|The Decline of Textbooks|
|posted by: Alix | March 01, 2012, 08:15 PM|
Teachers in the classroom today all remember being issued their textbooks in grade school year after year. Decades old charts and graphs accompanied by the occasional pencil drawing have been standard issue for generations. Currently the textbook business is a $4 billion-a-year industry; however, with dawn of new technologies and new insight into their true effectiveness, paper textbooks are on the fast track to possible extinction.
The trend is deeper than one may think. According to Beverlee Jobrack's new book, "Tyranny of the Textbook," textbooks as we know them today are not just easily outdated, but direct contributors to the country's mediocre education performance. As experts and policy makers strive to set higher standards and increase outcomes, it is the textbooks themselves that are holding students back. Jobrack claims that textbooks sell based on design and superficial features, not because they are based on the latest research on how children learn and how well they promote student achievement.
A former education publisher, Jobrack contends that with only three companies publishing 75% of the K-12 educational materials, there is little competition. "Those three companies are producing similar programs with the same instructional strategies, none of which require teachers to change their practices significantly." After spending her career trying to change the industry, Jobrack's new book seeks to provide insight and solutions in creating a system that works.
Complaining about textbooks is nothing new. School critics often point out the books' mistakes yielding embarrassing results. Just last year, a Virginia textbook falsely suggested thousands of African Americans fought willingly for the Confederacy. This and countless other stories of mistakes and agenda-pushing have become the norm in the industry.
With regard to the technology issue, the Obama administration recently set their sights on promoting digital content in lieu of traditional textbooks. Just last month, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski challenged schools and companies to get digital textbooks in students' hands within five years. The goal comes on the heels of Apple's announcement that they will start to sell electronic versions of a few standard high-school books for use on its iPad tablet.
Digital learning environments have been embraced in Florida, Idaho, Utah, and California, as well as in individual schools and districts such as Joplin, Missouri, where laptops replaced textbooks destroyed in a tornado. According to the 2011 AAE Membership Survey, member educators are supportive of the move. With 85% of AAE member teachers incorporating technology in their lesson plans at least some of the time; another 58% of survey respondents agree with a policy that would phase out textbooks with digital content, including interactive and adaptive multimedia. The practice could be an innovative solution to updating content and after the initial investment, prove to be lower cost.
Taking into account the AAE Scholarship and Grant program, the demand for implementing technology and innovative tablet computer hardware is increasing exponentially. Still, despite the push to phase out textbooks, the process will be a serious undertaking. With schools facing budget shortfalls and broadband issues, the investment to transition to digital content may take longer than expected.
What do you think about textbooks and the push for digital content?