Saturday, 5 November 2016

Textbooks - not either or ... just a tool for teachers to use (or not)

I was scrolling through the many hundreds of tweets to come out of the 20+ new followers from Practical Pedagogies (of which much more in nearby posts) and came across a blog post on textbooks that included a familiar looking image.. two copies of the 'A' level book that was published in August this year, and represented two years of effort on the part of myself as editor and a large authoring team with decades of experience in both teaching and innovating in a range of school contexts...
It was written by Sam Blyth. She works for Canvas Learning Management System.
You can read it here.

It's called 'Beyond the textbook: inspiring the next generation'.
It includes these words:
For centuries the textbook has been the Primary learning tool in classrooms, but it’s universally agreed that even the most traditional institutions now need to deliver content in a way that better serves social, connected, millennials. I’ve seen first hand how harnessing technology to move ‘beyond the textbook’ can better engage and inspire students. Rather than ingesting often outdated material by rote - the ‘chalk and talk’ method
Universally agreed? - er, no...
'Chalk and talk' - who says chalk and talk goes with how you use texbooks
Deliver content - babies and post are delivered, not education... and the term 'content' is just plain wrong when used to describe the nuanced critical exploration of geographical themes, knowledge and concepts that go into the chapters I wrote in that textbook...


This bipolar - textbooks or digital argument forgets that textbooks are for most teachers facing a dramatic new specification change, the best way to reduce the dramatic workload that would be involved in resourcing a whole new 2 year course (at the same time as GCSEs have also changed...)
They are one resource that sit alongside a whole suite of digital support materials, and social media streams of additional content on blogs, Twitter and with Facebook networking and NING groups to connect the physical paper pages with live data... it's what I do every day in school - did I mention I also teach a full teaching timetable so am perhaps reasonably well qualified to talk about teaching and learning... I won't mention the shelf load of awards for innovative teaching I've been presented with by the pre-eminent geographical organisations, or the top ICT awards my school has won within the last year. My name is also on a forthcoming research paper exploring the use of Google Expeditions to improve the quality of student questioning... I'm about as techie and digital as it gets in geography...but I'm not prog, and I'm not trad... I'm just GeoBlogs - a teacher and geographer.

Had my textbooks not been pictured I wouldn't have bothered reading what is essentially an ad for the product that Canvas is trying to get into schools.

There is mention of AR, which is fun for a while, but I'm yet to see a whole 'A' Level Geography course available within AR that is proven to achieve better results than other teaching methods. The post also offers no specifics beyond a mention of Pokemon Go, which has already faded away .... and which in any case I was immediately involved in producing a Google Doc of guidance and ideas for teachers to use if they wanted to explore at the time it was all the rage...

Another quote from the piece:

Freedom from the textbook can also mean freedom from the classroom, allowing students to learn at their own pace, and in their own place.
Textbooks can be used outside of the classroom, and students can use them to learn at their own pace and in their own place - not all students have mobile devices, reliable internet and data plans, or the inclination to stare at a screen after a long day at school... they should be allowed to relax in the evenings. And to say that they can learn away from the school / classroom more effectively devalues the work that teachers do with students in the classroom as curriculum makers and highly qualified professionals. Plus, textbooks don't HAVE to be paper and ink... but that format is going to be around for a while yet.

I've spent the last few days at Practical Pedagogies working with over 200 educators. I was fortunate to see into Russel Tarr's classroom - he is one of the most innovative and digitally literate educators I have ever met. He has authored hundreds of digital tools, which are all free of charge for people to use around the world, and do you know what lines the shelves of his remarkably inspiring classroom? Textbooks... Hundreds of them... Which he uses to teach History... There's also a useful piece by David Rogers, who works with Microsoft and Google... and edits and write textbooks too.

One final point about that blog post. It featured an image of my textbooks. There was no credit given to the maker of that image. The image was made by Caroline Walton of Cambridge University Press, but her copyright on that image was not credited.

'Rant' over. Very uncharacteristic of me...
As you were....

Update
Innovate my School have been in touch and have amended the post.
The image has been changed to a more generic and anonymised one.
I've also had an apology from James at Innovate my School, which was good of him to get in touch and act so promptly.

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