Curriculum

S. Korea Pushes for All-Digital Scholastic Network

By Sam Kim, Associated Press — August 09, 2011 4 min read
South Korean student Kim Jae-min, center, and his classmates use tablet PCs to study in a class at Sosu Elementary School in Goesan, South Korea. The country is among the most wired on earth, with 80 percent of households having access to broadband Internet. The country is working to leverage its population’s digital sophistication as it builds a single computer network with high-quality educational content and replaces traditional textbooks with tablet PCs.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

under a pilot program. Info-communications Development Authority of Singapore said on its website that Singapore began adopting tablet PCs in 2004.

Outside the classroom a hot summer day beckons, but 4th-grade teacher Yeon Eun-jung’s students are glued to their tablet PCs as they watch an animated boy and a girl squabble about whether water becomes heavier when frozen.

The small scene in this rural town is part of something big: South Korea is taking a $2 billion gamble that its students are ready to ditch paper textbooks in favor of tablet PCs as part of a vast digital scholastic network.

France, Singapore, Japan, and other countries are racing to create classrooms where touch-screens provide instant access to millions of pieces of information. But South Korea—Asia’s fourth-largest economy—believes it enjoys an advantage over these countries, with students who are considered the world’s savviest navigators of the digital universe.

A 2009 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based group of wealthy nations, found 15-year-olds in South Korea scored highest in their ability to absorb information from digital devices, beating runners-up New Zealand and Australia by a large margin.

At Sosu Elementary School in Goesan, principal Jo Yong-deuk speaks of a future in which his students interact in virtual reality with Ludwig van Beethoven and Abraham Lincoln. In the classroom, the children scribble answers in their tablet PCs with touchscreen pens as they watch the video clip explaining the scientific properties of frozen water.

“I liked this chapter, but my favorite clip is one where they show how flowers blossom and trees bear fruit in spring,” 11-year-old Jeong Ho-seok said with a wide grin.

Pushing Toward 2015

More than 60 primary, middle, and high schools in South Korea are now using digital textbooks as part of their curriculum, according to the state-run Korea Education and Research Information Service, which provides technical support for the program. Seoul believes it can finish the $2.1 billion program to build a single computer network packed with high-quality digital content by 2015. Replacing textbooks with tablet PCs will account for a quarter of that budget.

According to South Korean officials, France is handing out tablets in the Correze region and is pushing to expand digital material, while Japan began distributing tablet PCs in a primary school last year under a pilot program. Info-communications Development Authority of Singapore said on its website that Singapore began adopting tablet PCs in 2004.

But Kim Doo-yeon, a South Korean official leading the project, said his country will have no trouble competing.

A Wired Nation

South Korea is one of the most wired places on earth. More than 80 percent of South Korean households have broadband access to the Internet, according to government statistics. U.S. Web hosting company Akamai, based in Cambridge, Mass., reported earlier this year that South Korea enjoys the fastest Internet connection in the world. The country also ranks first in wireless broadband subscriptions, according to an OECD report released last month.

Lee Sang-hyeob, a student at Sosu Elementary School, spends a lot of time at home playing online games and chatting with schoolmates. Another Sosu student, Jang Woo-dam, often surfs her school’s website to see messages from friends.

The 2009 OECD study says there’s a positive relationship between students’ use of computers at home for leisure and their digital navigation skills. “Proficient digital readers tend to know how to navigate effectively and efficiently,” the study said.

The study said students who read online more frequently also read a greater variety of print material and report higher enjoyment of reading itself.

Another telling example of the influence of the Internet on this nation of 50 million is the number of so-called PC rooms, or Internet cafes, which stood at 15,000 as of December last year, according to a business association for PC rooms.

In China, with a population of 1.3 billion, the number of Internet cafes was about 144,000, according to the 2010 China Internet Cafe Market Report.

Such PC rooms, which usually operate around the clock, have long been the breeding ground for South Korea’s so-called professional e-gamers, whose popularity has given birth to an industry dedicated to airing their matches and promoting high-tech gadgets through them.

Enchanted with games, Jeong Yu-jin, 16, has been teaching himself programming since he was a child and is now developing a game that warns of the consequences of global warming as a player clears stages filled with challenges like angry polar bears and crumbling glaciers.

“Technology is a way for me to turn my imagination into a reality,” said the student at Korea Digital Media High School, one of many technology-oriented schools that have proliferated as electronics giants like Samsung have thrived.

Mr. Kim, the South Korean official leading the tablet PC project, said the country envisions a digital scholastic network for students to go beyond digital textbooks and national boundaries.

“In the future, all our students will be connected to a single computer network that allows them to also learn from teachers in other countries,” Mr. Kim said.

Loaded with video, animation, photos, voices, songs, and Web documents created by experts, and by teachers and students, digital textbooks allow students to enjoy a custom-made learning experience, Mr. Kim said. Students who fall behind in a regular curriculum can start from levels they feel comfortable with.

“What is essential in digital learning is to promote as much interaction between teachers and students as possible, rather than just leaving the students to themselves,” said Kwon Jung-eun, a senior researcher at the state-run National Information Society Agency.

Related Tags:

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
A version of this article appeared in the August 10, 2011 edition of Education Week as South Korea Powers Toward All-Digital Scholastic Network

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Privacy & Security Webinar
Navigating Modern Data Protection & Privacy in Education
Explore the modern landscape of data loss prevention in education and learn actionable strategies to protect sensitive data.
Content provided by  Symantec & Carahsoft

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Opinion Media Literacy Is an Essential Skill. Schools Should Teach It That Way
From biased news coverage to generative AI, students (and adults) need help now more than ever to stay abreast of what’s real—or misleading.
Nate Noorlander
5 min read
Illustration of boy reading smartphone
iStock
Curriculum Interactive Play the EdWeek Spelling Bee
Educators use these words all the time. But can they spell them?
Image of a stage set up for a spelling bee.
Leonard Mc Lane/DigitalVision
Curriculum Outdoor Learning: The Ultimate Student Engagement Hack?
Outdoor learning offers a host of evidence-based benefits for students. One Virginia school serves as an example how.
7 min read
Students from Centreville Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., release brook trout they’ve grown from eggs in their classroom into Passage Creek at Elizabeth Furnace Recreational Area in the George Washington National Forest in Fort Valley, Va. on April 23.
Students from Centreville Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., release brook trout that they’ve grown from eggs in their classroom at a creek in Fort Valley, Va., on April 23.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
Curriculum Opinion Classical Education Is Taking Off. What’s the Appeal?
Classical schooling is an apprenticeship to the great minds and creators of the past, enabling students to develop their own thinking.
9 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty