How do people think that textbooks are going to change in the future? Several weeks ago, an assistant superintendent of a Connecticut district told me that he wanted to purchase a subscription to my current events newsletter but was concerend because he hadn't seen it yet. The very nature of the newsletter prohibits me from writing it in advance. The newsletter asks questions about current events to promote discussion in the classroom.

In my response to this administrator I challenged him to consider how his successor will determine which books to purchase. In three, five or ten years will any educator want to purchase a book, particularly for science and social studies, that has been completely edited? Will the average teacher have the skills and time to completely develop their own resources from material available in a myriad of online sites? What will the textbook industry of the future look like?

In line with this question, I wonder what people think about wikipedia. I personally believe that it's another resource and all material from all resources should be triangulated. What do you think?

Andrew Pass

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Andrew this is a great question. I have an ongoing discussion on my blog about this issue. I am trying to create a textbook policy that makes sense for my school. I will add below some of the things we have discussed but you will probably want to reade the two posts and comments because there is a lot of information there.

My initial ideas for re-writing our textbook policy are:
# All texts will be supplemented with online resources ( and perhaps with library purchases)
# In the upper grades student scribes and wikis will help to build resources for future classes. Take a look at what Clay is doing with a “textbook” wiki
# As knowledge based texts ( like Science and Social Studies) age the online supplements should increase and be well defined.
# Purchases in Social Studies and Science will most probably be in the form of smaller, lighter more reasonably priced trade books and trade magazines.
# Grade level skill acquisition in each subject must be clearly articulated and resource provided. (Skills however can not be taught in isolation but must be applied across the curriculum)
# Leveled readers in subject areas should be considered to make the curriculum more accessible.
# Language Arts will encompass digital literacy.
# Reading component will progressively move toward literature as the grades progress and can then employ less expensive lighter novels instead of anthologies.

from the ongoing conversation on my blog I have learned that there is a diversity of approaches across the global community some of which seem much better than our US model. My other concern about textbooks is the way they drive teaching in the US. Your question however about how the teachers can cope with the shift is important.

As for wikipedia I tend to agree with you but that is a whole other discussion.
I've been horribly disappointed with our books' supplementary online resources. We're in a 1 to 1 so those were supposed to be key yet time and time again they fail or work horribly. Adding students often takes weeks and is done by the textbook company rather than the teacher. Oddly, many resources are even out of date.

There's no real pressure for text book companies to do much more than create window dressing at this point and I think they'll continue to do that for as long as possible. Until we have teachers and admins who start demanding more and including some sort of penalties in the contracts for failure to keep information current and get students enrolled in a speedy manner.

Personally, I gave up on text books after four days of teaching. I've made my own resources etc. since then but the time and effort that takes can be daunting. The 1 to 1 made it possible and I think that will be another major force creating change if/when that begins to spread.
Yesterday Barbara wrote that wikipedia is a whole different discussion than textbooks. I'd like to explain why I"m not so sure that it is two separate discussions.

I like the various points of Barbara's textbook policy. But they all seem to be leading to the same conclusion: In this era of Classroom 2.0 all knowledge is going to be far more questionable than it was in the pre-2.0 era. After all, if "student scribes and wikis will help to build resources" then how do we know that the information is right. Wait, if mere people will help to build knowledge how do we know that it's right.

That's just the point. We'll never know if the knowledge is "right." The best that we can do is test our theories and continue to test them. As theories lose credibility we can adapt them so that they regain their legitimacy.

Isn't this what wikipedia is about to some extent? We don't "know" if what we are reading is necessarily correct. But once we triangulate the information and verify/reject it we are moving in the direction of learning about the topic that we want to know about. Once we learn a little about it we have a foundation from which we can learn more.

Perhaps the appropriate way to use wikipedia is the appropriate way to use all textual information? Perhaps wikipedia is the model for the future, ready to use today?
Google is the index to my textbook.

My blogs are my notebooks.

