David Warlick Ryann Warlick Martin Warlick
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Next Textbooks are…

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Several days ago I submitted a proposal for an EduBloggerCon unconference session asking how social media and social networking might help to define digital (next) textbooks. To help seed this conversation I asked folks, via Twitter, from the train on Friday, to share some defining characteristics of old paper printed textbooks. As the responses flew in, I combined and edited them into more positive descriptions such as standards aligned, focused, unbiased, durable, etc.

Next I created a Google Form survey that asked unconference participants to read a characterization statements about old textbooks and write in comparative characterizations of next textbooks. For instance, if Old textbooks are NARROWLY FOCUSED then Next textbooks are

This morning I culled through the responses, mixing, matching, and editing them together into a defining set of comparisons.  Admittedly, this listing reflects my own biased sense of where textbooks are going.

Old Textbooks Next Textbooks
Old textbooks are STANDARDS-ALIGNED. Next textbooks will be synaptically aligned to the learning needs and experiences of their users.
Old textbooks are CENTRALLY-AUTHORITATIVE. Next textbooks will establish authority as part of the learning practice.
Old textbooks are SAFE & COMFORTING. Next textbooks will demand and provoke new learning (and teaching) through surprise.
Old texbooks are STABLE. Next textbooks will be fluid, dynamic and ever adapting to learning experiences and shifts in the world, about which we are learning.
Old textbooks are ERRORLESS (error ignorning). Next textbooks will admit errors and will socially self-correct.
Old textbooks are NARROWLY FOCUSED. Next textbooks will be broadly focused through logical and interdisciplinary connections and by adapting to the behaviors of their users.
Old textbooks are UNBIASED (self-proclaimed). Next textbooks will admit their multi-bias, and will invite and share reader interpretation.
Old textbooks are PERSONAL/ASOCIAL. Next textbooks will invite and facilitate conversation and, in appropriate ways, adapt and grow through the conversational behaviors of their users.
Old textbooks are MANUFACTURED. Next textbooks will be co-created, cultivated, and grown by learners and master-learners.
Old textbooks are DURABLE BY THEIR RESISTANCE TO CHANGE. Next textbooks are durable by their adapting flexibility.
Old textbooks are HEAVY. Next textbooks will weightlessly make themselves available to any learner, anywhere, anytime.
Old textbooks are VISIBLE. Next textbooks will glow, grow, and flow, seamlessly reflecting the world through the eyes of a learning community.


  • Sara Carter

    Absolutely exquisite post. Bravo!

    As a parent and teacher, I yearn for the day we may be delivered from the grasp of the behemoth MBS.

  • http://bleuhive.com Mack

    Also think this is a great post. Very nice to hear from peoples points of view how new textbooks should be. In thinking about the future of textbooks, I blogged about a collaborative textbook idea. Would appreciate input http://bit.ly/mDErZI

  • http://futureofthebook.blogspot.com Charlene

    I like how you are defining books of the future as “next” textbooks. I hope the publishers are listening. Be sure to check out some good ideas presented at the 2011 Connected Summit from ACU…there is a track for the Future of the Book. http://www.acu.edu/technology/mobilelearning/conferences/summit/tracks/index.HTML

  • http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/ David Truss

    As simple as it may seem to say, may I also add that old text books are stagnant while new textbooks are hyperlinked.

  • http://mewanderings.blogspot.com/ Paul McKenzie

    Old Textbooks are resource hungry – costly to the planet and intended users.

    Next textbooks will be Open Resources – environmentally cost-effective and as free as the minds that create them.

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  • http://sites.udel.edu/open Mathieu Plourde

    Excellent list you have compiled here, David. I have had this issue on my mind for a while, and your post shook away my writer’s block. In my post, I mostly talk about the linearity of the traditional textbook. See: http://sites.udel.edu/open/2011/06/textbook-future/

  • http://mnwsupt.blogspot.com MarkMNW

    The sooner, the better

  • Vernon

    I wish the giant textbooks could go away tomorrow but they are going to be here for a while. Are there any ways in which I could address digital textbooks to my board of education without laughter being involved?
    I like the idea of being able to constantly revise and change information but who would be allowed to edit say, a math book? I could see a student getting a hold of a few word problems and quickly making a mess of things.

    • http://blog.idave.us/ David Warlick


      If your students have sufficient access ICT, then I would just go ahead and set up a Moodle and start constructing your digital textbook there — or “digital curriculum” as someone called it at ISTE this week.

      – dave –

  • Kenneth Mol

    This blog is very similar to a research paper I just presented in one of my masters classes at Grand Valley State University (the class was Educational Technology Integration EDT 619 with Dr. Sean Lancaster). The paper was addressing the significant value of e-storybooks versus traditional storybooks when it comes to emergent literacy (here is a link to my research summary page if you want to know a bit more about the article: http://goo.gl/hh5Uv). The gist of the paper was that even though their is research out there showing the positive outcomes of e-storybooks, the research is not cohesive and more research should be conducted. Does anyone have a viewpoint on this?

  • http://jackkriss.wikispaces.com Jack Kriss

    Old term: Textbooks
    New term: ?????

    The results of this work are great. When the new model arrives the term textbook will have to be replaced.

    Textbook: a book used by students as a standard work for a particular branch of study.

    Along with the other descriptions provided,the dynamic nature and interconnected links of the new model, along with the term itself “TEXT” “BOOK” are the polar opposite of what is being created. Texas has proposed removing the term “textbook” and replacing with “instructional resources”.

    So what term(s) will be used? I like “Learning Nets” or “Learningnet”

    • http://blog.idave.us/ David Warlick

      @Jack Kriss,

      Neal Stephenson called it, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, in The Diamond Age – a book I strongly recommend. But someone in one of the unconference sessions I attended at EduBloggerCon called it her digital curriculum. That makes perfect sense to me.

      – dave –

    • Matt

      @Jack Kriss,


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  • http://jamesmcconville.blogspot.com James McConville

    Great post, would like to see publishers continue their role in creating and augmenting their current (non-digital) textbooks.

  • Melissa

    May I pose a question to you. How do you propose students from low income families purchase the digital means necessary for them to have the next generation of textbooks? Most of the students in my class struggle to meet basic needs, less than 5% of my students have access to a computer outside of the computer lab at school, so homework would not be available to them if they do not have the access needed outside of the classroom.

    • http://blog.idave.us/ David Warlick

      @Melissa, This is not, perhaps, the answer you were expecting, but, “It’s not my problem!” It’s not your problem, nor is it that of your principal or superintendent.

      That people in this country (assuming you’re in the U.S.) do not have convenient access to today’s prevailing information landscape is a huge and looming problem, and it’s a national problem.

      Education is the fuel that determines our future and drives our prosperity, and I would suggest our well-being as self-fulfilled individuals, and education should (must) reflect today’s information environments, which is networked, digital, and abundant. That children are still learning from 15th century information technologies (and many without even that) is a shame on their country.

      Democracy should be working a whole lot better than that!

  • meissa

    I completely agree. However, how do we, the collective educated body, get the hardward to those who most desperately need it. As an educator, I cannot hold my students responsible for material that they do not have access to. I must therefore may it part of my problem if I am exptected to teach it. I would like to know your thoughts on how we, again the collective educated body, get the few who have access to large amounts of hardware to relinquish it to the masses who do not have ready access to it.

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