Reflections on #edchat: Tech vs. textbook

This weeks #edchat 12noon/6pm CET discussion was titled “Should we save money in education by exchanging textbooks for the internet for authentic learning. I was asked to write the summary for the edchat discussion, and decided to wait to post my reflection until after that was done.

Initial thoughts on this were: Yes, please. But, as so often, there was more. As an impulsive person, I usually get quite passionate about something, but I know I need time to think to really express my opinion.

Technology is great, it has enriched my personal and professional life in so many ways. I enjoy using technology in the classroom, but for me this is a given. If children don’t use a computer for anything other than Paint and Word, something is not “up-to-date”. I like to use the internet, and information literacy is an important part of that. But, and this was brought up quite a bit during this #edchat discussion, not everyone is like that. Not every teacher is ready to sign up to Twitter and engage in an hour-long 140 character, fast-paced discussion. Of course not, learning styles vary. But there are other ways too!
So, the argument that some teachers would be out of their comfort zone to give up a textbook and the idea of exploring, evaluating and collaborating would be dismissed by them….. I think not. I know, some people are like that, people are people, we can be defensive about something we feel uncomfortable with. Some more so than others. But, as with our students, every learner has their own way, and we should encourage them to take risks, so matter how they react at first.

Other thoughts that were brought up were:

  • Textbooks are outdated too quickly
  • Textbooks only represent one perspective
  • Technology is not accessible to all in the same way
  • Children need to be taught how to think critically when researching online (information literacy)

And, a point that I personally found very VERY important:

  • The resource is important, not the tool (which can be technology, or textbook

For me, this can be linked to some of my comments during this discussion:

  • Just because something is online, does not mean it is better than a textbook (some publishers put textbook content on their websites, including some workbook content, get a neat programmer to add some animations or similar, and sell it as their interactive content. For me, this is a FARCE! The content, and as such, the resource stays the same, but the tool changes. Same goes for ebooks!
  • There is more to the discussion than technology or textbook. People and places are amazing resources too. And while these can be accessed in person (if possible) or virtually (neat! Streetview, Skype, SecondLife), they provide other perspectives, require different skills and are much more engaging than some books.

The last point goes back to the why and how of learning in schools. When we have definite answers to that, then we can choose engaging and authentic resources. In some of my units, people were a much more valuable and authentic resource than any book could have ever been. Seeing the marble caves of Carrara, then seeing marble processed in Pietrasanta, including a little workshop, to seeing Michelangelo’s David in Florence…. an indescribable experience. And with technology  growing, this could possibly be accessible to children all over the world at one point.

Lastly, there was something that I became aware of during this discussion, that I would like to change in my practice. I have my PLN, I use Nings, Skype, Twitter, and other sources to collaborate with people around the world. But I have not encouraged my students to do so.
Luckily, yesterday I was able to step into an Elluminate presentation by Julie Lindsay (@julielindsay) and Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) about their Flat Classroom projects. Looking at the five steps to a flat classroom, I found myself merely at the first one, with intra-connectiveness between students in the class. Unfortunately, at primary level, the movement is a bit slower. So I look forward to seeing how their projects within the primary environment will come along this year.

As always, #edchat is an amazing experience, and I always connect with new people from around the world. It is eye- and mind-opening and I look forward to next week’s discussion as well.  In the meantime, you have the chance to join the #elemchat discussion on Twitter at 11 pm CET (Berlin) and the first online, and FREE Reform Symposium, which is happening this weekend!

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2 thoughts on “Reflections on #edchat: Tech vs. textbook

  1. I attended a few sessions of the 3-day #RSCON10 Reform Symposium and noticed repeated discussion about textbooks. As these educators were meeting virtually, and some have solid experience in teaching without textbooks, I thought it was quite natural for the sentiment in that group to point towards the tree-saving technology.

    There must be choice and respect for teachers who trust their textbook teaching methods better and for students and parents who agree. If we open the system to allow choice – teachers select their method, and students select their teachers, method included, there might be a logistics nightmare for a while. We may need to re-distribute teachers who wish to work at either “tree-schools” or at “web-schools”, and give students and parents a wider district choice.

    With all this experimentation in education anyway, we can risk a few years to see which way works out well.

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