Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

August 2, 2010

Should we save money in education by exchanging textbooks for internet content for authentic learning?


7-28-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST


We are grateful To Jessica Kelleher (@discomfortzone) for this week’s summary and reflection on what was a very lively #edchat session. As you can tell from her twitter name, Jessica is no shrinking violet when it comes to educational matters! She has captured very well what was, on balance a very measured approach to this topic with some very interesting ideas and links. For more about Jessica see her bio at the end of the post.

Technology is great, it has enriched personal and professional lives in so many ways. For many of the educators we meet on Twitter and Ning (or other platforms), their PLN is the most important professional development. And for those people, textbooks may not even be an option for teaching and learning these days. 
Our initial answer to the proposed question could be “Yes, please!” and enthusiasts may envision themselves with bundles of money available for the newest gadgets and professional development. 
But before we chuck the books out, and put the publishing houses out of business, there is more to consider. This discussion has shown that edtech enthusiasts have concerns too.

 Here are some of the main themes from the discussion: 

  • Textbooks offer out-dated material, or become out-dated/irrelevant quickly
  • Textbooks only represent one perspective
  • Access to online technologies or computer technologies varies greatly throughout the world (equal opportunities)
  • Some teachers will struggle without a textbook, or with dynamic online environments
  • Technology is just a tool, it is not the resource
  • The necessity of information literacy and critical thinking when using online resources 
  • The increased need to collaborate 

The use of textbooks, as well as technologies varies greatly between individual educators, school districts, and countries. While some educators have not touched a textbook in years, they still are seen as a “safety net” for other teachers. In this discussion, there was mainly agreement on the first two themes.
A big problem for this shift in education is accessibility to both computers, as well as reliable internet connections. Rural areas are often at a disadvantage within the developed world, however, looking at it globally, there are massive discrepancies. 
Ability and willingness to use online resources and technology was brought up several times. Teachers unable or unwilling to leave their comfort zones to learn and experience new technologies and forms of learning, would not be happy to swap their textbooks for an ipad, but as it was also pointed out, it is those educators we need to support and continuously encourage. 
Using content available on the internet means that students, no matter what age, need to develop as critical thinkers. Without the “right answer textbook”, students, and teachers, need to know what sources are reliable, but they also have the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of perspectives. Information literacy and critical thinking already form part of the curriculum of some schools, while others still need to develop.

Lastly, I would like to comment on the theme “technology is just a tool, not a resource”. 

For me, this can be linked to some of my comments during this discussion:
  • Just because something is online, does not mean it is better than a textbook (some publishers put textbook content on their websites, including some workbook content, get a neat programmer to add some animations or similar, and sell it as their interactive content. For me, this is a FARCE! The content, and as such, the resource stays the same, but the tool changes. Same goes for ebooks!
  • There is more to the discussion than technology or textbook. People and places are amazing resources too. And while these can be accessed in person (if possible) or virtually (neat! Streetview, Skype, SecondLife), they provide other perspectives, require different skills and are much more engaging than some books.

 The last point goes back to the why and how of learning in schools. When we have definite answers to that, then we can choose engaging and authentic resources. In some of my units, people were a much more valuable and authentic resource than any book could have ever been. Seeing the marble caves of Carrara, then seeing marble processed in Pietrasanta, including a little workshop, to seeing Michelangelo’s David in Florence…. an indescribable experience. And with technology  growing, this could possibly be accessible to children all over the world at one point. 
It makes me question whether the topic for this week’s edchat was not too limited. Are our choices really just textbook or technology? No! But it helped us to start exploring the need to question the use of both. However, let’s not forget to reach beyond the tools!!

@CoachB0066: Opportunities must be based on school/students’ accessibility, cannot have an uneven playing field 

@malcolmbellamy: the idea is excellent but we then need to teach internet literacy skills to get the best results 

@easybib: the authenticity of learning depends on the resource, not necessarily the medium

@tomwhitby: Once information is recorded in a textbook it can become irrelevant. The prime sources on the internet may be constanly updated

@crystalmgrand: Teachers need to stray away from the textbooks and blackboard and work on student engagement. Be more creative

@dannymaas: Would LOVE to see > student-created wiki textbooks with multimedia & web 2.0 embeds! >> Students leading knowledge creation! 

@discomfortzone: Just because a resource is accessible online/electronically, doesn’t mean it’s better than textbook!

@leahmacvie: Teachers need more collaboration time, they also need support and facilitation. 

@discomfortzone: Tech is not the only alternative to textbook! People and places are too! Rethinking resources is important, not the tool/medium

@ShellTerrell: With tech we have opportunities to give our stdts experiences like Skyping w/ Holocaust survivor vs. just reading 

 @Nunavut_Teacher: We have to teach students how to be critical thinkers when it comes to using the web.

@ShellTerrell: Wouldn’t doing away with textbooks encourage educators to go online & perhaps develop a PLN?

@marynabadenhors: If everyone in first world uses computers and everyone in 3rd world paper, how will we communicate? Must be able to do both

@TechCzech: Many students & teachers thrive on the structure provided by textbooks. Many don’t. OERs could cater to both. Present system can’t.

@ESLlibrary: If your admin doesn’t agree, just print out the transcript of today’s #edchat.

@tcash: Think about what kinds of resources we use as professionals – domain specific – THAT’s what we should use in class -authentic 

@rosamariatorres: Want to avoid textbooks because they are “oppresive”-determine what you need to learn? How “oppresive” is Wikipedia? And mass media?

