Tuesday, July 27, 2010

To Textbook or Not to Textbook?

Nice conversation today on #edchat got me thinking about what (if any) textbooks teachers are deciding on for this year.

Are you using what's been your standard for a while? Looking for online alternatives? Are you mixing it up? Nixing textbooks altogether?

Comment away, I'd love to hear what's going on in your mind.


  1. I'm sad that I missed this #edchat because it sounds like a great conversation!

    We use textbooks for 9-11 graders in their history classes, but they are supplemented with primary source documents. The seniors who choose to take a history elective generally use collections of primary sources and debate guides (like Choosing Sides).

    For my Women's History class, they will use Miriam Schneir's "Feminism" texts which are collections of speeches and essays by women. I add to that book reviews, excerpts from feminist texts, journal articles, and monographs produced by wh scholars since the 1970s. Finally, I'll be asking them to subscribe to a feminist blog throughout the semester. No textbook, but certainly no dearth of reading!

  2. Advanced Physics we have Holt Physics, but I have been getting away from it more & more and just using the internet with projects (give them a list of things they need to be able to discuss) (but I need to do more/a better job of actual problem solving practice)

    Conceptual Physics Hewitt, we have more students this year, so I debated getting more books, but we did..but still doing more projects and using the Internet..I tell them what sections our project covers, but they really do not use the book unless I assign chapter problems

    Geometry..Half of our 10th grade State Standards are not in the textbook, so we just surf for info/examples/problems..tried to get them to create a class wiki with notes/examples (groups responsible for specific standards ; write our own "book"), but they did not do well with that, even when given lots of class time. Even when standards were book based & practice/assignments came from book/supplementals, they did not read the book

    It is like their learning style has gotten away from reading "books"
    They see the book as the place to get the HW problems (or the HW answers)

  3. We have textbooks for science, social studies, & math. I tend to not use the textbooks. A couple of years ago I actually dragged them out of my classroom (they were taking up a lot of space) & placed them in storage. At times I may grab a few to place on the shelf as a resource, depending on the topic we are exploring. I use a combination of picture books (& other books), internet, & video (including vodcasts).

    This year, despite standards, I am hoping to explore social big ideas in place of content big ideas. Which means the textbooks will stay in the closets, & the world will be their resource.

  4. I find the textbooks for my subject (geography) quickly become outdatted and so my classes and I refer more and more to electronic material for our learning. Today for instance we are making podcasts as revision tools and so are heading to the web to access images for their individual topics - it would be extremely difficult for a textbook to be able to provide that sort of learning opportunity. Not only that but the students are excited about what they are doing - and it's revision!!

  5. I've been thinking about this all summer. I really do not like our biology textbooks and am thinking about using the world as their resource, like Tracy stated. I just hope that my administrators don't go crazy because I plan on not using the textbook. I will keep a few in the classroom though for resources.

  6. I've never really taught a subject that could have a text book. The one year that I did (lang. arts), I used the text book as a guide but created most of my own resources and materials. The book seemed overwhelming and outdated. The things I created were timely and relevant to my students.

  7. Funny you blogged about it...

    This year, thanks to a years worth of following TeachPaperless, I am moving from the "traditional" text completely. I am getting ready to embrace the hypertext world from my United States history courses this upcoming year.

    I will be using two hypertexts for United States History that are available on the Interweb. I am very excited about the possibilities and the "non-static" format of this new text. We are constantly pushing for "reading across... the whatever" and we do not provide a format that our students read in. Even as textbooks go, they soon will be reading from whichever ereader wins out the market share.

    I will be keeping all abreast of the progress and reaction on my blog.

    Thanks Shelly, great food for thought!

  8. The textbooks that I have used in the past have been pretty generic and plain. I currently teach social studies. The information within the book is scattered and scarce. I have found that I veer away from the book a great deal. I attempt to find resources online to guide my teaching more than using a text. Which in itself can be a challenge for myself as well. I plan on starting up a blog for the teachers within my community to share their thoughts, ideas, and resources.

  9. I was using a textbook for a "Futures in Business" grade 9 class. It said that possibly "someday, consumers would use cards instead of cash"(meaning debit cards.Things move so quickly that it is unrealistic that a school could keep buying the new editions of texts, too expensive.

  10. I use a traditional textbook (actually, a customized mix of two separate textbooks) with my sophomores.

    My main text for my senior religion course is what I guess would be called a "trade paperback" rather than a formal textbook (Huston Smith's The World's Religions, though I may change to God is Not One next year). I wanted a good shared read for the students that would give them the depth it can be hard to find on websites, but I wanted something more interesting than a standard textbook--although, interestingly, I have had some students say they prefer the textbook I use occasionally to supplement. I think it's because they're looking for the facts, and the textbook is more straightforward about that. Sigh...

    I've thought it would be nice to do the same sort of "trade paperback" thing with history classes, too, though I haven't found a suitable book yet. I don't have a problem with books per se--in fact, I think they're good sources--but textbooks can't be called engaging by any stretch of the imagination.

