Electronic instead of Paperback

Belarus will have its first schoolbooks on CDs this year
Information technologies were first introduced in Belarus’ education process some eight years ago. As a result, computers have “settled down” in all Belarusian schools. Four years ago there were two computers per 100 families in the country, whereas last year the figure moved up to 20. In Minsk, the capital city, half of all families have computers. The electronic version of the textbook will not only add variety to the teaching and learning processes, which are sometimes tedious, but make life in schools easier: CDs weigh close to nothing. What is even more important, CDs may be updated every year, while books seem to cost too much to reprint.
The first electronic schoolbook “My Motherland Belarus” is presented to all kids that go to school for the first time as a gift from the president.

— This is not a copy of the printed textbook with pictures, but a set of multimedia files and movies with voices of the leading actors and actresses of the Kupala Theater, says Director of the publishing house “Elementary School” Natalya Vanina. — Some first-year pupils cannot read yet, so we decided to have less text and more pictures and videos, especially on geography and history. Also, we included games. An electronic book is much more impressive, of course. We print 100,000 books for all newcomers and have not decided about the number of CD copies we require now. Not everyone has computers, and some schoolchildren will be unable to use them, especially in the countryside. For the first time ever we will have electronic books on IT for nine-year students and six-year students.

— CDs will be sent to every school, and children will be able to make copies if they wish, says deputy director of the scientific and methodological center of the National Education Institute Grigory Chemodanov. — I don’t think it is advisable to make a copy for everyone, as 12-year-olds will be unable to cope with the CD without a teacher.

This school year will also see a new edition of “Belarusian Geography” by M. Brilevsky with a CD attached to the main printed version.

— This is just a copy of the texts of the book with a couple of additional maps and pictures, as well as references. It is not the model educational multimedia CD that we plan to have, because the main things the students need are a comprehensive databank with a reliable search engine in order to find the right page with the required information, a list of questions with references to answers, a good dictionary of terms and notions used in the book, an alphabetical index of names and geographical locations.

The publishing center of Belarusian State University, or BSU, plans to make a set of multimedia books on the world history. ”We should have the books that will show our students a live Khruschev, Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe,” Tatyana Yanchuk with the publishing center told our correspondent.

Another important issue to deal with is the unwillingness of teachers to use information technologies: only 21% of teachers (naturally, except for those teaching IT) use the computer to teach their students or are ready to use it. Most teachers still prefer doing without it, which means CDs should cater for those who will be able to use them at home as a supplement.

— These electronic books have brought about more problems that we need to address as soon as possible, Grigory Chemodanov says. — First of all, there are no unified rules and standards to make these discs. Secondly, there are no copyright laws that would protect the rights of developers, so unofficial copies of poor quality may appear soon. You know it is very difficult to struggle against pirates. At the same time, if we provided enough CDs for everyone, there would be no pirates. A CD costs about $2, same as a book, but whereas schoolbooks normally live for about five years, CDs are virtually eternal.

Maria Kirilenko
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