@Mamacita: Let’s not completely dismiss ANY source; let’s pick & choose & encourage students to do the same

 Here is a selection of some of the comments:

 To follow the complete discussion see here 

 For the stats on #edchat participation see here 

 As ever, there were some great links shared:

schoology:  Interesting article about e-book educatipn push http://ht.ly/2hh6F

heoj:  curious to hear if anyone’s used the NYT Learning Network for authentic learning, how it went, etc. http://nyti.ms/2WbL84

HigherEdMorning:  Facebook and grades: What’s the link? http://bit.ly/aLzyrQ

BlueSkyDrive:  should we really be branding “educated”? http://bit.ly/dt3ESu

joe_bower:  for the love of learning – The Daily Riff http://bit.ly/9lxXbD

ToughLoveforX:  I also think it’s important for this #edchat that people are aware of Verizon’s move into edu. http://ilnk.me/36ac  The others will follow.

beabitcraZEE:  @whatedsaid10 ways my thinking has changed over time. http://bit.ly/bbzk GV WAKING UP TO THE FACT THAT PEOPLE NEED TO THINK TO LEARN #edchat

briankotts:  The 21st-century textbook – O’Reilly http://oreil.ly/9Qfp7t  #edchat It’s living, interactive, participative, adaptive, and connected.

malcolmbellamy:  see the interactive textbook of CK-12 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfHd1FpJXbU  TedX NYed talk #edchat

billgx:  Dan Meyer’s TED talk on Math Curriculum Makover is very relevant to this discussion. http://bit.ly/cP4GmY #edchat #TED

andycinek:  Example of digital news paper learning setup with wiki and RSS http://bit.ly/9xHARH  #edchat Please steal this idea

TechCzech:  Charles Leadbeater-Education innovation in the slums “education needs to work by pull not push.” http://bit.ly/dtIM6W  #edchat #metaphor #ted

andycinek:  Another example from my blog of RSS and wiki use for current events and indp. reading #edchat http://bit.ly/bAviaW

evemarfil:  How to create engagemt? Here you have Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation http://on.ted.com/8Tno  #edchat

ColinTGraham:  I like student blogs where they talk about their work, ask questions and get help, with teacher guiding e.g. http://bit.ly/bnsRMs  #edchat

marynabadenhors:  A new digital divide: In one class (between those who can use technology effectively, and those who can’t) http://bit.ly/bQkug1  #edchat

Schoology:  Interesting article about e-book educatipn push http://ht.ly/2hh6F  #edchat

elanaleoni:  Jumping in late to #edchat but have you all checked out CK-12? Free #opensource online textbooks: http://bit.ly/9uTdoA  Very impressive

briankotts:  Alvin Toffer and Heidi on education (material & system) Worth watching. http://youtu.be/04AhBnLk1-s  #edchat

crystalmgrand:  Wasn’t there an issue a few months back that Texas was rewriting history? VIDEO: http://ht.ly/2hiE2  #edchat

ESLlibrary:  Bookmark to read after #edchat: Vicky Saumell interview on daring to drop textbooks http://edition.tefl.net/guest/vicky-saumell/

dannymaas:  http://bit.ly/GPnX RT @olafelch More errors in encyclopedia than wikipedia #edchat (debatable, and depends on what you call an error

andycinek:  @crystalmgrand http://nyti.ms/9pMNLm  #edchat

FOSSwiki:  Jumping in late to #edchat but have you all checked out CK-12? Free #opensource online textbooks: http://bit.ly/9u… http://bit.ly/cSqUG2

andycinek:  A perfect example of how textbooks can skew information to state a belief http://nyti.ms/9pMNLm

elanaleoni:  @SheldonWordNerd This article may be helpful: How to Teach Students to Search Smart http://bit.ly/aZIhzD  #edchat

TechCzech:  Many of the ideas discussed in #edchat on role of resources were contained in the 1970s Humanities Curriculum Project: http://j.mp/brPxbl

andycinek:  I’ll teach out of a textbook or via a wikispace or a blog thanks PLN! http://bit.ly/9s8eSv  #edchat

ShellTerrell:  Don’t forget to attend the free 48 hr virtual conference #rscon10 w many members of our PLN this Fri. http://bit.ly/bIH6Dp #Edchat

irasocol:  @VanessaSCassie http://is.gd/dMAhB  #edchat http://is.gd/dMAvu  and best http://is.gd/dMACt 

RevoltMarxism:  EDUCATION! http://ow.ly/2gW6Y  #classwar #p2 #topprog #edtech #gopcodered #speakingout #p2 #ownpersonalhell #p #edchat #sociology #Econ

irasocol:  http://www.life.com/archive/gallery #edchat

Reflective. Inquiring. Curious

Jessica Kelleher is currently a PYP (International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme) teacher at the International School of Modena in Italy. She teaches Grade 3.
Jessica trained as a primary school teacher in Germany, where she worked at KLAX Primary and Middle School in a variety of roles, including Mathematics Middle School teacher, class teacher, and Middle School coordinator. 
She has since worked at Westminster International School in Pisa as a PYP class teacher and PYP     coordinator.
Jessica’s professional interests currently revolve around inquiry-based teaching and learning, educational technology and curriculum development. Her degree in Learning, Technology and Research has sparked a further interest in professional development and action inquiry, as well as eLearning and eEducation.


New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 1,000 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat. 

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelly S Terrell, Berni Wall, PublicAgenda, MarisaConstantinides, Jenny Wren and others. Jenny Wren said: YES!! Children love 'puters RT @ShellTerrell education by internet = authentic learning? http://bit.ly/cdcPPs #edchat […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Should we save money in education by exchanging textbooks for internet content for authentic learning? « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language -- Topsy.com — August 2, 2010 @ 6:13 pm | Reply

  2. I noticed at the local library that it was looking for donations, but NO textbooks. Again, this demonstrates how valuable textbooks are these days.

    Comment by Tara — August 2, 2010 @ 6:20 pm | Reply

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