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Taking Spring Textbook Walk! Or Not?

Posted by on in Education Leadership
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Textbooks: How old are yours?

Take a Spring Textbook Walk. Or, Not!

Is this the end of the 35 pound backpack, stuffed lockers and extinction of textbooks?

One School was in the news this past year. Apparently, the administration, Principal and Assistant Principal ordered a round up of all the textbooks in the school, piled them up and away they went. They were believers in no textbooks, better use of technology. Not all teachers and students were too thrilled because they were not ready for such a drastic change, with no input or warning.

I just discovered our local School District is upgrading elementary and high school science curriculum and corresponding materials. Would you believe it's been 19 years since an update? 

I was shocked to learn the district had not upgraded science curriculum for more than a decade. I guess I shouldn't be. I seriously doubt your school has all new curricula for all grades, subjects, all new textbooks. How about ipads, tablets and laptops for all students?

Textbooks? So expensive, may be biased, or not, already dated by the time they are in students' hands. Heavy as heck, so redundant. All those giant high school books could probably be whacked in half with proper editing. Texbook dollars could be redirected to new technologies.

And if there are multiple authors, it's not so easy to determine the author's writing pattern. With one author, the writing pattern provides easily recognizable, emphasis at top, middle, end or repeated. And plan to have the books for a number of years, dog-eared and worn. Inevitable.

Obviously it's fantastic news that our new local approval means an addition of earth science, overdue updates and I imagine a ton of revisions. Maybe Pluto will reappear. More in-depth, targeted science instruction. NGSS- Next Generation Science Standards to meet. Real life science as focal point. STEM.

High school version costs nearly $600,000, paid by a bond. Materials included in the new curricula include combinations of traditional texts, online resource subscriptions, tech support materials, professional development etc. Seems like a great combination.

I served as a Curriculum Developer and Consultant for many years at County Office and State levels. Involved in adoptions, the multi-faceted layers of point-counterpoint took eons and was extremely frustrating at times. Getting to Yes. 

It is always critically important that all stakeholders have voices heard. Time. When the future is now, it's really iffy. Are we simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic? Will traditional physical textbooks hang around much longer? Will digital learning completely replace 'old school' textbooks?

Educational leaders have to be smarter consumers of information than ever before. Digital learning materials are here to stay, and flourish. My bet is textbook publishers will stay in the game, profiting off a new wave of cutting edge interactive software.

Time, money, in short supply. Mastery of current, relevant content specific, engineering (STEM) and "cross cutting" concepts, mandated core knowledge with opportunity for electives. I see students better prepared for college or career.  

In an era of 'building capacity', while 'working lean', this never ending debate whether to use textbooks, "Ditch the books", may be at the forefront of our new learning. 

Afterall, apps and websites are consistently and continually updated. Textbooks, old as the hills the minute they are printed. Might as well "Hey, Siri", or hit any search buttons. Wikipedia. 

In today's local story, the State Dept. of Education adopted new science standards in '14. Here we are three years later, biology to be added in another year. The prep work that was done was plentiful. Teachers field tested, publishers did their usual, no different now than when I first was Principal. 

Why we need to keep textbooks, or do we?

1. How current are your textbooks?

2. Are there enough books for all students?

3. Do textbooks stay in classrooms or go home for homework?

4. Heavy to haul around? Have enough lockers?

2. How many teachers are proponents of skipping textbooks entirely, using tech and online resources?

3. Are staff members believers in "Ditchtext"?

4. What is your opinion about using textbooks or ditching books entirely?

If you are a proponent of keeping and actively using textbooks, what do you say to teachers who skip books?

Are you currently involved in textbook adoption?

Sharing a few articles with differing viewpoints about info-texts, and "'ditching textbooks'" which may mean two things, as I understand it.

One is the complete tossing out of books, in favor of technology. Mind you, I am fairly new to the world of tech. I still have my mac tutor occasionally and truly, our Kinder is teaching me how to use new-to-me features on my phone.

