Monday, October 09, 2006


David Warlick has been invloved in an interesting conversation regarding textbooks. In a recent post he asks....
The question is not, do I use textbooks or do I chuck them for the Internet. The much more interesting question is what will the textbook evolve into as the conditions of the information landscape change so dramatically? And, will the textbook industry have the vision and courage to drive this evolution/revolution or will it come, like so much else, out of the open source community?

One thing that struck me in this post was the parallel to an article from my local paper which I wrote about ilast week. It was about publishing scholarly scientific research online. One side felt that it would elicit more peer review and allow more information to be made available and broaden the number of experts who could weigh in on any given research project. The other side argued that the traditional peer review before publication was very important to protect quality.
Textbooks as a source of authoritative information have value. They are an educational tool but so is Web 2.0. As Dave said it is not either/or. However if the way we teach is changing then by necessity the tools must change. Will the textbook companies respond? I would guess the answer is slowly…..There are really very few textbook companies because they all have common parent companies. I agree with the scientific scholars who are pushing for online publishing. It will encourage peer review and allow for these wonderful tools (textbooks) to be remixed to reflect todays learning enviroment. I hope the open source community will push the envelope because we need that push to jump start this.
Textbooks are a big part of our yearly budget and so I have to seriously evaluate what we decide to purchase. The days have long since passed where the textbook was the curriculum. Many primary source are already online, as well as many authoritative works. Will it be the work of our students under the watchful eyes of the teachers who in the end draw on the vast store of authoritative sources to put in play a digital curriculum accessible to all ?

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