  11. I've found that in ESL classes, using a textbook as a background guide can be helpful for planning out grammar units. Usually I start out the year with a plan and then other things come up. In the end I usually just draw from websites, a collection of books, students' experiences, current events (local and world), students' interests and common grammatical challenges my students are working through. I love that a textbook has a plan that I could technically follow, but teaching is so much messier and full of unexpected things that I can never rely on one. It keeps it exciting and keeps me on my toes all year long.

  12. It's hard to imagine that the concept of a textbook would disappear, although we fully expect books to morph to better accommodate user needs. At CLRN, we've been reviewing digital textbooks for K-12 for the past year. While the first two phases of the initiative have been limited to PDF or EPUB files, mostly an electronic version of a flat, linear paper textbook, phase three, which we'll announce next week, will walk through the door that's been opened for us and proceed into online, interactive "textbooks" and soon into e-learning. Current digital textbook reviews are posted on our site, clrn.org

  13. I have a similar relationship as Robyn for planning my Spanish lessons. We have a traditional textbook - which happens to be 10+ years old. I use it for planning purposes/ outlining grammar and vocab units for the year. When it comes to teaching I rely on online resources. Last year I never passed out the textbook to the 6th grade students, we had a class set which they used 3 times.
    If I can't find something to fit the instructional needs, I create it. Luckily in my department most people share resources, so that saves some time. For this year I am considering creating a digital resource, to function in place of a textbook. I could create it through LiveBinders, WikiBooks, or another site entirely.

  14. @Brian Bridges - very exciting you are moving towards interactive digital textbooks. I've read through the findings of CLRN and am sad it is only for Science and Math. There are limited free/open options in other subjects, especially since there is not a strong bargaining force.

    I've been researching digital textbooks for a graduate class. Those produced by the same companies as traditional textbooks are giving the idea, the potential a image. The majority of the digital textbooks that par with paper versions have a license that expires. So after a semester of study, the book can not be accessed any more. So there is no resale value, and the students would not have saved much when they purchased. The major publishers charge $60-$100+ for the digital copy.

  15. It's university level, but I don't use books at all, much less textbooks. In fact, in part thanks to this blog, we don't use paper at all.

    The problem with any textbook or research anthology is that it forces choices which neither I, nor my students, may want to make. Plus they're a crutch I don't want to lean on.

    So we use our university's library, with its millions of journal articles, and we use news articles, and we use blogs. We go to the sources of disparate ideas.

    I think that's the idea of education.

    - Ira Socol

  16. I use a textbook with my sixth grade math class, but don't use one with my high school class. I'm teaching a geography class this year, and bought one for me as a guide. I'll bring it in for the kids to use as a reference. I run my class on Moodle, so it's very easy to add resources. My classroom is also the library (I'm the librarian in my spare time), so I also have print resources. It's easier than ever to find teaching resources, so that's what I do.

  17. We have textbooks but unfortunately we don't use them anymore. Most of them are outdated already and has a lot of typos. We often just give printed version for the book in case the sources are online. We ask the students to present an article they found online once a day to help them be better ditigal citizens.

  18. About ten years ago we had a Science adoption for grades 6-12. Yeah right. Most of our middle school budget from the adoption went to textbooks and a little to lab equipment to use with the textbook accompanying labs. We got big, $50/book Prentice Hall Physical and Earth Science plus Glencoe Life Science textbooks. The idea, at the time, was to have a class set and enough books to go home with each student. That never did work out. Sad to say I was on the committee. I read through different Earth Science texts before choosing the Prentice Hall. Another teacher chose the other two. The Earth and Life Science books are pretty good as textbooks go. The Physical Science textbook was way above middle school level and I don't know why it was chosen.

    I tried to use the Earth Science and the Life Science textbooks over the years. Each year I'd use them less and less until the last couple of years I've had the books in my room as a resource. Funny though, no one ever uses them. :)

    I have enough computers to do all of our research online. I find websites for my students as well as have students search for their own resources. They find great stuff.

    Then there are Science kits like FOSS and STC/MS. The books that come with those kits are quite useful. I often have students go through the labs, step by step, for convenience and to have them learn specific content. For some of the labs in the kit I have students go through the process on their own without access to the books so they practice coming up with their own questions and designing their own labs to answer the questions or solve a problem. I prefer kits because the textbooks are only one piece of equipment and not the center or main thing. If I had only known that ten years ago!

  19. I have a question rather than a comment. I am a high school choir teacher who is sick and tired of handing out original octavos only to have students thrash them. I've tried photocopying music for them but therein lies an enormous use/waste of paper. Does anyone have suggestions for ways to go paperless in a choir class where the paper is almost exclusively printed music?

  20. In the 4 years of having a 1-1 laptop program, I have slowly fazed out the use of my textbooks in the US History class I teach. We use them maybe once a week, and in some units not at all. I like having them to help me gauge what info is covered in standardized tests and for review of information.
    In my World Cultures class for seniors we have gotten rid of the book completely...in terms of world events, politics, and geography things change too quickly. I have been able to supplement with great online resources. We use BBC constantly for Country profiles and current events.


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