Not #beyondthetextbook. #betterthetextbook

  1. Wikipedia’s isn’t bad. []
  2. Wikipedia even has trouble differentiating between the format and the content in their definition of “book.” But the entry on the term still might be useful. So, too, would “text.” []

49 thoughts on “Not #beyondthetextbook. #betterthetextbook

  1. So, I’d go one step further, no surprise, and ask for some shared language or definition of learning. If we don’t go there, I find it difficult to think that we can create curriculum or pedagogy or textbooks or anything else that can adequately serve kids in their development as learners. Maybe with a shared definition of learning, we might ask do we need textbooks at all? I mean do you and I use textbooks for our learning? Don’t we create our own as we go? For our needs as individual learners living at a moment of unprecedented options to pursue our learning, is there a commonly created text that will serve all of us according to our individual needs? Or would our time be better spent talking about the dispositions and literacies required to create our own texts, applying a shared frame for learning in the process?

    I guess I’m wondering why we would structure a different process for our kids from the ones we ourselves use.

    1. Not a bad idea, Will. That said, we do use texts to aid our learning – sometimes we write them, other times, we rely on trusted experts and sources to create the texts we use. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to assume that texts are an important piece of learning. And that while students should synthesize what they learn as they learn it, they’ll need some raw materials to start with, or some references to help them along the way.

      I don’t see the use of textbooks, at least those that follow the learning paths we have, as different from my learning processes.

      And I do think courses, or classes, or groups of folks, should have some common texts among them. Maybe not many, but some.

    2. Textbook, teacher, classroom, curriculum, principal–isn’t this just the tip of the iceberg. Or perhaps I should say these are the deck chairs on the Titanic and the iceberg has already rammed the ship. Many of us have already moved on. If we use textbooks at all it is in a very different form, perhaps ephemeral, perhaps only a piece of the course we are sharing with the learners. Take this for example: This is a two week unit that uses Themeefy as its delivery system. It is my textbook if I am forced to use the word. If you want to be awkward you could call it a shared learning object. I like to recall what Ken Macrorie once called his book, The I-Search Paper, a “contextbook”.
      Terry Elliott´s last blog post ..Do You Manage Technology or Does Technology Manage You?

  2. I think “texts” will be curated by individual classroom teachers preferably with the help of their students.Some of the content will be free and some paid for-and some will be traditional text driven content but some will be multimedia- You can get this now but you have to choose from resources from one publisher (if you want a single, bundled resource) and we often want a video from annenberg or gilderlehrman and a chapter from pearson and a module from an opensource solution. Some of the building blocks will be interactive elements created with programs like raptivity or or udutu. The interactivity will ultimately feed learning analytics systems to help us differentiate or even individualize- There will be mechanisms to embed “lectures” or flipped classroom style content (HW) – spaces for discussions both synchronous and asynchronous and within the class as well as with a broader audience- Texts will include activities/simulations in which student can manipulate data- space will also exist for students to reflect on where they are in their learning and where they both need (sometimes we need to learn things that are not our passion) and want to go- and we will need to get better at providing reflection time to allow this to happen- This collection of learning objects (text) will be supported with things like noodletools, googledocs, collaborative mindmaps/graphic organizers- tools that allow the learning process of both skills and content to be transparent and assessable- although for feedback and maybe not for a grade-
    When you look at all that it is hard to call it a “text” it is a dynamic collection of interactive resources that help monitor progress and further learning for each individual. We have most of it available to us now- we just have to create/curate and organize what is available and then mix up how we go about the fun of learning while being cognizant of what we do know about how the brain works.
    Whatever we do, I hope we don’t include a Table of Contents- its far too easy for that to become the syllabus when we get “busy” -it privileges content too much-
    We have very few required textbooks right now- we have lots of “sites” that include everything from interactive math worksheets to lists of multimedia resources- – but we remain traditional- so even ‘revolutionizing” the text won’t revolutionize the classroom- but it is a step in the right direction-
    I guess to some extent the text for me could be a really good list of “essential” or “Driving” questions – and then a space to monitor, collect/share, advance, and reflect on learning- and that space might not look anything like a textbook – It might even be a game type environment-
    Just my Sunday morning pre-BBall thoughts-
    ehelfant´s last blog post ..Designing a Brain Compatible Curriculum – Part 1

    1. Yep. You get at many of the types of raw materials I think are important. And, yes, I’d still call the collections of them texts. And I’d include Tables of Contents – but I’d start with my ideas of what I want the learning to look like.

