Thursday, July 30, 2009

No Textbooks?! Does it really matter?

It's been a while since I've posted anything here. I really need to go to bed, but a particular topic with my PLN (Personal Learning Network) on Twitter has kept me up tonight, so I figure I'll post while my own thoughts are fresh. The two posts that have helped stir my thoughts are by @kellyhines on her blog here and by @mbteach on her blog here.

All my teaching life, which goes back twenty plus years in one form or another, though I only have "eight" years of professional experience stretched out over that time, I have searched for a better way. I've always been project, inquiry based, hands-on oriented though I've not always had support for doing it that way. My major goal for my career is to teach the paperless math class that looks nothing like the way I experienced Algebra as a student OR a teacher. I say all of this because for me, just like it's not about the technology, I don't think it's about the textbook either. Textbooks are merely technology that happens to be 500 years old.

Whether you use a chalk board or an interactive white board; a textbook, a netbook, or a Kindle; paper and pencil with a slide rule and log table or graphing calculator, it's about the teaching. To paraphrase a former presidential candidate, "It's the teaching stupid." Are we trying to help students memorize content for testing purposes, or are we teaching them the love of learning, how to problem solve, and how to do it all collaboratively? Are we tapping into their passions and allowing THEM to create content of their own so that learning becomes something they own?

Even though the naysayers don't read my blog, I'll address them anyway. I know, it's always worked before. But let me ask the question, has it really? Or have students just been tolerant of it because they don't see any other options. I quote one of my former students
"I certainly remember with gratitude and recognition all the teachers that were
able to motivate me in some way rather than making the whole process seem like a
burden to get over with as quickly as possible. "

I hope I fall into the fondly remembered group for her.

This post has somewhat turned into a soap box, which was only part of my intent. For the yea-sayers out there, let's keep the conversation with our differing colleagues turned to what's best for the student - good teaching. Let's keep the conversation turned to the benefits of whatever tool or methodologies we use, not the tools themselves. Let's model honest reflection so they can see us change our own practices and prejudices when necessary. Let's focus on what really matters.

BTW, if you did not follow either of the links above, you really need to go back and do so. One will give some good ideas to implement, the other will give you food for thought about content ownership and control.