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Chris Whitside

Thank you for posing another big, important question that is not going to be answered easily by proponents of one-size-fits-all education. I suppose, extending the question, we need to start asking "Will we just replace the textbooks with web versions of the same thing?

That will be great for revising material and for saving trees and energy ... but great too for educational publishers desperate to hang onto their fat corporate accounts with monolithic public school systems.

Administrators and school boards will be tempted to stay with the publishers they know and with a single format that's easy for them to certify and manage.

Technology and school choice are beginning to give us a chance to develop nimbleness in our schools, a versatility that really could create student-centred education. Web-based technology offers hope of diversity in the resources students could have for learning. They could, in fact, enjoy a virtual buffet of learning resources for each subject and thousands of writers and web developers would be delighted to compete for their eyeballs.

The question of moving from textbooks to browser technology is probably moot already. The next question is Why destroy this opportunity for diversity by simply handing the business to the same old guys?

Scott McLeod

A few thoughts...

1. I think that instruction would be a lot richer if teachers stopped using the textbook as the curriculum. They're different, you know. Sometimes I wish we had curriculum cops: "Put your hands down and walk away from the textbook!"

2. That said, teachers seem to need structure beyond state curricular standards. The textbooks give it to them, despite their many flaws.

3. Since we're talking online v. textbooks, here are a couple of posts I'm still thinking about many months later:


My numbers might not be quite right, but I think the general sentiment behind the posts is sound.


Since teachers still need a guidebook, but we want them to "step away," what about buying one teacher's edition of the textbook and no student books or supporting materials? The teachers would have a guideline but be forced to find ways to deliver the information. Of course, teachers would need instructional training so that they didn't revert back to lecturing.

Angela Maiers

Tracy, You bring up very important points. This is an issue being debated in many schools. Although students will be accessing information through online sources, there is value in having some experience with textbooks. Reading and understanding information presented in many forms across and within the domains of study is critical in building flexible reading and research competencies. Having both print and online resources is still going to be a part of learning. Often, the issue is not the textbook, but how the textbook is be used within the classroom. Thanks for helping us look at this issue from several vantage points.


A bit late to comment, but thought you might find this link interesting. http://www.branson.k12.mo.us/elementary/teacher.htm

The whole thing is a work in progress, but many teachers are buying into the idea of using this with/instead of textbooks. I know we aren't the only ones out there doing this, and I would love to chat with others who are also creating such a product.

So far in our building it seems that math is the most difficult to abandon textbooks...I wonder if it is because our underlying collective knowledge of how to talk about math and explain it were never taught to us when we learned it..?? Hmmm...any thoughts on that?


I think we in school should have laptops instead of text books b/c its easer to handle and not as heavy!

Tracy Rosen

I think Angela's observation needs to be underlined (though I'd think of getting rid of the 'Often'...)

"Often, the issue is not the textbook, but how the textbook is being used within the classroom."

And something definitely worth exploring by vejraska -->"I wonder if it is because our underlying collective knowledge of how to talk about math and explain it were never taught to us when we learned it..??"

Chris Willis

I was just in a very interesting conversation yesterday that speaks a bit to this post. We have been using computers, the Web etc in schools as an add on to the instructional practice. We have seen current instructional practice/needs drive what technologies we use. What this post illuminates is that we are approaching a time where the technologies we have will drive the instructional options we choose. This is a major shift in thinking. But, we have seen this transformation occur in a number of businesses.

On the math question. I would ask people to define mathematics. My personal definition is that math is the study to patterns and relationships. Math education, on the other hand tends to be about rule memorization and symbol manipulation. If we shift our focus to the study of patterns and relationship then you have a real potential to drop the textbook. If your desire is to find the best rule and symbol person the text is he perfect tool.

Jim Calhoun

I am hoping there are still interested parties accessing this blog topic.

We have just adopted a one-on-one laptop initiative for our school. As the educational leader in the building, I am wrestling with this very question on a daily basis. I intuitively feel that hanging on to the textbook is similar to when I did not want to part with my 8-track player in college. I had invested way too much in tapes, a tape deck and speakers. Mention 8-track now and high school students think you are talking about a drug rehabilitation program. Seriously, I am trying to make important decision and feel like I need more information. Has there been any research regarding this topic? How do you respond to teachers that feel like students are at a disadvantage without the text books? What do we do if students in our school don’t ever see a textbook and then go to college and have to use them? In communicating what is best for students in the 21st century, how does a textbook fit in? I can remember having long and passionate debates about the worthiness of the textbook with my teacher friends. Most of the time the conclusion was that the narrowed views portrayed in a textbook, the lack of critical thinking exercises, the lack of current information, and the hidden agenda of some textbooks companies created a book that was not worthy of using. I know that I often did not use the book I assigned student because of some of the reasons stated above. Why do I see such fear on teacher’s faces when we inform them they no longer have a textbook? Any help with the above questions would be appreciated.

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