Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Turn on, Tune in, Drop Books, Says Wellington Head

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Turn on, Tune in, Drop Books, Says Wellington Head

Article excerpt

He calls for teachers to tear up tradition and write digital apps

The new head of one of England's most prestigious independent schools has spoken out against traditional textbooks, saying that he would rather his teachers created their own educational apps.

Julian Thomas, incoming master of Wellington College, told TES: "A textbook is not dynamic at all. The pace of change of education means you're very often taking a textbook and making it fit into the course, rather than taking the course first and creating the resource that works best for that class."

Mr Thomas' comments - made in his first interview since taking the helm at the Berkshire school this month - are in marked contrast to efforts by schools minister Nick Gibb to increase schools' use of traditional printed textbooks.

Mr Gibb told a conference in November that he wanted to see all schools "using high-quality textbooks in most academic subjects, bringing us closer to the norm in high-performing countries". He added that digital resources could be "powerful" but were "no replacement for a good textbook".

Interactive textbooks

Mr Thomas told TES that he was keen on the "strong use of technology" in the classroom and had overseen the increasing use of digital resources in his previous job as headmaster of Caterham School in Surrey.

"There's been a decline in the use of textbooks [at Caterham] for no other reason than some of our staff made their own textbooks that are interactive," he said. "I think that's a big step forward, because it's very specifically tailored to a particular course of learning. As I left [Caterham], most departments had created a digital textbook."

Asked whether he would take a similar approach at Wellington, Mr Thomas said it would "certainly be one of the things I look at", although teacher-created apps tended to "happen naturally".

"Teachers find the textbook doesn't do the things they want it to," he added. "Prior to tablet technology, they'd write worksheets, but now they're essentially writing dynamic textbooks."

Wellington, too, has embraced technology: in 2011, previous master Sir Anthony Seldon announced plans to remove thousands of books from its library to make space for e-book and iPad use, as part of a "research and innovation centre".

Awfully big adventurers

Mr Thomas' enthusiasm for technology is not the only thing he has in common with his new colleagues: he is also, like them, a keen adventurer, having last year completed a 600-mile charity fundraising trek to the South Pole. …

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