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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Saturday Education Discussion: 21st Century Skills: Is the textbook obsolete?

For years we heard the cry of "Get back to the basics! Them there kids don't need nothin' more than the three R's." Literally, these are old school parents asking to go back to the three R's and nothing else. However, in the 21st century, the basics are not enough. As teachers, we would be committing malpractice if we only taught the basics. Our students need a global multi-faceted perspective in order to enable them to search for answers in our information saturated world.

 As a teacher, I don't simply spit out information for my students to memorize. I facilitate learning as a "coach". It is my job to help my students blast a hole through the mountains of educational objectives so they can create their own path of knowledge. Is the answer adding tablets to the classroom, so students can get answers on demand? I think tablets in education would help. I maintain that the textbook industry is the single biggest existing rip-off of tax monies. 

Not only does each book cost upwards of $80.00, textbooks today are heavy. Students will not carry them from class to class, especially in a school the size of mine. (2,600 students) Publishers also change their books frequently so that current editions become obsolete in only a few years. Administrators find it very difficult to replace their lost or damaged books with the same edition because some of the books mysteriously disappear from the world.

Rather than a book, students should be issued a tablet, or if able, purchase their own. Maybe then we would no longer need a "textbook". No single text in English is perfect nor does it cover all of the concepts I need to share.

 In Language Arts, we would be much better off with site licenses to banks of literature and lesson planning sites. I do not have a grammar book, yet I am still able to teach important grammatical concepts. I am able to coach students by creating my own materials or surfing free sites on the Internet. In a large district similar to where I work, it is still necessary to have a plan, a course map, so that we are not overlapping materials unnecessarily.

 I am fortunate that I already have a SmartBoard. It has plenty of bells and whistles that I don't always use, but I do use it every day to share information that our textbooks don't cover. Our kids are becoming adept at searching the Internet for answers.

 According to a Pew research study, the way teens process memory is different today. We have so much information to learn and know, that we tend to process information similar to the way hyperlinks work. A word leads us to an idea that we may vaguely remember, but may not have committed to long term memory. However, we now have the opportunity to seek instant answers.

 Though I dislike the fact that students are equally as distracted by their smart phones during class as they are their peers, sometimes they can be useful. Just yesterday in my class, my students were using their smart phones for information about leaders who have dealt with adversity. They couldn't access the information instantly, from memory, but they did have the ability to quickly process information into a search term. They had instant access to the information without having to pick up and move to a computer lab.

 The only caveat to allowing tablets in school is that teachers need to be able to turn off the Internet when needed.


  1. Hi Sandy, I’m Anne from Life on the Funny Farm (

    I think you're right here, the tablet is the way to go. More up to date, and cheaper in the long run.
    Thanks for linking this up with the MMM!