My aggregator is my connection to the world.

My daughters keep me honest.

Your mileage may vary.
As a taxpayer, ipod owner, and mother of three K-12 students, my greatest hope is that the format for textbooks of the future will eliminate the back-breaking, costly, 10 - 12 pound hardcovers that students today are forced to drag back and forth. All of those volumes and more should be loaded on a single, affordable palm size device.
Andrew I like your take on wikipedia...
"Isn't this what wikipedia is about to some extent? We don't "know" if what we are reading is necessarily correct. But once we triangulate the information and verify/reject it we are moving in the direction of learning about the topic that we want to know about. Once we learn a little about it we have a foundation from which we can learn more."

Great point on the triangulation of information... This is at the heart of what I see as the vision for classroom 2.0...It really is about using multiple sources of information, thinking, making critical judgments. After all textbooks certainly have no corner on the market in terms of having "information that is right" despite the fact that they have been the cornerstone of our educational system for years...

When I said it was a whole other discussion I just could not think of a concise way to express myself and did not want to make my post to long.. So thanks for putting it so succinctly.
Andrew, I see that the textbook as we know it will become a thing of the past. Students will have access to online information that will be upgraded and evergreened regularly. We will see teachers adding information to this text as they find it, so that the text will reflect the passions of the teachers, as well as, the basic curricula guidelines. This will allow students to have interactive information from which they can build their own understandings. We will see the use of something similar to an iPod or nano being used to transfer notes and information. I believe that laptops will decrease in price and become standard just as textbooks were in the past. We will also see the wider use of wireless with students having access to a school network from which they will access their information. Wikipedia will grow but so will the use of more "contained" information areas. Google apps will be replaced, I believe, with online desktops specific for the school. This will allow students access to the required information plus relevant calendars, RSS feeds and other information all in one place. I am starting to look at such a thing for the classes that I teach which use online information. At this time, with the difficulty transferring from home to school, online desktops may provide a way for students to avoid the email, attach, download problem. This, I believe, will start shortly with companies like Google, Zoho, DOD and eyeOS making better and better online products and the cable is getting better. So, I believe that we will eventually move away from the large textbooks to an online version just because of the ability to edit what is posted. This will mean that the teacher becomes less responsible for knowing everything, becaue that is impossible, and more responsible for being able to enhance the understanding of the student. Thus, teachers will still need to have a good understanding of the basics of their area of study and be able to point students in a number of directions but they will not be the keepers of knowledge.
In the future, there's a good possibility that we might not even have textbooks anymore. A good example of this image is the ipad. Thin, light, and a presenter of multiple possibilites, the ipad can replace a textbook and provide interactive tools for the students. Online resources such as wikipedia and even youtube could easily explain something a student could spend hours researching for in several textbooks. Several years from now, I wouldn't be surprised if ebooks became the new textbook.
We instituted an optional pilot netbook program for our 7th and 8th graders. They purchased (with suggestions) their own netbook and insurance, software, etc. Ownership has increased responsibility - no one wants to go home and tell mom or dad that they broke or lost the netbook. They may use the online textbooks. Those who do not have a netbook (very few) may use the traditional textbook. Imagine how spontaneous class can be when everyone can immediately look up supplemental lesson information.
I believe that traditional textbooks will be used less in many disciplines. I am currently working on creating a new class and the only textbooks I can find cover way more than the scope of the class, and are priced near $200. I am thinking that I will need to find online resources, or make my own to teach the class, and have no textbook required.

I also agree that wikipedia is a resourced that should be used, and students need to be able to distinguish factual information from non-factual. This is the case with traditional books, and other online sources as well. a few years ago I had a student make a claim in a paper that I instantly knew was false, I checked her source, and found that she had misinterpreted what her source said, and had not double checked it.
I just read this article in this months Campus Technology. I think it's a good option to explore.
I received an email from CoureSmart this morning and found out that students could save $20-$50 per book, by purchasing ebooks.



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