Folens plans to modernise homework and reduce the need for heavy school bags

Irish publishing company Folens has been producing textbooks for primary and secondary schools fo...

12.02 28 Mar 2021

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Folens plans to modernise home...

Folens plans to modernise homework and reduce the need for heavy school bags


12.02 28 Mar 2021

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Irish publishing company Folens has been producing textbooks for primary and secondary schools for the past 60 years.

The business recently launched Homework Space, Ireland's first digital homework platform for setting and correcting assignments, recording performance and establishing gaps for improvement.

The product also presents an opportunity for schools to ensure the best use of teachers' time is being utilised, rather than spending hours setting and correcting homework.


Folens not only plans to modernise homework for teachers and students, but the company is also seeking to highlight the technology which is currently available so children do not have to carry heavy school bags every day.

Speaking to Tech Talk with Jess Kelly, the CEO of Folens Andrew Miller said that while people might perceive the education publishing sector as unchanged for many years, technology is actually playing a big role thanks to interactive activities used by teachers, lesson plans, and eBooks.

His background is in tech having worked in the sector for 25 years and he saw his role at Folens as an opportunity to bring that experience to the publishing company.

Mr Miller explained that since the start of the pandemic, Folens and other publishers opened up their content to everybody, whether they had a license or not, including teachers, parents and students.

Folens plans to modernise homework and reduce the need for heavy school bags

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"COVID has accelerated a huge amount of opportunity to bring things to market things which probably wouldn't have been as quick to come to market, such as remote working versus working in the office," he said.

"The digitisation of homework, in this case, COVID was a great accelerator to allow this opportunity to happen to us."

The customers of Homework Space are teachers and schools who are provided access to the platform.

Teachers send the assignments to their students who can log in from home and then complete their work.

Folens wanted to get involved in revolutionising how homework is managed because it is one of the areas where data shows teachers, parents and children all struggle.

The portal offers feedback for parents, who would usually only receive detailed information at a yearly meeting with teachers, while it also helps children to work to deadlines.

From a teacher's perspective, it also saves a considerable amount of time when setting and correcting assignments, Mr Miller added.

File photo of kids doing homework during the coronavirus crisis. Credit: Robin Utrecht / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

"The overall net benefit of it really is being able to have a bank of questions that are based on the Irish curriculum that enables teachers to create and set homework based on the content that is already there," he said.

"And for students to answer it and for this to be recorded has a massive benefit across the three pillars of schools, teachers and students."

Homework Space launched its pilot programme of four subjects in the Junior Cycle in late December, with four further subjects due to be launched in September.

He acknowledged that no one will likely want to see learning go fully online, but believes that the blended learning approach will continue to become the preferred trend.

Heavy school bags

September is a "perilous time" for education publishers when parents have to purchase new books out of their own pocket for school books, Mr Miller said.

It is also the time when the issue of heavy school bags which pupils have to carry to and from school every day comes to the fore.

However, Mr Miller explained that the technology has been there for years to facilitate children leaving their books at home or in school and not to carry them to and from school.

"For a number of years, all publishers have produced digital eBooks of the student textbook," he stated.

"So the theory should be that if the school adopts a technology strategy where it's device-led and it still wants to have the textbooks as backup, the textbooks should stay at home and the school provides that digital learning in the school.

"If the school is very much a traditional school where textbooks are the medium through which they teach, there is no reason, in theory, why the books would ever need to leave the school, because depending on the individual family circumstance, the student can log in to the digitised eBook or textbook and access the content they need for revision or homework.

"That solution has been in place for five years but the challenges our industry has discovered is that so few parents at post-primary are aware of this and we as an industry have spoken to [stakeholders]...that there are solutions to avoid heavy schoolbags but unfortunately they're not very well understood.

Mr Miller believes that the major challenge is that every school is different in how they approach things, so the job of publishers is to ensure they provide "the easiest route" for everyone to teach.

Main image: File photo. Credit: Philipp Schulze/dpa

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