No More Pencils, No More Books!


Hazel McCallion Senior Public School
Mississauga, Ontario

By Travis Evenson, Grade 8


It was a typical Sunday night in the Evenson household. Another assignment was left to the last minute, due for Monday. A mother and daughter search frantically for information on the human digestive system. The mother wanders off down a flight of stairs to a shelf of out-dated books, while the 10-year-old girl sits down at the computer, deposits an Encarta CD in the drive, types in "digestive system" and prints out her findings.

"All done," she called out, while Mom had barely begun her time-consuming search for that particular book.

To be on the cutting edge is a never-ending race. Today's technology gives us infinite resources to obtain information and up-to-date news. It offers us quick access and is generally accessible. Children see little reason to bother with books when everything is at their finger tips with such resources as the World Wide Web, CD-Roms or the Electric Library.

The Web produces millions upon millions of unparalleled resources with numerous articles relating to a topic. Simply type in specific search words and the top 25 results appear on the screen. Sometimes you will find what you want, and sometimes you won't.

Presently, the Internet is an unpredictable source and you never know what treasures one might find. One of the most reliable and accurate ways to collect information is through the Electric Library. The Electric Library runs on the same principles as the Internet using the phone lines -- but it is based on articles from published newspapers and magazines.

Last but not least, there are encyclopedias on CD-Rom such as Encarta or Grolier. These sources provide up-to-date information with pictures and they are great for research essays. Books no longer take top priority in the world of multi-media resources. Students of today must look beyond books as a single option because they no longer provide all the answers.

Twenty-five years ago, students read well-written novels such as Black Beauty, Treasure Island and Heidi. These days, few children settle down with a book. The vast majority sit in front of a screen that interacts with them. How can children develop good literary skills this way? The average child today spends 26 to 30 hours a week watching TV. Add computer time to this and there is little time left for anything else.

The Peel District Board of Education recently decided that an automation system would be placed in school libraries. The new system removes out-of-date books and eliminates old and tattered books from the shelves. Some older schools lost over 50% of their total book collection. With a decrease in school budgets, changing priorities and the constant need to upgrade technology, schools must decide where they want to spend their money, on software or on new books.

It was reported that a kindergarten student from Cherry Tree Public School taught himself to read by downloading articles from the Internet. His mother claims that the boy's older brother taught him how to use the Internet and the youngster took his own initiative to learn to read. But what exactly was he reading? You never know what a child might find while surfing the net. This has become a problem for parents everywhere with the Internet in the household because many have little or no time to police their children. It is a scary world out there in the Web for young children who have no idea what they might be getting into.

Parents these days want the best of technology for their kids but there are three basic problems: you have to keep up with the most modern equipment, the cost of software is high too, and the kinds of staff we have to bring on to teach and maintain these things is expensive.

The private sector, the Peel Board of Education, and the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training have developed a new program called the "Gallery Project". This is a unique program involving literacy and numeracy in Grades 1-3 by immersing students in integrated programs of the arts and information technology. The project started in September 1997 and plans to run over a three-year term. It aims to use technology to break down the walls of classrooms, providing access to the world of resources.

The results are not in yet. But will the kids of tomorrow ever experience the pleasure of leafing through the pages of a good book in front of a fire on a cold winter’s night?


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