The future of textbooks

Using textbooks in the contemporary physics classroom

I follow Frank Noschese’s blog Action-Reaction because he records thoughtful reflections on his inquiry and non-cookie cutter teaching efforts. In his post about visualizing average velocity, he alludes (offhand) how textbooks are utilized in his classroom. I love it.

Uses of Textbooks:

Textbooks make wonderful reference tools. They provide well-worded explanations to revisit after the lesson is over. Using the teacher edition carefully can give great insights on how to structure learning, and provide ideas on differentiation for more students.

They can also provide good, stable blocks to hold up a table.

Why is this OK

To a good teacher, a textbook is one of many tools we can use to create meaningful learning experiences. Used creatively, a textbook brings images and enrichment opportunities. Teachers who proudly do NOT use a textbook are missing the point and missing out on a great resource.

In 1912, the textbook was an invaluable tool for education, for the following reasons:

  • students leaving the 1912 classroom with out skills in memorization and execution would not go on to be contributing members of society
  • teachers did not have the opportunities for ongoing education. Paying a teacher to leave on a 5 day trip to a far away college to continue learning every few years would be impractical.

Why we must do more than only textbooks today

The spinning pumps water from the well

You really have to grind the good out of people – it doesn’t just vanish quietly. Kids are attracted to the idea of accomplishing important things, and they only stop trying if they think that it’s unlikely that the effort will pay off. Using stale textbooks can grind people down.

It’s unlikely that teachers can give a world-class education using just a textbook these days. Their pedagogy may be good, but students are inspired by bigger audiences. Current events are presented freely in a myriad of media formats. The product of a lesson on torque can be more than just 20 problems repeating the concept. It can be creating a better water well for people in a far-away land.

In conclusion – Frank has done a great thing. A teacher must do miracles with limited resources. We should all use books, the internet, a student’s cell phone, relationships with other schools, private and commercial funding in creative ways to keep our students thinking, learning, and loving the entire process.


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