Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What is the Future of the Textbook?

An interesting question. There are those who love a good textbook [How a Physics Textbook Changed My Life] and those who hate it [I don't use a textbook in social studies.]. As the world of education matures what and how we use textbooks needs to change also.

Even publishers are looking for new ways to create textbooks.
Staff Writer, CNET News
March 14, 2001

The problem is if education is heading for a disruption as Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn , and Curtis Johnson suggest in their book Disrupting Class
then simply improving textbooks won't be enough. Students in a
classroom with a textbook, even a textbook found on a CD ROM,
will not be good enough for a disrupted education.

Where does all of
this leave the textbook industry? In the same place as the rest of us,
redefining what we do and how we do it — retooling for a new century.
 David Warlick , May 15, 2004

In many school districts today (not as many as yesterday, but still too many) a new teacher fresh from
teacher training will be given a classroom and told to teach. Is it any
wonder many will simply open the textbook from chapter one and start
teaching? [It was easier years ago to just take out the good old textbook and start with Chapter 1. ] If I could change one thing about education I would require
new teachers to spend at least one if not two years co-teaching with a
quality mentor teacher. If only so they know enough about the school curriculum to know what the textbook covers and what it doesn't.

leaders [Newport News Public Schools] saw disconnect between teacher
preparation programs and the changing learning environment.

 Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, February 2009

As a teacher the textbook used to be a great crutch. I think today almost everyone in the education industry realizes that if a book that was printed three years ago is driving your curriculum then perhaps you are doing a disservice to your school and your students.

For many the change begins by writing better standards and testing students to assure us that what we think students should learn is being taught. Learning becomes more of a pass fail course. 

It sounds great, either kids know how to multiply or they don't. Either kids can write or they don't. If Johnny can't read teach him phonics. If life were that simple education would be easy. Too bad for us life isn't that easy. Knowing when to multiply and when to subtract does make a difference. Reading Shakespeare and understanding Shakespeare are two different things. And I'm pretty sure nobody is going to confuse my writing with Stephen King.

In so much that I hear
today in conversations about new information and communication
technologies in our school, it seems to be about improving the business
of education, rather than making our children better prepared for their
future.  Our business is about improving data.  To quote an article
forwarded to me by a Facebook friend (Tina Steele), in one of those Celestine moments, 

David Warlick, April 20, 2009

In a lot of my reading I hear about 21st Century skills. [@bengrey has started many a great discussions on that topic ] I'm not sure exactly what 21st Century skills are suppose to be for the student, but for the teacher I have an idea. My thought is that 21st Century skills transform the classroom from
a place where learning takes places through contrived examples into a
place where learning happens in the actual real world.

The point is not to use the technology but to adjust to the learning of your students. Paper and printed text cannot adjust. Digital technology can. While some information will not change, such as Columbus discovered America in 1492, what that information means to us can.

I’ve talked about this before,
that for the first time in the history of education we not only have to
spend time on the students in our charge, but on re-educating our
community as well on what it means to learn in today’s world.
Jeff Utech, Nov 18, 2008

course this is a similar approach many schools take….if we just ignore
the changes happening then maybe they will go away. The problem is the
Internet and all of its content is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Worse yet, by taking this approach both in the home and in our schools,
the gap between what the students know and what the adults know
continues to widen.

Jeff Utech, Feb 11, 2009

Schools are changing, education is changing. It is no longer good enough to have the majority of the population literate. We need a population that is both literate and able to think critically.

We need schools that “train” our
judgment, that help us become adults who are in the habit of bringing
judgment to bear on complex phenomenon. This includes judging which
expertise to “trust”—and defending such choices; it includes being
open-minded about one’s judgments, as well as one’s favorite experts.
It includes acknowledging that even experts must live with a
substantial degree of uncertainty.

Diane Ravitch, February 2009

The textbook of the future will not only be a repository of information that is taught during the school year, but it will also mold and fit to different schools, different states, and different students. The textbook of the future will have all the answers and at the same time be filled to the brim with interesting questions. The textbook of the future will not only have audio and video, but allow students to share their own audio and video.

Many, I think, feel the textbook of the future might look a little something like Wikipedia, hence the emphasis on critical thinking. Yet, I am fairly certain to be a real disruption, the textbook of the future will be even more than that.

A focus on standards and objective is different from focusing on a textbook.
 Ron Jacobs November 21, 2008

I think the one certainty of the future textbook is that it will focus more on thinking and learning in a fluid world and less on facts and figures. The textbook will be less about information I can Google on my wifi enabled palm pilot and more how it shaped the world as we know it today.