      I can’t argue with your examples at all – they all sound likely useful. But I would say that teachers will need time if they are to curate these texts. That’s, ahem, beyond the teacher, at the moment – mostly in terms of the time to do that properly. It’s extra duty in many of the systems I’m familiar with. That said, I’m guessing that some of our independent school friends, folks who have time to be thoughtful, are going to lead in these areas. At least, I hope they will.

      1. I think this is causing us to collaborate to create course materials more- it will be necessary to create distributed expertise that hopefully will include students as curators and designers of learning experiences- not there yet-Different teachers with different skillsets- In math I have some who can make Maple Worksheets and some who are better at geogebra or fathom activities- It means teaching is a dynamic and collaborative learning profession and I’m not sure we all get that yet- Independent schools historically celebrated autonomy of each teacher’s classroom- so the collaboration and agreeing that 10th grade english courses all do mostly the same thing took work-
        As for TOC, I guess I agree with you ifthe TOC is teacher or student generated- or is a list of driving questions-

  3. Some great thoughts here, and I hope that these things get through. I will admit, when I hear about meetings like the one that prompted your post, my first inclination is that the meeting itself is a form of extended marketing, where a company puts its vision in front of people who can help convey that vision to a broader audience.

    But that aside…

    RE: “shared language or definition of learning” – I have mixed feelings about this, as the “definition” of learning most appropriately belongs with the learner, and with the interactions that the learner imbues with greater meaning. We need texts that are flexible enough to adapt to that process, and I’m not convinced that a hard and fast definition is necessary for learning to occur.

    But, I think that this is what Will is getting at with, “talking about the dispositions and literacies required to create our own texts, applying a shared frame for learning in the process” – coming up with a structure that provides a starting point, provides a path that supports discourse and meandering as part of learning, and helps us document (aka, create a greater “text”) the learning enjoyed along the way – these should be the goals of whatever we want to call the new “text”.
    Bill Fitzgerald´s last blog post ..Introducing Julio

    1. (It’s certainly marketing, Bill. But one might as well use the opportunity to fiddle with the message, no?) And yes – we should be creating texts that are entry points to learning, rather than exit points.

  4. I rarely used textbooks when I taught. But I have been told by curriculum directors that reliance on textbooks is pretty typical for many teachers. When other teachers asked for my help, what they wanted something quick and dirty, like you get from a textbook. It pains me to say this, but if this group won’t think out of the box, then let’s improve the textbooks that this group depends on. Not my style, but just sayin.’

  5. May I also point out that “textbooks” should look different for different subject areas? If the object of a history textbook is to depict the most basic timeline of events (and I know that is the least of a history text) then what does a math textbook do? Math texts are inordinately difficult to follow without some human intervention to vary the vocabulary, processes, and examples… Probably why I am “ditching” that math textbook more frequently.

  6. “And we bought it.” – so, there it is.

    Anytime educators give up their power to publishers they will get sold a pig in poke no matter what the format is. This is inevitable when you tell educators that they need to make their own collections, choose their own texts, pull from primary source material – but then don’t provide time, support, or authority to actually do that. Well-meaning admins then helpfully look for resources that are pre-curated, pre-digested, and easy to purchase. Voila, you have Textbook 2,0.

    Textbook 2.0 is a manifestation of the disempowerment of teachers.
    sylvia martinez´s last blog post ..Research to action: 5 must read bullying research briefs

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