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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to Beverlee Jobrack's new book, "Tyranny of the Textbook," textbooks as we know them today are not just easily outdated, but direct contributors to the country's mediocre education performance.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?
Comment below.

Comments (3)Add Comment
Mother of two
written by Marie, North Carolina, January 16, 2013

While I see the need for technology in the classroom, with keeping up with the ever changing world in which we live in. I feel the way in which our children learn now is leaving a little more to be desired. I have a 15 yr old who is a sophmore in an early college high school, a 5 yr program in which high school classes and college are combined. Where kids excel far beyond those in regular high schools. My daughter has a GPA of 4.57 far ahead of alot of the kids in regular high school. Academics are the focus of her school. No sports, no extra activities all academics. My daughter has college textbooks and laptops for high school work. She only uses laptops and they work in groups of 3 or so most of the time, unless she is going to a college class. She has a remarkable record the last two years. She is working towards her Associates in Science Degree, along with graduating H.S. at 5 yrs. Technology is probably the key for advancement in todays young minds. Kids hate books and dragging them around. They look at black and white pages and are so easily destracted and their eyes wander off the pages. With a laptop they have to actually move something with their hands, to read and are more focused on the computer or tablet. With all the action from video games, computers and numerous channels on the t.v. now, kids get bored with books. So we as parents and teachers need to do something to get them wanting to learn and the schools that are having the most success with its students are those schools putting the laptop in their classrooms and or tablets. It gives a young child or a preteen a sense of being proud to go around and say hey I got a laptop to do my work on. They do learn on them. My child is living proof that technology works. My son is also proof at 11 years old and his school with no laptop technology in his classroom or rooms at his school that not having technology hurts. 78% rating last yr. on end of the year grading. Not good in my eyes. He luckily will be off to 6th grade next year where laptops are in the middle schools. He has a good grade average but with technology tools he could have been better. I wished that every school could have a program like my daughters. It is not the typical classroom setting either. Kids get to sit in the halls and work together and help each other and to some them talking and sitting in the halls is unruly, but I'll be the first to tell you that the top ten GPA scores came from the early college high school in my county. They are on the track to learning and doing something wonderful with our young children of tomorrow. Our childrens future is in our hands, we need to care about that and work together as one to ensure that we do the very best for our children and their futures.
written by Suzanne Cornell -- Incline Village, NV, March 11, 2012

While I agree that to rely on faulty or simplistic content material in textbooks is lazy teaching, the fact is we need to recognize that students reading scores are dropping, we must teach increasingly to standardized testing within departments and school districts, and that colleges and universities still rely on text-based learning. How do we prepare students for lectures and text-based content without teaching them reading strategies and study skills from the text? Before we throw the baby out with the bath water perhaps we should recognize the shortcomings inherent in course textbooks while understanding the uses they serve.
written by Kelly Texas, March 01, 2012

I think this is the next step in technology in the classroom, and in my opinion it has taken far too long to move towards this in most school districts.

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