It’s been a week since returning from Educon1 and, although I have managed to read a few of the wonderful reflections written by others, I’m just now sifting through my notes and thoughts about the sixth edition of this remarkable event.
One session that won’t get out of my head was the Unraveling the Textbook2 discussion lead by John Pederson and Diana Laufenberg. Our starting point was the premise that access to information has changed radically in the past couple of decades but the textbooks used by most students have not.
It’s a topic I’ve reflected on and ranted about in this space and it was great to hear from a variety of perspectives, both about why the current model is broken and how the format needs to change. But we, of course, didn’t find any solutions in only 90 minutes.
However, the comments of one teacher in the group more than halfway through the discussion stood out as both contrary to the prevailing thoughts and as a good reminder of how most of us in the room were a little bit ahead of our colleagues.
She observed, in effect, that everyone wanted to take away textbooks without having anything ready to replace them. It’s a good point and one that would probably be echoed by a majority of teachers. As we’ve experimented with online textbooks in our district, I know many in the schools would rather just have the paper versions back.3
One random idea I tossed out to begin to address that issue was to abandon the term “textbook” altogether. It carries too much baggage with most people and is too often used to define the curriculum for a particular course of study.
So, what do we replace it with? Towards the end of our short session, I wrote down some ideas that I will need to explore and expand on:
A replacement for the textbook should
- be accessible on any device, anywhere
- allow users to add comments
- allow certain users (teachers, trusted students) to add and update materials
- have a social media component to allow users to discuss the materials
- have content controlled by educators, not publishers
Nothing particularly revolutionary, just some random thoughts. The whole topic needs the collective efforts of many smart educators like the ones who shared in our discussion at Educon.
1 Really? Where the hell did this week go??
2 Don’t bother clicking on the link for the recording on that page. For one thing the sound didn’t work. But beyond that, most Educon sessions are conversations, not presentations, and capturing those interactions on video are difficult at best.
3 Our math teachers will get that wish as our school board got tired of hearing from complaining parents and voted to buy regular books to “supplement” the online versions.