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UPDATED: May 6, 2013 NO. 19 MAY 9, 2013
Is It Time to Popularize E-Schoolbags?


In the past two years, some schools in cities including Beijing and Shanghai have introduced tablet computers with e-textbooks installed into classes. Students do experiments, do their homework and even take tests via these tablets.

It seems that teaching and learning based on digitalization are becoming more and more popular. But debate on whether the time is ripe to introduce such initiatives remains widespread among education experts, teachers, parents, electronic textbook publishers and those interested in this topic.

Many teachers have expressed doubts about the use of new technology. In schools where e-schoolbags are used, teachers also have to spend more time on the preparation of lessons and coursework in an attempt to improve substance.

Teachers also find it increasingly difficult to establish how much students learn in class. While e-schoolbags may help collect more study materials and make information sharing possible, they might not ensure that students absorb more information than in a traditional class setup.

Parents fear that staring at computer screens too long may do harm to children's eyes. Other worries include what if students are distracted by online games, and when most work is done on electronic equipment, will character writing degrade? The following are excerpts of opinions:

Helpful in many ways

Ni Minjing (China Education Daily): Informationization is an irreversible trend in modern society. For example, in the past, teachers used waxed paper to print test papers, but nowadays, thanks to printers and copiers, everything is much easier. In retrospect, the wide spread of information technology in education can be divided into three parts. First is the introduction of PCs onto campuses; second is the spread of Internet, and third is information technology being applied in class for teaching and learning. Students can study everywhere. Education is undergoing profound changes in the tide of information technology popularization.

Zhong Lixin (China Education Daily): Whether you admit it or not, the development of digital technology is an irresistible trend. This technology is imposing an extensive impact on study in detailed and all-dimensional ways. Technological innovation will surely be widely used in education. E-schoolbags might incur disputes, but the development and application of advanced technologies are not supposed to be hindered by such debate.

Every coin has two sides

Mu Xuchong (Xi'an Evening News): E-schoolbags include videos and cartoons, so that students can enjoy vivid classes, which further stirs up their interest in learning new knowledge. However, some teachers think, e-classes won't necessarily be more helpful than conventional classes in terms of knowledge absorption. Many parents also trust conventional classes more.

Nowadays, more than 50 countries and regions are pushing forward e-schoolbags in pilot schools. In China, some schools are also trying to promote the use of e-schoolbags. The significance of such technology is that modern information technology is used to enrich school education. Videos and cartoons will make teaching more visible and vivid, helping to stimulate student interest in learning. Besides, interaction between teachers and students are becoming more convenient and swift, which will improve the efficiency of teaching and learning. The application of information technology in education is an irreversible trend.

However, no matter how strong and helpful e-schoolbags are, it is nothing but a teaching and learning tool, with many deficiencies that conventional education means do not have.

E-schoolbags will affect young students' eyesight. Moreover, the use of e-schoolbags will weaken the influence of traditional culture. Depending excessively on computers will weaken the ability to write on paper. Those who often use computers might find themselves lost when trying to write something down, as in most cases computers will help them to do so. Sometimes, people are computers' slaves, instead of their masters. When even adults are exposed to this danger, children who are much poorer in self-control will easily experience this negative impact. Besides, when most study materials are available on computers, which can be searched out immediately, students will not like to keep certain important information in mind, which is bad for their education. Also, because the Internet offers so much information, teachers might select more instead of less homework for students, worsening their burden. At last, e-schoolbag programs will unavoidably add to the economic pressure on poor families.

The key is to properly make use of this technology while respecting the basic rule of education, and to respect people-to-people interaction, instead of excessively depending on computers. The use of e-schoolbags should be moderately limited, and should only play an assistant role. Conventional class teaching must be maintained, as there are a lot of positive aspects related to it. Particularly, e-schoolbags should be prevented from being used as toys by students.

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