I was raised with, and used only textbooks. I love learning about Google docs, Kahoot, Blind Kahoot. (Seesaw!) Amazing, students can do Podcasts, Google-based research papers and more up-to-date reports with such precision, working in all kinds of team situations. Critical thinkers. Mindful learners with intention.

Raised with technology, students have a distinct advantage. Catching up is way harder and like rolling the wheel up the hill. Our Kinder is already learning coding and she goes to a technology-based school.

 So I am not writing as expert of tech. Expert on textbooks, yes. And today, reconsidering what I have always thought about the importance of the physical textbook for kids.

More relevant, creative lessons are what we all talk about. I see a natural evolution, if not revolution against the use of textbooks. We need to listen to teachers.

Real-life, project based, both teacher and student initiated lessons may be of greater interest and definitely student-centered. Mindful, purposeful teaching.Think Dewey. Reflect on Bloom's, with questions as the center of discovery. 

Truthfully, I can't imagine any teachers doing only direct instruction, solely lecture-based, textbook-centered, no matter how excellent, anymore. My ideal is blended learning, inquiry anything, project based learning, high interest, high tech, real-world, useful everything learning. Teacher on the side works perfectly for me, orchestrating a symphony of flow state. Whatever works, just do it. 

Discussions of room arrangements, flexible seating, concepts of homework and grades, nothing new here. Now textbooks, that greatly concerns me. Using old books certainly cannot advance our children to world class standards.

Throw poverty, lack of internet access into the mix, shortage of funds. What a challenge. And then we talk about Finland, for goodness sakes. Textbooks cost a lot of money that could be used for other purposes, maybe.

Teachers supplying materials and resources out of pocket, scrounging for donations for classroom tech, dealing with large class sizes. Meeting needs, differentiating everything. Giant textbooks, out of date. Our children deserve better to meet world class standards. 

Let's take a look at a couple of interesting articles about textbooks in today's future-paced world.

Ok, you pirates with capes on, Google search "Ditch That Textbook", especially by Matt Miller and Dave Burgess. Probably all you need to know about why and how-to, if that's where you are going in your thinking. 

If you are using textbooks, as base or adjunct to your instruction.

1. Why use textbooks?

2. Launching off point. 

3. Excellent for new teachers, in most cases. 

4. Builds schema, or background knowledge. 

5. Offers a chronological sequence, or roadmap for course syllabus. 

6. Students may not have internet access at home and textbooks become invaluable. 

7. Advantages and disadvantages and how to overcome.

There is no reason why textbooks can't be used in conjunction with digital learning. Blended learning is best example, with textbooks as an adjunct print resource to open source and other digital platforms. 

I'd love to hear from you about this timely topic.

Today I thank you all for your devotion to the best education possible for all students, with or without textbooks.

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita

 

 

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Modeling the art and craft of teaching reading for 46 years, Mrs. Wirtz taught language arts, speech and reading at all levels preschool-adult, including penal. She served as Pre-school and K-6 Principal. Rita was also a Curriculum Consultant, ESEA, Title I Program Evaluator and literacy trainer. At the university level she taught school administration in the Bilingual Cohort at CSUS and National University, Sacto. Mrs. Wirtz also taught all reading courses for Chapman University for many years in Sacramento and Placerville, Ca., and mentored student teachers. On the national level she was a well known motivational Keynote Speaker and Seminar Leader. Most importantly, Rita walked the talk, teaching with teachers in more than 500 K-12 and special needs classrooms. Rita authored books, publications and Pre- YouTube, videos were filmed by San Diego County Office of Education. Calif. ASCD authored companion book guides, and Calif. school districts correlated her basic skills instruction with State Standards. Mrs. Wirtz' newest book is Reading Champs! Teaching Reading Made Easy, a review of the basic building blocks of English and Reading. Rita is currently teaching in a multi-age, fully incuded preschool, ages 2-8. Find Mrs. Wirtz on Twitter @RitaWirtz, Facebook and website- www.ritawirtz.com.

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Guest Thursday, 21 September 2017