By Hye-Kyung Yang, KERIS, Korea
The Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technolog established in 2007 the “Digital Textbooks Generalization Plan” which launched a pilot project aimed at developing digital textbook prototypes for six subjects in thirteen elementary pilot schools.
In the context of the Korean education system, digital textbooks can be defined as, “Textbooks that integrate the contents of the existing textbooks, supplementary books, work books and glossaries with multimedia and materialize them with various interactive functions for students to study according to their characteristics and academic levels” (MEST 2010 Adapting Education to the Information Age: 24).
The Digital Textbook initiatives in Korea pursue the ongoing policy goal of individualized learning based on the interests and aptitudes of learners. It aims to break away from limited knowledge in paper textbooks and to provide students with extended environments where they can have access to diversified and creative knowledge.
In 2011 the Korean government set the goal of building a powerful country with talented people and decided to pursue SMART education policies for the 21st century. SMART (Self-directed, Motivated, Adaptive, Resource free and Technology embedded) education is an, “Intelligent and customized teaching and learning system” (MEST 2011 Presidential Report). As the initials of SMART indicate, students are expected to learn with fun, motivated, and self-directed ways based on their level and aptitude in a resource-enriched environment.
The major five pillars of SMART education policy consists of incorporating digital textbooks into the school system by 2015; promoting online classes and assessment; improving the legal framework and copyright laws; developing the capacity of teachers; and constructing a cloud computing-based infrastructure. Thanks to a cloud-based computing environment, digital textbook content can be readily downloaded so that students can access up-to-date information anytime and anywhere.
Korea’s first SMART school opened on March 2 (2012) in Sejong Special Autonomous City, a special administrative district in Chungcheongnam-do (South Chungcheong Province).
Each student in the SMART school will be equipped with his or her own “smart pad” and can participate in classroom activities through the e-blackboard and smart pad. A total of 150 schools including 66 kindergartens, 41 primary schools, 21 lower secondary schools, 20 upper secondary schools, and two special schools will be open by 2030 in Sejong Special Autonomous City.