using iPads). The company reckons that the cost is likely to be “likely to be in the range of £5-15 per user per annum for the platform, with books being between 30% and 50% of the printed price per annum”.
One obvious saving for schools is in photocopying. Tim Clark says, "Some of the other beneficial consequences of using the classoos digital platform are saving money on photocopying and reducing the weight of school bags, and there are clear and present advantages. With the average secondary school spending between £60,000 and £100,000 a year on photocopying, the savings alone in monetary terms are significant never mind the environmental impact. And with pupils’ posture being put at risk from heavy school bags weighed down by text books, the digital route seems a sensible one to take."