There was quite a buzz a few weeks ago when Apple came out with their big iBooks/Textbook announcement. Many in the world of education called it a “Game Changer.” I can’t stand that phrase – game changer. Nothing can be a game changer if it’s not accessible by everyone easily. Sure, Apple might change the textbook landscape with their recent announcement, but it’s hardly a game changer. Tonight and tomorrow, I’ll be attending the Beyond the Textbook forum, at Discovery Education headquarters in Silver Spring, MD. The list of attendees is quite an impressive group and fortunately for me, I get to attend – not so much as one of those great minds, but as a job requirement working with Steve Dembo, the organizer of this event, at Discovery. Call it yet another job perk.
There have already been some posts about the forum and the discussion is off to a rather nice start. If you want to follow along and join in the discussion, or check out the posts already written, the best way is to follow the event hashtag – #beyondthetextbook.
I’ve had my experiences teaching both with a traditional textbook, teaching third grade math, social studies, and science for a number of years. It was fine, served the purpose a little and was rather easy to teach from. The teacher’s guide had all of the question and answers to ask the students, assessments ready to go, and moved along in a nice sequence. As a beginning teacher fifteen years ago, I thought this was pretty nice. Basically a step by step guide to teaching the subject. What I realize now, is that process didn’t produce a step by step guide to learning. And there’s a big difference. After a few years, my district adopted the FOSS Science Series, a more hands-on approach to teaching science. There wasn’t a textbook that came with this series, but rather guides, book lists, journals, and equipment to make science much more hands on. And fun. It was more prep for the teacher, which for some, was a challenge. Many still wanted that step by step textbook with everything all in one place. I liked the FOSS series, with one exception, there was little to no technology integration. Looking back, I think this was a step in the right direction as far as a science curriculum, but no where near what could exist.
Within the past couple of years, Discovery Education launched their Science Techbook. I never taught with the techbook, but have had a little time to work with in on my own and see the various components of it. The content, lessons linked to state standards, assessments, virtual labs, and more all are part of what I think should be included in a curriculum. I’ll be curious to see what the educators attending the event have to say about it. I believe much of what Discovery created with the techbook is pretty darn good.
Regardless of Discovery has created with the techbook, which certainly isn’t perfect at this point, I believe a few crucial components need to exist in the “textbook of the future,” which I highly doubt will actually resemble what many believe a textbook is. This new creation should include:
- Content creation
- Content sharing
- Differentiated materials
- Language translation
- Anywhere access
The above list is a start. I’m sure there are things I’m missing, but I do believe that the resources we need to increase student learning must include the above and more. The next day and a half should be both fun and interesting. I can’t wait to listen to the discussions and read the posts that are shared after the event. Stay tuned!