It’s not (only) about the ebook
Footnote Summit 2015
Head of Mobile
Pearson South Africa
‘Technology’, as the computer
scientist Bran Ferren
memorably defined it, is ‘stuff
that doesn’t work yet.’
Douglas Adams, 1999
A book is not technology
• Very familiar (years of training to draw upon)
• Known user interface: people know how to switch is on, browse,
• Known information architecture: people go straight to the homepage
(ToC) or the search (index)
• Very durable (can last hundreds of years)
• Very rugged – it can be dropped
• Does not need a battery
• Can be expensive
• Single distribution model
• Hard to update
• Flat, one size fits all
• Non-interactive, non-dynamic, non-trackable
• Not connected
An ebook is technology
• Multimedia and interactive engaging
• Connects to LMS and captures learning journey adaptive and
• Very easy and cheap to reproduce
• New ways to distribute
• Easier to update
• Not familiar
• It needs a reader
• It needs power, a battery
• It is fragile (including it’s standards!)
• It is part of an ecosystem
“Since the introduction of e-Learning at my school learner
participation in class has increased. As at teacher I find it easier
to explain concepts using the models, activities and videos…”
Teacher at Zweilibanzi Secondary
How do we make an ebook no longer technology?
Build better ebooks? Yes.
And no. The move to digital is a seismic shift, it is not about
replacing paper with screens but rather about ensuring a
learning experience that is enabled by digital opportunities.
This represents a whole new ecosystem: digital learning, which
we need to ensure is delivered effectively and holistically.
work alongside all other
Of 21st Century
Revision and practice
including mobile apps outside the classroom
is enhanced by interactive assets
enable the teacher
to adapt their lessons
to ensure successful
via eBooks on a
variety of devices
identify personalised learning needs
Digital learning ecosystem
Has many parts, stakeholders, principles. What ISTE calls
essential conditions to effectively leverage technology for
Let’s look at the parts. Which ones are relevant for you? Which
ones do you have? Can they be strengthened? Which ones don’t
you have? Where do we need to work together? Which partners
do we need?
Digital learning is a journey
Uneven landscape at the school/college and district level: technology,
infrastructure, ICT literacy, buy-in, etc. Not all are at the same point of
Therefore we need to create multiple entry points into digital learning.
Not all institutions will adopt and grow at the same pace. Therefor offer a
suite of solutions.
A roadmap approach is appropriate, that allows for institutions to begin the
digital journey at a level of innovation that they can absorb, but with a clear
roadmap of where they need to get to. We need to cater to everyone, but
provide clear direction and support.
Long-term view is necessary.
Where is the institution/district going? How will it get there?
Shared vision for digital learning among all education
stakeholders, including teachers and support staff, school
administrators, teacher educators, learners, parents and the
community. And curriculum advisors, departmental officials,
Depts of Education.
All stakeholders should be able to give input, and be kept
This is about change management. About buy-in.
Guides the manifestation of the shared vision.
Covers every aspect of the move to digital learning, e.g.
infrastructure to professional development, monitoring, content.
A detailed roadmap: short term and long term goals.
Must be agile and adaptable.
Content and learning products and services
Full range of ebooks: flat ePDFs to interactive ePubs.
Digital assets (online and/or offline).
Learning and revision apps.
Learner Management Systems.
Because many schools don’t allow learners to take tablets
home, a blended approach -- print textbooks AND ebooks
-- is needed.
Connectivity: can it be provided? At what quality? Is a local
offline solution adequate (for now)?
Devices: Do all learners have equal access to devices? And what
devices to buy?
Not just about access, but about being empowered to use the
technology to its fullest capacity.
Teacher training and ongoing professional
ISTE: “All the technology in the world won’t make a difference if
educators don’t know how to leverage it for deeper learning.”
Solid teacher training, ranging from basic ICT literacy to teaching
with technology. If we don’t change the pedagogy, we are pouring
new wine into old skins.
Continuous professional development. “Focusing on both learning to
use technology and using technology to learn”
Range of modalities: face to face, online, blended, linking teachers
into virtual peer-to-peer support networks (use the technology!)
Need incentives to encourage participation.
Technical support, provided just-in-time so that the teaching and
learning process is not disrupted.
Support needs to be on-site, ongoing and phased, e.g. first 3
months very intensive and mainly about access, then focus moves
to ICT integration into teaching, etc.
For sustainability, skills and support must be embedded into the
organisation, e.g. through a Schools eLearning Management
Variety of roles: facilitators, technology specialists, e-Champions.
Everyone must know whom to turn to for assistance.
Appropriate use of technology:
• Learner and teacher safety online.
• High-level policies governing web filtering and access to low-
level policies around digital citizenship, digital responsibility,
Remember, cellphones are BANNED in many schools!
• Financial plans, accountability measures and inventory
management tools and approaches, such as passwords,
accounts and installation procedures.
Infrastructural (at the school).
Community buy-in very important.
Funding: Adequate and ongoing
About more than buying the ebooks.
Includes: devices, connectivity costs, ongoing technology
maintenance and support, hardware and software updates,
professional development, etc.
Strategic budgeting mitigates against buying the “latest and
greatest” and should prompt leaders to select the most cost-
effective tool for achieving the program’s goals.
Monitoring of effectiveness
It is essential to measure the effectives of the programme and,
after the massive financial and human investment, the return.
Are there better learner outcomes? Is there more efficient
assessment that informs teaching practices? Is there more
effective administration? Has the move to digital been worth it?
Efficacy Framework: Likelihood of impact
Criteria area Rating Rationale summary
• Action plan
• Monitoring and reporting
• Pearson capacity and culture
• Customer capacity and culture
• Stakeholder relationships
• Intended outcomes
• Overall design
• Value for money
• Comprehensiveness of evidence
• Quality of evidence
• Application of evidence
Planning and implementation
Capacity to deliver
Green: Requires small number of minor actions.
Amber/green: Requires some actions (some urgent and some-non urgent).
Amber/red: Requires large number of urgent actions.
Red: Highly problematic requiring substantial number of urgent actions.
What national policies support or hinder digital learning? What
can be influenced?
What budget can be tapped?
“Dropping technology from
the sky is tantamount to
missionary work from the
Church of Technophilia.”
Jordan Shapiro, 2015
Principle: User-centred design
Does the teacher care if you’re using ePub2 or ePub3? What
matters to the teacher? Easy to use, effective in conveying
concepts, saves them time. What matters to the learner?
Interactive, connected, creative.
It is time we adopt user-centred design approaches into the
creation of digital learning products.
It’s about putting the user at the centre to create better ebooks,
ereaders and a learning experience in a way that understands
the context in which they are used.
Many examples: UNICEF, IDEO Design Thinking for Educators
Not an easy road
We have to take baby steps, AND we have to think big.
In this way we are both at the mercy of the market we are
selling to, which is very uneven and may not be able to absorb
the proposed innovation, as well as responsible for building its
capacity to be guided into the digital learning era.
But necessary to take
If the publishing industry only focuses on selling ebooks and not
creating the bigger future, then it will not succeed.
When digital learning fails, we all fail.
We are now ALL in the digital learning business – trying to make
ebooks no longer technology.