There are a number of polarizing issues in education and textbooks is definitely one of them. It seems like the entire process is even more controversial in the area of social studies. Luckily in Nebraska, textbook adoption is a local issue. My state just adopted new social studies standards and now districts are in the process of looking at new books and resources that will help teachers teach the new standards.
During the last year I have been involved in discussions with educators whose philosophies range from, “We don’t need textbooks at all” to, “The only way you will take textbooks out of my classroom is to pry them from my cold, dead hands!” Last year I felt like I won the lottery when I was invited to the first Beyond the Textbook forum hosted by Discovery Education. I took part in discussions with some brilliant educators regarding the value of textbooks and what a 21st century textbook should look like. They are among the most innovative and forward thinking educators around. I have also had conversations with social studies teachers who do not seem to be aware that there are other options available to educators that go well beyond what major textbook publishers currently offer. In just a couple of days I will be traveling back to Maryland to be part of the second forum. (I’m still not sure what I did to get to be part of this forum twice.)
If you asked 20 different teachers what the perfect textbook would look like you will get 20 different answers. Before I head off the the second Beyond the Textbook forum later this week I want to share my vision of the perfect textbook. I would also like to get feedback from what features you would include in your textbook. I would love to share your ideas with the forum when we meet at Discovery headquarters in a few days.
- At my school, I am my own department. When I need ideas for my classroom I turn to Twitter. I have always thought how awesome it would be to use the same core resources as other teachers. One of the features I would want in the ultimate textbook would be the ability to share lessons. I see this sharing of resources and lessons happening on a platform like a Ning. Having a digital space where conversations would be archived and searchable is important.
- Another important aspect of the perfect textbook is that it would not look like a textbook! I would want to be able to customize the multimedia that loads in the textbook. I would want each book to have a bulletin board space or the ability to add sticky notes to pages where students could ask questions or just leave notes with their thoughts.
- I would also like my students to have the ability to connect with students outside of my school. Built-in blogs or discussion forums might be a good option.
- I have students in my classroom as young as 15 and as old as 20. Having the ability to allow them to read the same material at different reading levels would be fabulous. My perfect textbook would also provide students with multiple options for projects and assessments so students could select how they want to demonstrate their learning.
I know I have a pretty big wish list, but we have the technology that allows us to do these things. Now it is your turn. What does your perfect textbook look like?
If you are interested in following the conversation you can do so by following the hashtag #BeyondTextbooks. The forum will take place on March 27 and 28th at Discovery headquarters in Silver Springs, Maryland. Last year the hashtag exploded as educators from around the world weighed in on this very important topic.
Other posts by people attending the forum: