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Textbooks

Free at last! I have eliminated textbooks for the coming school year: it’s as if I lost 50 pounds on a crash diet. My dumping textbooks was prompted by several converging factors.

Consider this actual conversation between a teacher and a student during class

  • T: who knows how the equipotential lines are are related to the electric field lines from the field mapping lab?
  • S: I Googled it and couldn’t find the answer
  • T: The answer is in the textbook – did you check?
  • S: [silence]
  • T: The one you purchased for this class? Remember the assigned reading sections?
  • S: Why would I look there? It’s too hard to read.
  • T: But you didn’t actually find the answer, did you?

So what am I to make of this scenario? For years I have assigned note-taking from the textbook so that the students would know what is in the textbook. My hope was for them to find the information that was “vetted” by “real” sources and interact with language that elevates the science conversation.

Somewhere along the way students (rightfully?) decided that the content available online was more relevant than that which is printed. While this is certainly a broad generalization it certainly seems more true than 10 years ago and most definitely more true than 20 years ago. I am sure my overall response this year has wavered between quiet frustration and overt frustration. Clearly this is not an effective tactic to accomplish my goal.

So what is my goal? The “out of reach” goal would be for my students to be able to search, find, and verify legitimate science information on the Internet. My job certainly includes coaching how to navigate the vastness of the Internet but that would consume a course in itself. I think a more reasonable goal is to coach, require, push, nudge students towards an online source that has everything I wish yet in digital form.

While this might seem to be an even swap between printed and digital media, the real payoff is seen in the other byproducts of this decision. Paying for textbooks is now gone! Access to the book is instant and everywhere! Embedded visual media flourish throughout these sources! So what do I have to lose? Well, this takes more organization on my part as I can no longer rely on a textbook printed to serve the lazy needs of a high school teacher.

This blog is the result of this effort to create an organized space to coordinate the content of each course.

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This entry was posted on April 9, 2011 by in Education, Philosophy, Stories, Technology and tagged , .

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