Death of the textbook?

Last week, I decided that I should probably dust of the textbook for my Humanities 8 course and help the students develop some skills for handling that style of text.

I must confess I was feeling somewhat…guilty…for neglecting the book. Isn’t it supposed to be the backbone of the classroom? Was I just avoiding, like a coward, the groans of dismay and inevitable behaviour problems that would ensue when I said, “Open your textbooks to Chapter 1”? Was I not creating a rigorous enough environment? Students were learning the content, but….

I am working with a group of students that is very reticent to read. I want them to LOVE history. I want them to get it. However, they do need to learn how to read a textbook, don’t they?

These days, in all my classes, I find myself turning to the wealth of digital resources avialable from iTunes, Discovery Streaming, YouTube and the internet in general. I would also be making use of CBC, but I am having some problems streaming it into the building. I also enjoy using general interest books that have shorter blurbs of information and a lot of visuals.I also create my own ‘texts’ because often the language and vocabulary of most textbooks and websites are not accessible to my students.

Certainly, I have used small sections of the textbook for the Humanities course. However, it has only been used two or three times in the 6 months we have been tackling the Middle Ages.

These diverse texts, orchstrated by the ebb and flow of my classroom, become my real-time textbooks, never to be created in the same way again. Honestly, this is exactly as it should be, because next year, my students will be different, new content will be avialable, and different current events and issues will be intersecting with what we are doing as a class.

One main exception – BC First Nations Studies 12; there is a Provincial Exam for the course that is based on that text, so I do put the students through it, albeit with a lot of other supplementary material.

One idea I have yet to try is getting students creating their own digital textbook through wikispaces or some other host, in concert with other students. I love this concept and have seen some good examples.

Today, on Twitter, the #edchat was all about the textbook – do we need them, where is the digital textbook going, what are some alternatives?

Perfect….just what I needed to think and talk about. I do love Twitter! I got some great links and articles to read. Of course, my transformation as a teacher is not taking place in a vacuum, and I find many educators out there way ahead of me.

I have to confess that my main concern is that some very big companies are gearing up to cash in on some very lucrative contracts. Has it happened in BC already? This article, Apple and the Digital Textbook Counter-Revolution, from Hack Education (Audry Watters) says it all and contains several links to other articles. Here is an exerpt that sums up the concern:

I would dearly love to know if our students are being sold to the lowest bidder, or even the highest. This is money that could go to technology so that all students, (even those without iPads) and teachers can access, share, analyse and learn from the vast resources available from both commercial and OER (open educational resources) sources.

I am not against textbooks. Our students need exposure to a wide variety of texts. I just want us to stop sinking all our cash into one static document, even if it is flashy and ‘interactive’.

Here’s another link I ran into today, although I haven’t looked to carefully:

Resources to Replace Textbooks, blog called Educational Technology Guy, David Andrade.

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