Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why looking at textbooks does not excite me...

Read this great article from a former teacher turned editor for a publishing company here.

The problem with books:
  • They use a lot of resources
  • They are devoid of anything really meaningful. Better stories and context can be found online. The basic information can also be found there too.
  • There are so many errors in textbooks. Last year I researched our biology book and was amazed at the errors I discussed here. I have never been one to use the book exclusively. Prior to receiving a laptop cart in my room, students often asked whether they needed to bring it as they hardly ever used it.
  • The materials that come with book adoption have generally not been used exclusively by me either.
When it comes down to finances and resources, what would be a better choice? I understand the arguments for having books and the class set I have in my classroom has been used from time to time (students always have the right to sign a book out.) I would adopt a textbook that has an online component for the following reasons:
  1. We adopt books every 7 years or so. Before we get the books they are already out of date in terms of information. Having an online option means that it is updated more frequently. students have access to the online portion.
  2. The simulations in some of these online portions are actually quite good.
  3. Online activities also have information checks for understanding.
I do like the idea in the article about thin little books that contain the important related information. As we look at books, I am interested to see what publishers gimmick to sell their wares.

What are your thoughts about the current state of publishing and textbooks in any subject area?


  1. I teach English, so I have had this conversation with colleagues because I wonder why we buy English textbooks instead of simply spending that money on complete sets of novels, some essay, short story, and poetry anthologies, and something (either a book or piece of technology) that will contribute to writing and grammar.

    The response I usually get is something along the lines of how books come with ancillary materials that help with test prep.

    And yes, I have used those materials, but mostly for sub plans.

    It's all a big racket -- testing companies make money off of the schools and the textbook companies do their best to create books that align themselves to those tests so that the school districts will be impressed.

  2. Agreed. And many have stated that it is aligned with the standards. Unfortunately, I am going to have to play the game I suspect. And this is really not a by-product of my new age, tech philosophy. I hardly used the book to begin with and did not use any of the ancillary material (except the online textbook/simulations.) If the racket could be broken, we really could liberate education that would serve students much better instead of helping CEO's with little vested interest in each and every child.

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