Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

PICTURE a classroom with children swiping their fingers across tablet devices. Imagine the reading of national standard textbooks, in any of the South African official languages, being an ordinary sight at schools.

This is what Core Group and Apple said was the future of South African classrooms when they launched the ZA Books textbook application (app) store in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

The app store is the latest of more than 80,000 educational apps offered on iPad devices and will allow schools access to digital versions of textbooks accredited by national standards and produced by some of South Africa’s major publishers.

At the launch, Core Group communications officer Taryn Hyam said the app store allowed schools to get relevant educational content. "All the top publishers are involved.

"The textbooks available on the store number 600 today (Wednesday) and will continue to increase. The textbooks are for students from grades one to 12 and aligned to CAPS (curriculum and assessment policy statement) syllabus."

According to Core Group, there are 180 schools in South Africa that have integrated iPad devices into their everyday learning. One hundred and twenty of these are private and government schools, while the other 60 are iSchools, developed to bring the benefits of Apple’s technology to disadvantaged schools.

Textbooks in 33 subjects were launched on ZA Books on Wednesday, including languages, mathematics and accounting.

Core Group’s Linda de Klerk said major publishers including Oxford, Pan Macmillan, Cambridge, Shuter & Shooter and Masjew Miller Longman had books available on the app store.

The use of tablet devices in South African schools is not new. Schools including Parkands, Sacred Heart and St Alban’s College have used the devices, with most noting increased classroom engagement by school children.

Ms Hyam said the advantages of using mobile technology included saving on expenses of printed textbooks and "no more heavy school bags".

Miss de Klerk said schools could register on ZA Books to get an account for free. Digital books would cost 75% of what their physical counterparts did.

"We believe that the textbook is still relevant, but it is all about having what you need in one place and where it is convenient and easy to use," she said.

PUO Educational Products CEO Nthabi Sibanda said the immediate scale of reach the app store offered was a benefit for children and publishers.