David Warlick Ryann Warlick Martin Warlick
Shakabuku Infographics Video

The Purpose of Textbooks – Part 1

My niece posted an Instagram photo last night of a stack of textbooks. In her description she wrote, “I never thought I would be so happy to receive textbooks.”

I commented, “But isn't it all on the Internet?” — mostly in jest. She knows me.

The information is out there on the network, of course. But her need for those textbooks is absolutely critical, regardless of what she can Google and in spite of how she will continue her essential professional learning after her textbooks are digested. You see, my niece is preparing for her CPA — and the right answers for that exam are not on the Internet. You can count on that.

A textbook, as a product of packaged content, is essential when we are tasked to learn the right answers — when we are being certified in some way as having x knowledge or y skills. But in my opinion, based on my own rather peculiar career, this is not education. It's training.

Training is not bad. There are certainly elements of formal education that require training — to learn facts and skills that are both useful and stable. 2 x 2 will always be 4 and 9 x 9 will always be 81. Yet, what it means to be educated changes, when answers shift with a rapidly changing world and when a dynamic global library is accessible to us from our own pockets.

Both of my grandparents had college degrees. But after their degrees were conferred, they prospered in a relatively stable world of information scarcity. Being educated was based on remembered knowledge.

Today, we function within a networked, digital and info-abundant environment, whose conditions are constantly changing. Being educated today is being able to skillfully, resourcefully and responsibly mine and utilize this infoscape within meaningful and reliable contexts to accomplish goals — which often involves learning something new. Using a traditional textbook does little to help students become skillfully, resourceful and responsible learners.

If preparing our children for their future means certifying them based on a measure of their remembered knowledge or certifying schools/teachers based on the measured knowledge of their students, then bring on the books, the bigger the better.

But if it is not a trainable/teachable worker who brings prosperity today, but the imaginative information artisan with a lifestyle of learning, unlearning and relearning, then we need to completely rethink the tools of education.

I will confess here that this is not exactly the article that I sat down to write. But it may lead into a next, and slightly more specific (if not more practical) article about these learning tools.

So check back by!

 

Comments

  • Tiffany

    The paragraph in your blog that struck a chord for me was, “Today, we function within a networked, digital and info-abundant environment, whose conditions are constantly changing. Being educated today is being able to skillfully, resourcefully and responsibly mine and utilize this infoscape within meaningful and reliable contexts to accomplish goals — which often involves learning something new. Using a traditional textbook does little to help students become skillfully, resourceful and responsible learners.” I teach a school that claims to be at the forefront of 21st century learning and global education, yet a majority of the classes still use traditional textbooks. While this would not bother most people, and does not seem to bother many of the administrators and faculty at my school; it really bothers me. How can we expect our students to be prepared to be successful in today’s world without using the tools that are already being used. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a fondness for covering my textbooks in the brown bags that my parents got at the grocery store. Covering the books was a rite of passage from elementary school to middle and high school, but today there are so many more resources available to us as teachers. We should be incorporating all types of resources to help our students gain multiple perspectives, instead of the limited ones that are contained within the pages of a book. Hopefully, this will be our next big discussion as a faculty. Any thoughts on how to spur a textbook revolution at my school?

  • Casey

    Oh, the great textbook debate! Recently, we gave our semester exams at my middle school. The 8th grade World Geography exam was based on the textbook and basically all DOK 1 memorization questions. After giving the exam, we ( the geography department) decided to revamp the exam for next year and create a new, more skill based exam for the second semester. It just felt wrong testing the kids on the memorization of rote facts when 21st century skills call for problem solving and critical thinking.

  • http://juliedramsay.blogspot.com/ Julie D. Ramsay

    I think the debate about textbooks is ongoing in many schools like the one where I teach. My students are still expected to learn how to use guide words in the dictionary and how to use an encyclopedia to locate information. My fifth graders do not use print dictionaries or encyclopedias. They turn to online resources to find the information for which they are searching. They may be ten year olds, but they understand the importance of learning how to find current, relevant information. Their parents, however, still want the comfort of a textbook. Because we are preparing our students for life, I think it is important for them to be able to decipher how to locate credible sources, whether print or digital, as they will continue to encounter both in their future.

    Thank you for your post.
    ~Julie

  • Nichole

    This post is intriguing to me because the issue of textbooks has come up in my teaching position. Often, I find myself discussing textbooks with parents that are distraught because they can’t access the necessary information “easily” in order to help their child. The parents of our current students went to school at a time where textbooks were a very relevant part of most classrooms, science included! I now find myself explaining that science at our school is taught based on the standards created by the state and there is not a textbook that covers it. Therefore, the teachers have created materials and give information to students during class time.
    Textbooks do have a certain nostalgia for me. They remind me of going to school in the fall and the excitement of embarking on a path to new learning. It’s nice to have the necessary information organized in a way that is easy to learn and categorize. However, I do agree that problem solving and thinking skills are also critical parts of student success.

  • http://www.skylineconstructions.com Avinash Prabhu

    A simple “Thank You” for someone who started my teaching in a new direction and a new way of learning.

  • Pingback: Middle School Matters » Blog Archive » MSM 233: BaaaNaaaNaaaa, Quote the Movie

  • Susan

    I feel that with today’s technology we are moving towards the non-traditional type of textbooks especially the higher the grade level. Students should be trained on deciphering accurate information online. Me personal prefer the good old textbook.

  • Nichole

    I agree with Susan that it is important that we teach our students to find accurate and reliable information online. More and more this is how most people get their information and news. It’s important that they know how to decipher credible resources and question information for validity.

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

    @Casey, I used to say in workshops (back before the Internet), that if I were still teaching history, I would give all of my exams in the library and say, “You can use anything available to you in the library to answer these questions. You have 45 minutes.”

    I’d be testing them on their ability to use the library as much as their deeper understanding of the aspects of history.

    Of course, today, I’d be testing them on their ability to use the Internet to find the answers to the questions and defendable solutions to the problems.

  • Tiffany

    @David Warlick,

    I love your idea of letting them loose in the library or on the internet. It is a wonderful version of an open book assessment. Did you ever try it out?

    When my friend went to St. Andrews in Scotland, she did not have any textbooks. Instead she had to go to the library and pull all of her material from class out of the suggested reading books. I always thought that was quite silly when I was a student, but now as a teacher, I think that it is ingenious. The process teaches the students to navigate the information, as well as learn a new concept.


Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

RSS Subscribe

Search

Admin

Books Written

Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
(2007) • Lulu
• Amazon
Raw Materials for the Mind
(2005)

Flickr Photos
Tagged with travel

www.flickr.com
David Warlick's items tagged with travel More of David Warlick's stuff tagged with travel
Teach.com
  • What I’m Reading

    MIT inventor unleashes hundreds of self-assembling cube swarmbots | KurzweilAI: MIT inventor unleash [...]

    Scientists test new archeological plane over Peru - Updated News: Scientists Test New Archeological [...]

    AMERICAS - In Peru, drones used for agriculture, archeology: In Peru, drones used for agriculture, a [...]

    Plutocrats vs. Populists - NYTimes.com: Plutocrats vs. Populists By CHRYSTIA FREELAND November 1, 20 [...]

    According to Newzoo’s 2013 Global Games Market Report, game revenues will grow to $70.4 billion worl [...]