This year, BCSC will be moving away from adopting the new social studies textbooks in Indiana. Several reasons exist for this: 1. teaching students in a collaborative and digital age, 2. rising costs and limited revenues, and 3. uninspiring textbooks.

What are other schools doing to support their teachers in this transition? How are educators getting the support they need to teach without a textbook? What are schools using successfully as resources?

Tags: adoption, resources, social, studies, textbook

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Several years ago at the ICE Conference (Indiana Computer Educators) a physics teacher from Park Tudor in Indianapolis gave a session on this exact thing. Instead of books, he gave his students CD's that he created. They contained PDF's and videos and probably items. I remember him talking about how much better videos are over stagnant pictures to explain principles in physics. I would agree that for most subjects, videos are better. I don't remember his name but you might be able to find him through the DOE website. (Find the school website and then see if there is a staff directory).
Awesome idea. I am sure I can find him as Brownsburg is only 20 minute drive from the north side of Indy where Park Tudor is.
Community partnerships are a big part of teaching without textbooks in my school system. Students take trips on the Sultana, a replica of a 1768 Royal Navy schooner that is used to provide educational programs in history and environmental science for students from around the Chesapeake Bay. A group of local museums provide "field trips in a trunk" where authentic artifacts and replications of primary documents are brought into schools. Students follow the path of the underground railroad in our area and are able to visit homes that were used. These are examples of the most popular of our partnerships.

We also use the primary sources, along with an excellent site provided by Maryland Public Television called Maryland Roots. Friends in other states have told me this is a useful site for them when teaching the colonial period or about the Mid-Altantic region.

Our BOE and administrators are very supportive of using these resources. The head of the Social Studies department at our BOE searches for partnerships and writes grants so that many of these resources are used at no cost.
Thanks, Tanya. I should check with our local public television station. WFYI does have professional development for teachers, and they are very good about that. I was thinking that the National Trust for Historic Preservation may be a great source.
Up until a decade or so ago, a good argument could maybe have been made that a textbook was the most efficient, and most cost effective way for teaching and learning to occur. The unfortunate truth is that the assumption is no longer true in either case.
The real transition to consider is not teaching students in a collaborative, digital age, it's how do you cause learning to occur in the collaborative digital age. Totally different questions. Textbooks are fine and dandy for teaching. You can move kids through the curriculum, give grades periodically, and then record something on a final transcript. That's what almost every school I've seen is set up to do. If that's what you need to do, then a great textbook, a crummy textbook or no textbook all will work.
What's tough is when you are a teacher who really wants learning to occur! That landscape has totally changed in the digital age and the system can't accommodate it. What if you had a student who could learn independently using the rich resources others have mentioned in this discussion, or a fraction of what the Smithsonian has available, and in half the time, for instance? "That's fine, Tommy, but you still have to sit through the course, take my tests, etc, cause THEN you will have done the course and I can give you a grade."
I do have another source besides the Smithsonian (their project with flickr is awesome) and the others that have been mentioned and that is Hippocampus at It's part of the Open Source movement and has lots of things you could use.

Let's work on considering the question "How are learners getting the support they need to learn without a textbook?" Isn't that what we are really looking for?

I agree with you totally on all of this. I see this "budget" issue as the perfect way to start changing our system here and address how students really learn. I am going to check out the Hippocampus site. These are great ideas. Also, if I had it my way, we wouldn't even use grades or keep kids assigned to certain levels in schools.

By the way, this is Matt. Saw you last down at the ACTFL conference in Orlando and prior to that in DC at the other language conference. Hope you are well.
I heard the state of California was trying to create textbooks wiki style, but it would be so much better if teachers could just pool their resources on wikis instead.
I agree that this is a great idea and I only wish our district had done it a couple of years ago. Instead of spending money on textbooks, we could have used the money to enhance technology or something else more beneficial. However, we do have access to a great website called It does cost money to subscribe, but if you aren't purchasing textbooks the money could be found easily. It has great primary sources and is very user friendly. And as you know, the internet has an abundance of useful material. Good luck!!!!

Thanks for the resource. I am working on putting a professional development series together "to help" some of our teachers "get past" their fear of hanging on to textbooks. I may post these sessions on TeacherTube in the future so that educators can assist their staffs.
yes i agree textbooks should be on;y a refrence book available to studnest in the library if they need wuth rising costs of books specially in higher grades. plus to be more current its not possible to keep text books updated . I recently found on this something which every teacher studnet should know

100+ Resources for Teaching Without Textbooks do read it
Incredible resource...Thanks for sharing this. Keep the resoucrces coming!
For me it's a cost question. I'm convinced, as everyone here appears to be, that many textbooks are not up to date enough to justify their cost. On the other hand there are many superb textbooks about - why not recommend the second-last edition as a cheap, foundational carry-around, underlinable, dog-earable, highlightable, scribble-onable resource which is intelligently augmented and updated through other specialist resources, breaking news on the web, journals, expert sites etc. It provides, then, an inexpensive anchorpoint and learning gateway in parallel with the digital riches.
(You can hear the paperphile slavering over his keyboard, probably) In my IT classes, we have a textbook - and it's sufficiently out-of-date to need supplementing - that research is, in itself a potentially great learning experience. In my RE classes I haven't found many good level internet sites, so texts are our primary resource, augmented by the 'net.



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