Friday, 26 June 2009

Textbook publishers should get their comeuppance.

In his latest and well written post, Steve Taffee summarises his series of posts on the publisher/textbook situation.
As he puts it, "the textbook system is broken. There are too few publishers and those that exist are behaving badly:

  • textbooks cost too much.
  • teachers are often forced into adopting costly new versions with little additional benefit over the previous version.
  • the physical weight of textbooks is contributing to back problems among the students who must schlep them from class to class.
  • textbooks consume huge amount of natural resources in their production. Disposal of textbooks is not as easy as one may think."
Additionally, he writes that many textbooks are produced to be "teacher proof" - that is, whatever the quality of teacher, the student can revert to the textbook to learn. This "can constraint teacher creativity, discourage the exploration of the “teachable moment,” and serve as a nagging back-seat driver that second-guesses the judgment of the teacher as to what it or is not important. The textbook is what one is supposed to “cover” in a given course, and if you don’t make it all the way through, you have somehow failed yourself and your class. Who’s in charge here? You, or your textbook?"
This has been a long-held view about US teachers - they teach to a textbook and seldom stray from it. But if that is all that is available, there is very little room to manouver. UK teachers will often work from several textbooks so as to obtain the learning resource to match the syllabus or curriculum. So having to buy several textbooks for a particular course, perhaps to dip into now and again, is even worse.
Could textbook content be object orientated? You select the bits that you want? Just like Digital Learning Objects....
And why are textbooks so expensive? Why have they not been far more imaginative about how they can deliver the content required?
The textbook publishers are going to get their comeuppance. Just like the music publishing industry. They have fleeced education long enough and it is time to go open source on this.

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