Thursday, August 19, 2010

Of Course it’s Heavy; It’s My Textbook: Evolving Beyond the Book

Original post @ old blogging site.

For years I’ve kept a collection of supplemental textbooks in my classroom. I have an old Scott Foresman England in Literature classroom set of texts that’s at least thirty years old; indeed, it’s the first text from which I taught my first year of teaching. I’ve clung to this particular text because for reasons I really can’t explain, it’s a better textbook than subsequent one’s I’ve used. Most of the time these books sit on shelves gathering cobwebs and hiding gum wrappers students deposit behind them. I’ve kept them because, well, you just never know when they’ll come in handy.

At the end of last year I’d had enough of the classroom clutter and decided I need more space in my small room. Over time I’ve brought far more stuff in than I’ve removed. I needed to apply the first rule of closet organization to my classroom: If you buy something new, get rid of an old clothing item. I don’t do that, but still it’s a good rule! Also, I’ve been making room for comfortable reading areas in my room and building my library of YAL. I’ll be taking a recliner that I purchased at a yard sell to school this fall, so I’ll need to haul out more of the old books. I couldn’t go cold turkey so kept sets of ten of each.

When school starts in two weeks, I won’t be checking textbooks out to students; I won’t insist they bench-press their way to class lugging the massive tomes; I won’t assign many readings from the literature anthology; and I probably won’t assign any of the exercises in the book. I haven’t used these in years. My position regarding textbooks has evolved. Shelly Blake-Plock blogs at Edutopia (“Increase Student Engagement by Getting Rid of Textbooks”) about the harm textbook reliance does to student engagement and learning: students find textbooks boring; textbooks serve teachers better than they do students; textbooks are political with content dictated by political ideologies. Blake-Plock also offers alternatives that increase student learning, including links to MOMA and other Web 2.0 resources that invite students to use primary sources and compose their own questions for inquiry.

When students enter room B-14 on September 2, I’ll greet them by literally lifting a weight off their shoulders. I won’t check out the text because we’re evolving beyond the book.

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