Textbooks replaced by iTunes U downloads

Stephen Perse Foundation Every pupil at the school has an iPad

The exam revision season is approaching. It's when students want as much information as possible at their fingertips.

So how about if you could touch a screen and download all the lesson materials you need?

Not just broadly relevant, generic materials, but the actual classes you've studied, video and text, put together specifically by your own teachers.

These are the equivalent of digital textbooks supporting lessons for each subject, including the days missed or forgotten.

And for good measure, how about if every student in the school could look at the materials on their own individual iPad?

This isn't a "classroom of the future" experiment or a Silicon Valley sales pitch, it's a school in Cambridge.

The Stephen Perse Foundation school is building a pathway that others could soon follow. It's clever and digital, but also practical and easily shared.

Downloading the homework

Teachers at the independent school are making their own online library of lessons and course materials for GCSE, A-levels and International Baccalaureates.

These are interactive resources, with video links and lesson notes, customised for the specific needs and speeds of their classes. There are extension exercises and links to further reading and ideas.

They are made to share on iTunes U, the academic version of Apple's iTunes download service, so pupils can access them at school or at home or anywhere else.

There has been a huge amount of hype about online university courses - the so-called Moocs (massive online open courses).

But here in this ancient university city, it's a school that is really putting the idea of online courses into practice.

Start Quote

In two years' time we may have to make decisions about whether we have printed textbooks”

End Quote Tricia Kelleher Stephen Perse Foundation principal

It still requires excellent teachers - to make them and to make sense of them - but you can see the far-reaching possibilities of creating the exam course equivalent of a box set of a TV series.

The pioneering and innovative principal of this high-achieving school is Tricia Kelleher.

She emphasises that such online courses depend on the quality and the skill of the teacher, it's not a plug-and-play education.

"The credibility of online learning depends on the teachers who have made the materials," she says.

"An iPad on its own isn't inspiring, it's the way it's used that's inspiring."

"Education should be a mixed economy, there should be technology, but it is only there to support what a living, breathing teacher is doing."

But she sees how online technology is about to change the traditional textbook.

"You're getting beyond the one-size-fits-all textbook. As a resource, I can't see it being bettered. You might buy a textbook, but half of it might not be relevant to your school."

Digital world

These digital versions can be updated by teachers, customised to specific classes and connected to the latest events. These instant updates will be immediately live on the pupils' iPads.

Tricia Kelleher Tricia Kelleher says the credibility of online materials depends on the quality of the teachers

"In two years' time we may have to make decisions about whether we have printed textbooks," says Ms Kelleher.

Simon Armitage, a senior teacher at the school, says this switch to digital allows staff to "cherry pick from a world of resources".

"This used to be just about books, now it is way more than this. iTunes U is the wrapper. It is not changing what many great teachers have been doing, but it is changing how they are doing it and how easily they are able to do it."

Ms Kelleher is also keenly aware that her pupils are now living in a digital world - whether it's social networking or getting information from Google - and that technology cannot be kept outside the school gate.

"A school has to accept this is the world we live in," she says.

The challenge is to give young people the skills to navigate it.

So she says that a key skill in the future will be teaching pupils how to evaluate all the instantly available information.

"A school has to be about critical thinking, it's never been more important. There's a level of passivity with a screen."

But there is another big difference with online courses.

They might be created for one school or university, but if they're any good, they can be shared. It's the basic principle behind the Moocs. It uses technology to extend the reach of education beyond an individual classroom to anywhere else in the world.

The Stephen Perse Foundation gets exceptionally good exam results - among the highest in the world for the International Baccalaureate.

And the school is planning to make its online materials free online.

This school happens to use iPads and iTunes U, but there are many other Mooc-type platforms, and it raises the prospect of many more great schools publishing their own digital materials.

Sharing expertise

Such online resources are also set to be shared within groups of schools.

The United Learning education charity, which runs more than 40 schools across England, is looking at how the expertise of individual teachers can be shared within a network of schools.

The group's director of technology, Dominic Norrish, says that even though everyone can remember a brilliant teacher in their own school, such inspirational teachers can only reach a limited number of pupils.

Stephen Perse school Pupils at the Stephen Perse Foundation use technology across their lessons

If you're not in their classroom, you don't benefit from their teaching. He suggests that online learning, with a mix of video and live teaching, could be a way of getting more from the best staff, particularly in subjects where there can be a shortage of specialists.

It shouldn't depend on "accidents of geography", he says.

In the future, it should be possible for "students in Bournemouth to play an active part in lessons taking place in Carlisle".

Global library

This is also going to be an international market.

Alison, a free online course provider which already has three million registered students around the world, is planning to launch video tutorial materials specifically made for GCSE and A-level maths.

This Irish-based online education service, the biggest Mooc outside the United States, provides materials across national boundaries - and such globalisation seems ever more likely.

There is clearly a huge demand for such online learning.

iTunes U There have been more than a billion downloads from iTunes U

The iTunes U service reached a billion downloads last year, with free course material on offer from more than 2,400 universities, colleges and schools. It's pumping out courses and information at an unprecedented rate.

And projects such as the Stephen Perse Foundation will see more and more schools putting their self-authored materials on to these digital libraries, available to a global audience.

They might even make it into the academic downloads chart.

After all, where else would you have a top 10 where the most popular performers are courses from Oxford, UCLA, Yale and Stanford?

