Report on Observation of a Korean Elementary School which introduced Digitalized Textbooks

 I visited Dongmak Elementary School in Jinsen, Korea. Jinsen is a port town located on the outskirts of Seoul. Dongmak Elementary School is known for its specialized education for gifted children. The school philosophy is to promote both study and sport. In 2007, Dongmak Elementary School introduced experimental classroom teaching using digitalized textbooks for students who requested to try digitalized textbooks. This report is based on my observation of the class for the 5th graders and an interview with the principal of the school.

 I observed a class consisting of 30 5th graders with an equal number of males and females. The digitalized textbook used was based on a computer-scanned textbook equipped with magnification functionality of illustrations and photos. Students were using the digitalized textbook with ease. The teacher showed the page of the textbook that the students were supposed to be reading on the display panel placed at the front of the classroom. This was to make sure that the students were engaged in the given task at all times.

 I interviewed the principal after the class. He said that the school had referred to the case of introducing digitalized textbooks in Eastern Europe. There was no explanation as to why Eastern Europe was referred to and which country in particular. I want to follow up on this information.

 Dongmak Elementary School introduced digitalized textbooks three years ago for six subjects; Korean, Science, Social Studies, English, Mathematics, and Music. Science and Social Studies received the most positive feedback from the students. The school realized that it normally takes six months to get used to using digitalized textbooks, regardless of students’ grades or subjects. Students selectively use different entry tools depending on what they want to input. For instance, a keyboard is often used for entry of letters and a digital pen is used for drawing pictures. The choice is made based on the accuracy of recognition and the ease of writing. Digitalized textbooks require a higher concentration of mind than regular textbooks. Because of exhaustion, three hours per day is considered to be the maximum time of usage, according to the principal.

 A semi-public organization called KERIS is promoting digitalized textbooks at present in Korea. The Korean government plans to disseminate the digitalized textbooks throughout Korea by first introducing them to elementary schools which have expressed an interest in them.

 My observation from the visit is that the hybrid style of classroom teaching using both paper textbooks and digitalized textbooks leveraging the strengths of both and considering the weaknesses of both is the most realistic way to start. By identifying the areas where digitalized textbooks prove to be more effective, the gradual digitalization of textbooks can be promoted.

(Toshihiko Takeuchi, CRET Researcher)


Toshihiko Takeuchi

CRET Researcher / Associate Professor of Department of Education, Tokyo University of Social Welfare

Hobbies: Creation of quizzes, manga (cartoons), and reading

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