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A call for a textbook purchasing moratorium

How’s this for stirring the pot? A call for a textbook purchasing moratorium: “We need a moratorium on textbook purchasing in this nation, and we need to utilize those funds instead to purchase laptop computers and digital curriculum materials for students and teachers.”
I can see the motivation behind Wesley Fryer’s statements – in spite of the prevalence of technology, very little has changed at the classroom level (though there are certainly significant activities by educators like Vicki Davis and Clarence Fisher that are challenging status quo). Fryer suggests that technology needs to replace pen and paper because “Education cannot and will not change in the basic, fundamental ways we need and should want it to change in the twenty-first century as long as textbooks, paper, and pencils continue to be the predominant technologies”. This requires a far more in-depth discussion of what should change and why it should (a topic I won’t get into here). I’m not convinced that technology is deterministic – i.e. that we must inexorably trudge the path down which it leads. The real call is one of systemic change – what needs to change to better prepare our students for tomorrow’s world? Technology will no doubt play a part, but I’m not convinced that it must correspondingly be the tool through which the change is enacted. There is growing interest (school 2.0, college 2.0, even enterprise 2.0), but the conversation is generally more focused on what we want to move away from than what we want to move toward. And, once we’ve decided what we want to become, we’re largely unclear on the tools and process that will enable us to become that vision. While I like blogs, wikis, and podcasts, they by themselves will not completely alter education.


  1. Vicki Davis wrote:

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have posted today about it! I think we need pen paper and technology — we need them all. I have a textbook for every class and heavily depend on technology.

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007 at 7:48 pm | Permalink
  2. Virginia Yonkers wrote:

    I don’t use textbooks in my classes as they are often outdated by the time I use them (in the fields of international communications and business). However, I do use text (non digital) in the form of journal articles and book chapters, especially for static concepts and a historical view of the subject. I find sometimes that supporters of “new technology” throw the baby out with the bath water, with the assumption that “new” is better than “old” and overlooking the fact that not everyone can and is willing to embrace the totally new.

    I start each class (as I am sure most good teachers do) with defining what I want to accomplish, what my students have coming into the class, and figuring out how to get from where they are to where I want them to be in the most effective way. Unfortunately, I see many new teachers given a text, and told to teach to the content in the book as this is how they will be evaluated. Perhaps this is what Fryer is trying to get at. Without that text as a crutch, teachers will not be forced into teaching to the text, and new teachers will need to look at where they need to go and how they will get there. The “cookbook” method of teaching will be more difficult to prescribe without the textbook.

    Thursday, August 23, 2007 at 7:45 am | Permalink
  3. “I’m not convinced that technology is deterministic – i.e. that we must inexorably trudge the path down which it leads.”

    You’re right. Current educational delivery may not be perfect, but it won’t be improved by putting the technogical cart before the systemic horse.

    Friday, August 24, 2007 at 5:57 am | Permalink