This article from the NY Times speaks to the need for textbooks and resources to be digital. The article refers to history textbooks which have identical language attributed to different authors:

Just how similar passages showed up in two books is a tale of how the largely obscure $4 billion a year world of elementary and high school textbook publishing often works, for these passages were not written by the named authors but by one or more uncredited writers. And while it is rare that the same language is used in different books, it is common for noted scholars to give their names to elementary and high school texts, lending prestige and marketing power, while lesser known writers have a hand in the books and their frequent revisions.

I’ve had numberous discussion over the past year about the use of wikipedia. South Africa’s curriculum is now entirely a wiki.

When I see numbers like $4 billion, it begs the question, “Is this the best way to spend our money?” So much of the great information available to us is free. For example, I wrote an article for ISTE regarding my beliefs on wikipedia and it exists for free. The same article is also available on Amazon for $5.95. That seems odd. Why would anyone pay when it’s available for free? The answer: many haven’t the time or know how to wade through sites/information finding the good stuff. While it certainly requires more work to determine credibility, that is exactly what we need to be teaching our students. Andy Carvin suggest to use wikipedia with 5th graders as a starting point and require them to prove the credibility of the article. This type of thinking is nothing new to many who read this site. We need to collect and share articles like these that begin to challenge the belief that the almighty print based publishers/gatekeepers are what we need to rely on for information.

So is this an issue of access? If that’s the case, textbooks make more sense. But imagine what $4 billion would buy. Let’s see 4 billion goes into $700….

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2 Responses to Let’s go digital

  1. Jim Cottrell says:

    I read the article mentioned above, “Are Wikis Worth the Time?” I’m not surprised that some librarians don’t like Wikis. Wikis and other digital resources could make librarians (keeper of the books) “book-free.”

    If librarians were bookless, I bet “going-digital” would really take off. Librarians would then focus on providing access to information and teaching how to finding accurate information (instead of pointing to the correct book)? I think librarians really love providing access to accurate information, but some times the print medium sidetracks them.

    Education is about learning and using information, this is where I feel digital solutions could surpass print solutions. Librarians as educators are in a position to be on the frontlines in the digital revolution. Do people promoting technology realize this?

  2. Wes, did you know that Darren alleges that the South African curriculum wiki is a fake? It’s not been put together by the South Africans…
    http://adifference.blogspot.com/2006/08/wont-be-fooled-again.html

    Tom Hoffman and Will R argue the point a bit, but Darren has a point in his response. Encourage you to read it!

    Take care,
    Miguel

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