During the past week, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with several textbook distributors. I’ll be honest with you — I hate textbooks. I think they limit student creativity, and do for the student, albeit to a much lesser degree, what our students should learn to do for themselves — that is create personal learning environments.
Not that I think a text is a personal learning environment; it’s not. Instead, it’s usually a prepackaged summation of all the content someone has decided our students should memorize.
However, in our current digital environment students need to be able to critically evaluate resources and collate the best in a way that facilitates and supports their learning. Using wikis, blogs, or any other digital platform students can create their own texts complete with videos, notes, links, pictures, etc, tailored to their learning preferences. A far cry from the standard textbook.
Yet few students have teachers who know how to facilitate this type of learning and others may choose not to. How do we begin to bridge this gap?
Many textbook distributors offer on-line versions of their text that allow interactive material and student choice. In math, students can access videos and other interactive media that help explain or further explore a concept. One of the distributors showed us the online version of their English texts. Every section contains on-line supplemental material that allows for student choice and is frequently updated. Students can further explore the concepts they are interested in, putting control where it should be — with the student. While I don’t think this is as good as a text custom created by each student, as one of my colleagues wisely states, it’s a start.
Yet here’s the question. How do we get these resources into the hands of students? Often resources are vetted by teachers. And too often resource selection is based on teacher’s personal preference, one that likely perpetuates a teacher-centerd classroom, rather than what might be best for student learning.
I wonder if there’s ever a point, as an administration or a division, when you choose to bypass the teacher and directly offer the choice to students — after all it is their learning. Do we choose to offer resources that are student-centred and provide student choice and control?
I also wonder how long it will be until students rebel and demand the education and resources they deserve.