Books Aren't Dead!

By Staff Methodist Ladies College

Is technology in schools just a bandwagon? Does it actually improve student performance? Great teaching and encouraging critical thought are needed.

These are themes proposed by Jamie McKenzie at the conference 'Leading the Way -Forming an Information Literate School Community' hosted at Methodist Ladies' College in Melbourne in May and attended by over 250 teachers, librarians and principals. Jamie McKenzie, from the USA, is recognised as a leading educational thinker and, since 1991, has published and edited From Now On, a monthly electronic technology journal (

McKenzie states three key points when discussing technology, education and the Internet:

  • Good teaching is more important than good computers
  • Too much focus on hardware and software
  • Not enough professional development.

He proposes a new model, which is obviously not recommended by the computer companies. McKenzie suggests slowing spending on computers. It is easy to spend money on computers and networks but often the computers are then diluted across the school so each classroom has a few. Students do not get enough access and the teacher does not have the knowledge to encourage the best use of the research tool. The fewer computers should be mobile (COWS -computers on wheels) and shared between classes.

'While it may please hardware and software companies to fill classrooms with computers before teachers are prepared or inclined to use them with frequency and good intentions, it is bad policy and worse economics. We have been spending too much money on infrastructure and equipment. .. too little on readiness.' (Excerpt from 'Strategic Deployment of Hardware to Maximize Readiness, Staff Use and Student Achievement', May 1999 issue of From Now On.)

'Every teacher in every school should have 50 to 60 hours of professional development each year,' said McKenzie at the conference. 'This helps them prepare for the role computers and the Internet can play in their teaching. But the biggest mistake is a focus on software training in isolation. Instead, teachers need information literacy skills to enhance research and questioning abilities and to tie it in with the curriculum.

'There is no credible evidence that networks improve student reading, maths or thinking skills unless they are in service of carefully crafted learning programs which show students how to interpret information and make up their own minds.

'Schools must teach students to graze and digest the offerings thoughtfully in orderto achieve insight. They must also guide young people away from undue reliance upon the "free Internet". Students will learn that a printed book or a "pay for service" electronic information source will often prove more reliable and efficient than the Internet.

'To be successful with this venture, we must emphasise the development of questioning skills, and we must replace topical research with projects requiring original thought. Questioning may be the most powerful technology we have ever invented and can give to our students.'

The conference 'Leading the Way -Forming an Information Literate School Community' was a collaborative venture by Methodist Ladies' College, School Library Association of Victoria (SLAV), Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Centre for Information Studies at Charles Sturt University.

Staff Methodist Ladies College

Staff Methodist Ladies College