#BeyondtheTextBook – Please Join the Conversation!

Bookstand with large textbook

Image via Wikipedia

After two decades, the World-Wide-Web is really starting to deliver on the promise of readily available, high-quality content for nearly every subject imaginable. Nearly all of this content is free, and is therefore “open content” ready to be used, modified, and shared again. With such a vast repository of content available, we need to come up with ways to index and share it that are meaningful to educators and address their specific goals. If these needs can be met, schools can leave expensive textbooks behind and move towards the future of Open Content.

In two days, I will be joining a group of educators and industry thought leaders as a participant to Discovery Education’s Beyond the Textbook Forum to explore the implications of this Open Content Revolution. 

I feel quite honored and excited to join my friends colleagues to discuss the future possibiliteis of learning that extend beyond the textbook. I want to invite you to participate virtually and share your ideas with the team  as it relates to the future of textbooks or the future of reference materials.

Here are some questions to consider posting or tweeting about at using the #BeyondtheTextbook  Hashtag

  • What materials are you currently using?
  • Are they adequate and representative of the knowledge and expereince you want to enagage your students in?
  • What are your thoughts about open source courseware and materials?
  • Where is your number one place to turn, when you seek information that is beyond the scope of your textbook and curriculum materials?
This week I explored this topic in  a presentation panel at the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas. I was joined by Matt Federoff, Principal in Vail Arizona.   In 2005, he led the opening of Empire High School, called the first textbook-free school in the United States. As part of Empire’s initiative, all students are issued laptops, and technology helps form the core of their learning experience, much of which is self-directed. He was named the 2005 Arizona Technology Director of the Year and is currently involved in the Beyond Textbooks Initiative, extending the Empire methodology across all grade levels.
In the following video clip, Matt shares how the New Content Revolution we are experiencing can be an opportunity for students and teachers:

I look forward to your comments here and on Twitter. I will be sure to share our discoveries in a follow up post!
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  • Leondra

    This is certainly where public education needs to go. I applaud your efforts and accomplishments, David.  I work in one of the 10 largest school districts in the country, and they fear “open source” and collaborative tools. I hope your message reaches my administrators.

  • Tony Erni

    Each school has a slightly different curriculum so I have never used the whole textbook to teach any course so in a sense, money is being wasted there.  There are an incredible number of online tools that can be used to help students learn how to learn the material you want them to master.  Many of my students automatically “google” what ever they want to find out.  The problem with that is the level of the information they find is often inappropriate for them.  Even when I provide them with relevant, pre-screened websites, they go to google almost by reflex.  I will continue to guide students away from this as long as I have provided pre-screened sites.

  • http://www.compellingconversations.com Eric the sceptic

    Congratulations on your working on this important panel. Going beyond the textbook, once the odd habit of the exceptional teacher, has become a simple requirement for authentic 21st century educators.
    While I currently teach English at an elite private university, I have taught inner city high school students in Los Angeles and New York City, community college and adult students. In all of these environments – long before the Twitter and TED era, I have found students eager to use authentic materials and go beyond the traditional textbooks. Here are a few flexible assignments that can be used to language skills, critical thinking, and social awareness.
    – product reviews
    – Movie reviews
    – letters to historical figures (or current leaders)
    – persuasive essays and op-eds
    – book reviews
    – job interviews
    – informational interviews
    – research papers

    The internet provides both research materials for students to find and many opportunities for them to create content and share their work. You might be surprised at the increased motivation – and willingness to revise and rewrite – students become when they know that their words will be posted on the Internet. Amazon, rotten tomatoes, YouTube and Ted.com sites can provide a real world audience for classroom exercises.

    Practical, focused, and clear textbooks can serve many valuable functions. Yet these often expensive tomes should lose some weight and provide a basement and not a ceiling for our modern educators. It behooves us to use the amazing resources so our students can become self-directed learners – and share their experiences and insights in compelling, logical fashion. Going beyond the textbook seems essential if we want to encourage our students’ curiosity and growth.

  • barkway

    1. Some schools have struggled to even have enough textbooks & now schools want to ditch them?
    2. This fabulous idea assumes all schools/students can afford the technology.
    3. In my own experience throughout my son’s school years trying to even get his school to adopt modern technology, or even new educational concepts, I found the educators lacking in required skills, and motivation.
    4. As long as FL continues to focus on FCATs & teaching to the test, what difference will introducing open source content & delivery methods make anyway?

  • http://www.cokerdanieledm310.blogspot.com/ Daniel

    Hi Angela! I’m a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I’ll be summarizing this post (and another next week) in a post on my blog. I agree with you that open content offers many advantages over traditional books, and using a more technologically-centric curriculum would benefit schools pretty much everywhere. What’s unfortunate though is how budgetary constraints generally limit this implementation. Perhaps sometime in the near future, schools may be able to do as Empire High School did, and be tech-based and textbook-less in their entirety – but until that point, individual teachers will have to find ways to stay modern of their own accord.

    EDM310 at The University of South Alabama

  • http://www.cokerdanieledm310.blogspot.com/ Daniel

     Oh my goodness, my link goofed that up! What I was going to say was that modernizing the classroom would be beneficial around the world. What’s unfortunate, however, is how budgetary constraints generally keep technology from being fully implemented. Until individual schools can be modernized in their entirety, individual teachers will have to do their best to use what’s at hand in order to keep their methods modern, in order to benefit the modern student.

    Apologies again for the formatting error!

    Daniel Coker
    EDM310 at the University of South Alabama

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