It’s Not a Textbook World

laptop_student.jpgThere is a question that continues to haunt me as I continue my evangelizing for a mix-it yourself media world. Hands-down, one of the most impressive aspects of Web 2.0 is the aggregator concept, and our ability to mix and remix content into personal digital newspapers. The question remains, though, “Aren’t we going to exclusively attract news and content that agrees with our world view and ignore the contrary arguments and evidence?”

I believe that this is a huge problem, as my country seems to be increasingly polarized into the conservative/rural view and the liberal/urban view of the national dream. A glimmer of hope occurred to me, a few minutes ago, as I was reading an article in the Bay City Times about Michigan’s Freedom to Learn laptop program — recommended to my by TechLearning News (English).

The article described a laptop assignment where students used their word processors to write a two-page letter on drug-abuse and other software to produce slides for a class presentation.

They were instructed to visit a variety of anti-drug Web sites to get help for their letter and presentation.

The fundamental difference between this and a traditional version of the assignment, has less to do with the presence of technology, and more to do with the conspicuous absence of a textbook. Rather than getting their content exclusively from a packaged information product, designed to make learning slick and easy, students are asked to visit a variety of information sources, that, hopefully, do not agree on every aspect of the topic. It puts more responsibility of learning, on the shoulders of the learner, to make some decisions, recognize that there is more than one side, more than one answer, and more than one perspective.

In textbook learning, we are taught one way to interpret the poem, one way to solve the algebra problem, one way to punctuate a paragraph, and one way to think. Perhaps that’s the way that some people like it. I think that the best learning for our future will happen when students are learning in authentic ways, from authentic information sources, and empowered to do something with what they are learning, to impose their learning on other people, to become individuals with value.

2¢ Worth!

English, Eric. “Wired to Learn Laptop computers at area schools are educating kids at the speed of the Internet.” The Bay City Times 24 Apr 2006 3 May 2006 <>.

Shapeshift, “Stillness.” Shapeshift’s Flickr Photostream. 12 Jan 2006. 3 May 2006 <>.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.