Where Next for Textbooks

This was an interesting article that I read when it first came out in March last year and put aside to review and guage how right/ wrong it was later.

Wharton Article on E-textbooks

With hindsight and further thought, though, I feel the article and much of the debate around the impact of technology and text books misses the point. Today, when you go in to many schools almost anywhere in the world the textbook is actually the main arbiter of the syllabus.

Personally, this was never something I was comfortable with. The textbook writers didn’t know my class of students – their specific needs, interests, existing skills and passions. When I was actively teaching it was not at all uncommon for my students to reach a point when they would ask me whether or not we were going to ‘use’ the textbook prescribed. So, the question in my mind is – when technology is changing paradigms, why should the textbook (or a prescribed body of knowledge material set down by one person) in electronic format be the replacement for the paper textbook? My hunch is that the real empowerment will be the teacher’s ability tro bring together a body of material from disparate sources which is far more tuned to his or her class, including a fair amount that they actually evolve themselves.

I believe this could be one of the most liberating and empowering tools in the hands of great teachers in the coming decade. So, the technology will change the game completely, but not in the ways suggested by such articles – more revolution, less evolution.

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One Response

  1. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get to a place where student groups take charge of topics, seek out readings and support materials, design and facilitate the learning process for their particular topic, so that the “textbook” comes together as a student-led product towards the end of the course?? If the teacher has deep understanding of the course objectives, (s)he will be able to design such a process with ease. Imagine what this would do to reduce the “teaching” load for the teacher once the course planning is done, and the immense learning for the students!

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