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    HEADLINES
    • Bank bonuses face seven year clawback
    • Barclays profits fall 7%
    • HSBC closes some Muslims' accounts
     
  2.  
    BARCLAYS PROFITS 07:27: BBC Radio 4

    Antony Jenkins, chief executive of Barclays is on the Today programme: "These are an encouraging set of results... Our capital position has never been stronger."

     
  3.  
    ITV PROFITS 07:27:

    ITV boss Adam Crozier says the broadcaster's "share of viewing" improved during its second quarter helped by the World Cup. He says he is confident of ITV's Autumn schedule of both new and returning drama and entertainment will help keep audience figures high. Meanwhile, ITV has benefitted from the economic recovery - specifically an improved advertising market.

     
  4.  
    BARCLAYS PROFITS 07:19:

    Investment bank income at Barclays fell 18%, reflecting a fall in customers. This follows allegations about malpractice in "dark pool" trading. Essentially, these are private stock markets and are the latest area of banking to be probed by regulators.

     
  5.  
    ITV PROFITS 07:19:

    ITV says total external revenues rose 7% to £1.2bn in the six months to 30 June, while revenue from its online, pay and interactive TV unit was up 20% to £67m.

     
  6.  
    BARCLAYS PROFITS 07:13:
    Barclays logo

    More on Barclays: Statutory pre-tax profit was £2.5bn (2013: £1.7bn), reflecting the fact bank had to set aside another £900m for PPI redress Read the full release here.

     
  7.  
    ITV PROFITS 07:10:
    ITV logo

    A strong set of numbers from broadcaster ITV this morning. Annual pre-tax profits are up 40% to £250m in the six months to 30 June compared with £179m for the same period last year.

     
  8.  
    BARCLAYS PROFITS 07:03:

    Barclays profit before tax is down 10% at £3.84bn.

     
  9.  
    BRITISH GAS BOSS 07:03:
    Iain Conn

    In all the excitement over bankers' bonuses we nearly forgot this. British Gas owner Centrica has succeeded in its pursuit of Iain Conn, confirming he will become its new chief executive from January 2015, succeeding Sam Laidlaw who is retiring. Mr Conn joins from BP where he has been chief executive, of BP's refining and marketing division,for the past seven years.

     
  10.  
    BARCLAYS PROFITS 06:52: BBC Radio 4
    Pedestrians pass a branch of Barclays Bank in the rain in London

    Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets is talking to the Today programme about Barclays interim results - coming up imminently. He says the investment banking arm of Barclays is "not listening" to new boss Antony Jenkins who has been trying to clean up the bank's reputation and practices.

     
  11.  
    DRIVERLESS CARS 06:44:
    Nissan car

    It's going to be a bank-heavy day today let's face it, but just to provide a break from all that, the government will be announcing changes in the law that will pave the way for driverless cars to take to Britain's roads next year. The government wants the UK to become a leader in developing the technology. In December, the Treasury said it would create a £10m prize to fund a town or city to become a testing ground for the cars.

     
  12.  
    MUSLIM ACCOUNTS 06:36:

    HSBC has told three Muslim organisations it will close their bank accounts. These are the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London, a think-tank on Islamic issues called the Cordoba Foundation based in West London, and a Muslim charity in Bolton called the Ummah Welfare Trust, which works in 20 countries giving aid. HSBC says the decisions were "absolutely not based on race and religion".

     
  13.  
    BANKER BONUSES 06:30: Radio 5 live

    More from Ms Mangwana on Wake Up to Money. She says the proposed seven year rule may be more about changing culture in banking and the way in which bankers view their bonuses. But she also points out bonuses are generally paid in tranches that vest over a number of years, already (commonly anything between three and five years). "That's the current formula and there are [already] mechanisms to reclaim those bonuses," she says.

     
  14.  
    TWITTER SHARES 06:21:
    Twitter

    In case this happened too late for you, Twitter shares rocketed 30% on stronger-than-expected financial results. Revenue more than doubled in the second quarter. Shares rose to $50 in after hours trading. Still down on its high of $74.73, hit in December.

     
  15.  
    BANKER BONUSES 06:10: Radio 5 live

    Samantha Mangwana, employment lawyer at Slater Gordon told Wake Up to Money seven years is a long time to hold a bonus and regulators may well find it difficult to reclaim money. It is highly likely bankers will have gone and spent the money already, she says, and have nothing that the Bank of England can reclaim.

     
  16.  
    BANKER BONUSES 06:07: BBC World News
    Tom Stephenson

    Those new rules on bankers' bonuses are expected to recommend a claw-back period of seven years. Tom Stephenson from Fidelity Worldwide on BBC World News says they could have been tougher: "One of the suggestions was that bankers could be jailed for a significant fall in profits - that's quite something isn't it. Even so, being able to claw back bonuses for seven years is pretty draconian."

     
  17.  
    06:02: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Good morning folks. It's looking like a busy day today. We also have trading updates from ITV and house builder Taylor Wimpey. As always you can get in touch via email at bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk and on twitter @bbcbusiness

     
  18.  
    06:00: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Welcome again to the Live page. We're going to be banking heavy. There's Barclays results - in about an hour - and later this morning the Bank of England will release new restrictions on bankers' bonuses, said to be the toughest in the world. We'll see.

     

Features

From BBC Capital

Programmes

  • A digger operated via an Oculus Rift and a controllerClick Watch

    Why controlling a heavy digger with a virtual reality helmet might improve safety

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.