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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I disagree with suspending the purchase of textbooks



I just have to disagree with someone I usually agree with.

Wes calls for the suspension of textbook purchasing:

"The purchase of paper-based textbooks, along with the dearth of analog testing materials now flooding most public K-12 schools, represents an enormous WASTE of taxpayer money which should be spent on more relevant and flexible curriculum resources and tools for learners: Namely, wireless, mobile computing devices (laptops) and digital curriculum materials."
I think that a digital only classroom at this time is as untenable as a paper-only classroom.

I am a visual learner and have to have a hard copy in my hands!

I am working with four students taking the virtual high school here in Georgia and they have their reading assignments per unit -- after struggling with taking notes, etc. we finally had one student print out the units and then I went and copied it for all four of them.

Paper and laptop go hand in hand nicely.

I personally have to underline, write, rewrite, take notes in the margin and work with the text. I just have to. It is how I learn. Some would say -- ok, tablet pc's can do all that -- but sometimes they run out of battery and even if they can, I need paper too.

But now that my virtual students have paper too -- they can do much better on their essays, discussion boards, elluminate conferences, and everything electronic.

Yes, there is certainly waste! And the test prep materials are certainly a waste in my book -- have a great curriculum and you'll have a great test. So, I agree that there is lots of wasteful spending.

However, to get rid of all textbooks to force change is akin to cutting off a foot to get rid of the nail stuck in it.

And the great online curricular textbooks (which are being used by these virtual high schoolers) are marvelous -- but it still doesn't eliminate the need for something on paper.

I know, I tried to encourage the kids to go digital only and download on their jumpdrive for over a week as they floundered and tried to get a handle on what they were to do.

It changed my mind about 100% digital classroom.

I believe in engaging every single sense in teaching. And while we certainly buy way more paper than perhaps we should -- I think the focus on eliminating paper is probably better suited to getting rid of the morning bulletin and sending it over e-mail than cutting out textbooks.

I use wikis and blogs and more but I have a paper textbook for EVERY class. I also have a book on CD for every class as well and give students the option to use either.

But the paper book goes hand in hand with what I do and serves as a starting point. A virtual starting gun in the race to acquire knowledge.

I just have to disagree on this one.

I would rather say -- every teacher must be required to integrate multisensory technological tools in every course.

Call the moratorium on the exclusion of technology not on paper.

I am a radical for improving education, however, so many teachers get tired of the pendulum swinging back and forth in their administrations!

If it works -- let it work and help it get better -- improve it. Just remember, to totally eliminate all textbooks in all classes to all teachers in one year would be way too much for most teachers to handle (even me!)

Use good sense and build on the giants in teaching who have gone before us. Improve it with great new tools like wikis and blogs (see my post below on wikis) and make it better.

One reason that my school has done well is that when the pendulum swung and many got rid of what had worked for ages -- phonics based learning and replaced it with whole language -- we didn't. We used whole language strategies in certain areas but stayed focused squarely on phonics and continue to have every child reading by the end of K5, particularly after adding a multisensory approach to learning in K3 and K4. Take what works and make it better. But throw out what doesn't. Such radical moves aren't good for a profession already in a lot of flux.

I think Wes has the right intentions, but I certainly hope that people think and test with pilot groups before making large scale sweeping decisions like this.

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