Tablets and printed textbooks in schools

Sir, – As one who has worked in post-primary education for many years now, I’m well aware of the benefits of using digital technology in the classroom, both for teaching and learning. I have absolutely no doubt that digital devices enhance learning and allow for a level of flexibility that we couldn’t have imagined even five years ago. I could list examples but I’m opting for brevity instead.

However, I'm amazed that a principal would claim that "skills such as critical thinking and problem solving could not be taught from textbooks" ("Principal of school at centre of iPad row defends policy on digital devices", News, May 31st).

A textbook in print is a device like any other and it cannot impart said skills. Neither can a digital device. Skills in critical thinking and problem solving arise from human interaction – actual human-to-human dialogue – from questioning and examining material, data, evidence, opinions, etc.

Books, phones and iPads are tools in this process, and I’m very glad to have them at my disposal, but it’s what we actually do with these tools that matters. If we can’t learn these skills without iPads/devices, how did anyone over 30 years of age learn them in the first place? Did we learn anything at all before the iPad? Is an online article in the Irish Times superior to a print version?


While inspectors have commended Ratoath College for its “progressive vision”, I would imagine there is much more to the school’s vision than a collection of iPads (and I know it is a progressive school with dedicated, dynamic teachers). The real beauty of digital learning is the flexibility afforded to teachers and learners; a tablet-only policy is just as rigid and restrictive as a print-only policy, and that is not progressive. – Yours, etc,


Finglas, Dublin 11.

Sir, – So, 21st-century skills such as collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving “cannot be taught from a textbook”, says a principal in defence of the use of iPads. I think back on the wonderful teachers I had in three schools during the second half of the 20th century who succeeded in teaching me precisely these skills despite being disadvantaged in only having the printed word as support. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.