Without a doubt I lambasted textbooks and publishers in my last post. Many of you may be wondering, if school districts stopped buying textbooks what teachers should use to teach. To the dismay of textbook publishers, I would suggest the solution is as simple as “open-source digital textbooks.” Just to be clear, I’m in no way advocating that we simply digitize textbooks… No I’m imagining something much, much more than digitizing the past.
I suspect that all over this great country, there are common conversations taking place lamenting the limitation of textbooks, yet feeling overwhelmed by the idea of taking on the task of creating all content at all grade levels etc.. The beauty is, there are literally hundreds of thousands of teachers in the United States alone. Collaboration is the key to designing meaningful, engaging, dynamic, digital learning opportunities.
What if teachers all over the country banded together to populate a web-resource that included teacher-vetted online articles, lesson plans, games, simulations, videos, or other interactive instructional content etc. that were all aligned to standards? What if this resource were created in a wiki-type environment, allowing open-editing by all members of the community? What if the framework for such a community embraced universal design principles and differentiated instruction practices.
I’m not advocating for districts to abandon all textbooks tomorrow. Rather, I’m suggesting that instead of spending another dime on uninspiring textbooks that are often loosely aligned to standards, that teachers could be ‘weaned’ off their textbook-dependence over time.
I can’t help but believe such an approach would not only be cost-effective for districts in the long-run, but more importantly, such an approach would provide a more engaging, relevant curriculum for kids. Furthermore, such an approach would require that teachers develop a deep understanding of the standards they are expected to teach. Unfortunately, a reader’s comment in last week’s post was spot on as he pointed out that stark reality that some teachers lack the knowledge necessary to be trusted with curriculum development decisions.
Final Note–The time has never been better for such a wide-spread approach to curriculum reform. The adoption of Common Core Standards by all but a handful of states, has created the perfect opportunity for collaboration to extend between and among states.