Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Do we really need textbooks?

It is the time of year that many districts are looking to replace or update textbooks. Many districts feel the need to continue to purchase textbooks, but I think we have reached the point in education where we should start to question the automatic renewal of textbooks. With the increasing use of the Internet, many textbooks are merely being used as a reference.

Here are a few questions to consider before expending money on textbooks:

Is it a wise use of educational funding to have a collection of textbooks on a shelf when they are rarely used?

Could that money have a greater impact if it were used to purchase or renew educational technology equipment?

Is there a sufficient supply of trade books in the school/classroom for students to develop the skills needed to use books as a resource?

Does the Internet provide appropriate resources for a particular content area or can resources for that content area only be found in a book?

Would the funds have a greater impact if targeted for professional development to meet the needs of teachers who have not yet had benefit of learning to teach with the Internet?

Here are some articles providing insight into this topic:



If the decision is still to purchase textbooks, take a close look at the online support materials that the textbook company provides. Are they quality resources or merely paper-pencil type activities that have been published online? I ran across this resource that organizes and links many online textbook related resources to help you with the process of evaluation:


Happy teaching and learning!


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We do need textbooks until there is a major "brain shift" to the use of technology as a tool and not as a means unto itself.I don;t know about you, buy where I am at, technology is still perceived as something to do AFTER the lesson.
Abandoning textbooks is truly a paradigm shift in education.
Paradigms are established habits, work practices, attitudes, values,
beliefs and expectations. When there is a paradigm shift, you change to a completely new set of rules. Change is very hard for some people. Change in the education world seems to be extremely difficult. If we look to history, we see that new ideas are often met with opposition and the ideas must go through stages before they are accepted into the mainstream.

It is important to note that those of us who embrace teaching and
learning with technology generally fall in to the category of
innovators and early adoptors. I think that we have made substantial progress with the early majority as well. However, there is still much work to be done to gain the support and acceptance of the late majority and the laggards.

(If these terms are new to you, they come from the Rogers model for
adoption of and diffusion of innovation. You can read more about this model at:

Here is some data from Mark Prensky that I believe really points to the need for abandoning traditional textbook-based instructional practices. It is taken from his now legendary writing entitled, "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants."


"Today's students -K through college- represent the first
generations to grow up with this new technology. They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. Today's average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV). Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives."

Given this information, will our students really be content merely
reading static information from a textbook?

We have to remember that if what we are doing is worthwhile, that
sometimes we must take some heat to defend it. If we teach with
passion and purpose, we can eventually make progress in changing those outdated views about education.

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