Paper textbooks are dying a long, slow death.
At least I hope they are.
Printed textbooks are such an inefficient way to convey information and ideas to students in light of the powerful Web 2.0 tools that exist today.
Textbooks are bulky and a pain to carry. They’re expensive to print. Some are outdated as soon as they reach student hands.
Publishers are trying to ride the tech-savvy wave with their offerings with interactive websites, digital copies of print books and apps.
Frankly, I’m not impressed yet. (No surprise coming from a guy who writes a blog called “Ditch That Textbook,” huh?) Neither are students, according to this USA Today article.
The tools are out there. Teachers are using them. We need them integrated into a textbook that doesn’t look a thing like what we have today.
Here’s how the publishers should do it (in case they ever ask me):
1. They must improve the user interface. Efficient page-flipping in digital textbooks is not a reality yet. Finding something in a paper book involves a few seconds of flipping. Digital texts need to evolve.
2. They must facilitate peer collaboration. Digital textbooks should be a center for class discussion. In-line comments, links and replies should be seamless and real-time.
3. They must link to the world. Hyperlinks should abound – links to research, to studies, to homepages of organizations. Digital texts don’t need to house all the information – just point to it.
4. They must include a world forum for opinion. Students can so easily communicate and share opinions with peers around their countries and the world. An chat/discussion board option should exist to expose students to other worldviews and get them in the conversation.
6. They must be timely. Updates should be constant (i.e. Wikipedia model). Twitter, Facebook and Google+ feeds should be updated regularly. How? By using money they save from paper and printing costs to hire a social media team.
7. They must be accessible. Large print options. Audio versions of texts. Various languages. No disabilities or disadvantages get in the way.
8. They must encourage work in various media. Audio assignments. Photo assignments. Video assignments. Website creation. Written text shouldn’t be the only option.
9. They must allow for teacher modification. Teachers know their students better than publishing companies. They should have the power to modify, move and delete content to suit their needs.
The concept I’ve described here isn’t exactly a file you download and peruse on a device. These “textbooks” are a learning experience. They’re an all-in-one-place learning hub. They take the best of the Web’s tools and use them for a single purpose – education.
If publishing companies don’t follow suit, more and more teachers will ditch their textbooks and make more relevant learning experiences of their own.
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