Saturday, September 10, 2011

A World without Textbooks- Lessons from the Art-room

I have been contemplating the idea of no textbooks for a while. Part of it stems from the onslaught of new editions in higher education. At this point major textbooks are reissued on an annual basis- changed so you cannot easily integrate the previous edition easily. I do not blame the publishers, it is their business and they are trying to stay ahead.
The issue in K-12 is a little different since schools purchase the books directly- again a lucrative market to capture.
When you walk into an art-room the teacher does not use a textbook. Instead she uses the materials of art itself. Side note: Schools often complain about the cost in art supplies but never balance it out with not buying textbooks. What the art teacher has figured out is that in some cases it is better to do the learning than to read all about it. At that point of course we must recognize that not ALL school topics can be covered that way. Still I would argue that much of science, math, art, music, can be done without a textbook. I am not saying that we can teach science only hands-on from experience, instead I argue that we can combine with other non-textbook resources to the same or even better effect.
In many of the other topics digital resources or authentic resources can be found. For example: we can teach much about the civil war from a Ken Burns episode, and museum resources available online.
In higher ed textbooks are a great way to reduce the load on the teacher- the sequence is there the main points, the PowerPoint presentations and quizzes. It is the first step in "teacher proofing" your curriculum.
For me in teacher education I find that whenever I use a textbook I am patently unhappy about it, since it is someone elses idea of what should be taught at what sequence and with what emphases. I find myself spending quite some time ignoring the text re-emphasizing points that are lost or correct what I consider mistakes. In short, even the best textbooks I find are "not just right". This summer I taught a few classes all of which avoided using the classic "textbook" instead I used professional materials- practical books for teachers that are resources for a professional while the pedagogic role of explaining theory, history, and big themes was left for me as an instructor. To that I added many Internet resources that are plentiful in the literacy field, video, podcasts, articles and voila: Textbook free courses.
I just want to close with the idea that I would like to teach without textbooks but NOT without reading or preparing for class. Textbooks are necessary sometimes in one format or another but their application has to be thoughtful. In k-12 schools using less textbooks would lead to great savings that can be turned around to professional development or much needed technology.
Post a Comment