Monday, October 14, 2013

Warning textbook danger ahead

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /
This past week my students have been reading and discussing the impact of digital technology on the way we know and learn. After reading Wendy Drexler's article called the Networked Student, text books as an authoritative source were compared with the variable quality of resources found on the internet.

In my opinion text books are a major threat to learning in the digital age.

Let me compare text books with another danger, wholeheartedly embraced in education: internet filtering.


Textbooks are reliable sources of information.
Filters prevent age inappropriate content from being seen by minors.

False sense of confidence
Textbooks and internet filtering give teachers (and students) a false sense of confidence that what will reach the student is of good quality and safe. There is little evidence to suggest that this is true.  Though your school library may be very current, and your text books selected by even-handed people who share your values, this is not the case nationally. And how do we explain the "authority" of book publishers to our students so that we are saying more than "trust me." We need to teach learners to use AND evaluate all sources of information. We need to give them tools to identify currency, shared agreement, bias, blatant inaccuracy...

Contain or teach
We live in a new era in which many feel that digital information is overwhelming us. Is this a minor blip on our timeline? Is this tide of content showing signs of ebbing? No, this is the new reality.  We all need to be filters of internet content. As educators we need to give learners the tools to make conscious decisions about how they use their time on the internet, which sources will help them and what to do when they land somewhere they don't want to be.

I am not saying that school purchased reference books should not be used. I am not saying that students should spend school time looking at sexual content. I am saying that students need the personal skills and confidence in school and out to evaluate and filter the content they use, regardless of its source.

1 comment:

Judy Hayward said...

Jane, one of the other disequilibrium moments was not having a text book for our class. I have moved beyond that and am really enjoying the articles, chapter,and videos you have provided for the course. I kept having that feeling that if I just had a textbook, i would be able to read it all, and know what was coming!!! Your blog is good food for thought. Maybe having a textbook is crutch.... Judy