For a science fiction look at textbooks, read about The Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer in The Diamond Age and Ender’s desk in Ender’s Game. If you have other suggestions, please comment.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Tom Whitby, wrote a blog article, We Don’t Need No Stink’n Textbooks. I agree with his position, and was especially impressed with the list of components he compiled from Discovery Education’s Beyond the Textbook Forum.
Responding to Tom’s title, though, I am growing less unhappy with calling it a textbook. After all, we seem to have no problem calling the device I’m writing this on, something that only a few years ago would have referred, almost exclusively, to “a number of sheets of writing paper, fastened together at one edge.”
So, granting myself permission to call it a textbook, what do I think today’s textbook should be?
Today’s textbook should:
- Be a Companion (Mobile) – The student’s textbook should never weigh more than half that of a human brain (about 3 lb.). It should be as easy to ask, as the person sitting next to you –and through it, the reader should be able to ask the person sitting in the next room, on the next continent or a radio telescope in Australia.
- Be an Encyclopedia Galactica1 (Comprehensive and Cross-disciplined) – The textbook should provide content in a variety of formats (text, images, audio, video, animation), selectable by the reader. It can be drilled into for deeper exploration, and issues of special interest to the reader will trigger seamless bleed-throughs from other disciplines (literature, mathematics, science, the social studies, health, etc.) – No seams! No walls! No boundaries!
- Be a Player (Responsive & Playful) – The textbook should be active and interactive. It both reflects and magnifies the learner, the teacher, and their world – and it adapts to its interactions with each. It does not respond with a “right” or a “wrong.” Instead, it causes the reader to say, “that worked” or “that didn’t work.” The textbook will also contrive long-term narrative-puzzles that reach other readers, building communities of mutual concern. Embedded in each textbook are hidden clues that can be exposed through the productive use of the book and shared with other members of the community – the combination of which solve the puzzle.
- Be a Sandbox (Constructable & Elastic) – The textbook is totally stackable. Both teacher and learner (to age appropriate degrees) can remove elements, insert elements, re-sequence, edit and even hack elements. The textbook will edit itself based on changes reader interest and the changing dynamic global information environment.
- Be Provocative (fueled by questions) – The textbook should tactically and strategically leave things out. It provokes questions, the answers of which provide mortar for the personal and participatory construction and reconstruction of the book. It is always broken and always fixable, and the rules belong to the reader.
- Be a Journal (Turn the Learner Outward) – The textbook will require the reader to observe, interact with, reflect on and work her personal environment. The reader will talk to people, use a hammer, play a game for fun, explore a forest, and become skilled at something that does not require a computer interface. She will report her experiences in a digital journal, which the textbook will productively adapt to, creating richer relevance for the learner.
- Be a Personal Badge (Identity-builder) – There is an element of the textbook that is public, continually and cooperatively refined by the teacher, the reader, and reader’s family. It is a demonstration of what the reader has learned, what she can do with what she’s learned, and what she cares about.
- Never be turned in (Grown into a personal digital library) – The textbook grows, year after year, with new elements added, old ones edited or deleted, and continuously curated – the ongoing and ultimate goal being the construction of a personal and lifelong digital library.
That’s two more cents worth!
…Posted using BlogsyApp from my iPad
- Wikipedia contributors. “Encyclopedia Galactica.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. [↩]
About the Author: 35 year educator, programmer, author, and public speaker. Read more from this author