At the IOE Learning & Teaching Conference last week I presented a session with two academic colleagues: Esmé Glauert and Clare Bentall. My part of the session was simply a reminder of the availability of ebooks and how to use them – you can find that information in our guide. Clare provided the learning perspective by looking at survey results from a small group of Masters students. I was slightly surprised by how many students had actually used e-books, but not by their disappointment with them; I think most librarians are aware of the shortcomings, as are the publishers and aggregators. Nevertheless the majority say yes to more e-books, though plenty still prefer hard copy. Opinions closely reflect the results of an investigation by Sherlock Holmes at Cambridge University!
This session really came about because Esmé had raised with me questions about how her teaching might change as a result of the availability of e-books. In the session she reflected on the shift in what PGCE students are expected to read, moving from an emphasis on books to journal articles and grey literature. Although this means that students are more engaged with recent research, they find it harder to build up a sense of the territory often provided by authoritative texts. The risks of focusing exclusively on resources available electronically include a neglect of historical texts and a lack of direct contact with the library. Esmé also talked about the difficulties of reading online and the challenges as noted in a recent article in Time. Also the issues raised when teaching face to face sessions when some students have laptops while others are using notes or only sections of the text (sometimes because they can only print 5% of the book which may not be the whole chapter). Esmé suggested that tutors may need to set different kinds of tasks and have different expectations when working with e-books if students are to benefit from the increasing availability of texts in this format. And of course we need to continue to negotiate with publishers and aggregators to get the e-books we need.
It was a fascinating discussion which relates closely to the Digital Literacies project I’m involved in, you can see an update on the project as reported by Martin Oliver at the Learning & Teaching Conference.