Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Morning discussions on digital content, textbooks, & learning

These are my notes from our initial morning discussions on March 19, 2012, at the “Beyond the Textbook” forum in Washington D.C. Participants are included on this Twitter list. Follow these continuing discussions with the Twitter hashtag #beyondthetextbook. See my post from earlier today, “Required Reading for #beyondthetextbook” for more background.


what should digital textbooks be ideally?
ground this in reality: what can we do today & tomorrow

djakes: We’ve had all the vendors in so far
– it’s a new way of doing an old thing
– I want this to be a portal, a platform, that takes us to a different place
– what do you want learning to look like?

worst case textbook: PDF version of print textbooks

Angela: start with why
– textbook’s “why” was to deliver content for consumption

Mary Beth:
Who creates the dialog around the textbook?
– Textbook companies are now, so the conversation is around the old forms

If we can’t afford it, and teachers’ can’t access it, it doesn’t matter
– we can’t afford anything Apple offers
– B&N doesn’t have anything for us

dwarlick: had same reservations about iPad as a consumption device
– have been playing with iBooks author: impressed with things I can do bringing desktop widgets into a digital book
– I like the term ‘platform’ for the ‘new textbook’

jbecker: iBooks
– look at Utah where they are pushing OER idea
– that is the equity solution
– the state said we’re moving to OER, moving away from commercial driven textbook industry

Richard B:
– Maine tried to look at OER a few years ago

My thought: what are our assumptions about platform and connectivity?
– Bud Hut says: separate content and delivery
– I’m thinking 3 elements in a framework to discuss digital textbooks/curriculum: content, delivery, and interaction

Tom W: poverty is a huge issue
– how to deliver textbooks is one topic
– what textbooks look like

Angela M: recommends 15 min video on district that has all digital textbook

Students aren’t using many of the textbooks

My thought: we should ask every school to share “their list” of digital curriculum sources they are paying for NOW, and

– licensing is key for content sharing (ease with which we can get to fair use exemptions and know how to get there, how it is packaged)
– it can be hard to package CC licensed materials with
– licensing defines sharing in this space

– process is key: how is content taken from these spaces and remixed
– also how students can develop
– expertise is not dead
– the text is different than the textbook
– textbook is an authoritative work
– need to preserve some of that authority, but allow students to develop their own authority as they work
– understand how expertise and authority is created

David J:
– Life on Earth: 50 chapter book by EO Wilson
– BioBook by Gates Foundation built on Moodle Platform, allows teachers to select from a pool of chapters

Jon B:
– we have more access to more experts than ever before
– Discovery could help create and be the center of a digital hub of experts

Mary Beth:
– how can we get a way from textbooks that are curated by just 1 person or a small group

Tom W:
– how do digital portfolios fit into this conversation?

Angela: Big History Project is a TED talk and good to look at

Another video recommended by Angela: Matt Federoff: The Open Content Revolution

Dean S:
– tension between curriculum and learning?

David J quoting David W:
– scarcity defined the age when the original textbook was conceived
– the word ‘textbook’ bothers me
– it’s no longer about just content: skills, habits of the mind, experiences which create dispositions

David W:
– we all in this room have taken it upon ourselves to learn new skills
– new stats available on people now employed by mobile app industry
– those were skills they taught themselves
– habits of mind: habits of learning… these are key
– students becoming master learners
– platform and curation are important, but students must be a key part of this
– why are we just talking about books: why aren’t we talking about a library?

Jon B:
– remember WikiPedia: history and discussion tabs are the best part to view the process through which it is negotiated

Diane L:
– history has always been taught from a lens / perspective
– I’ve been textbook less for years
– I’m not able to give students primary sources, send students directly into the National Archives
– helping students make sense of the 1st person documents
– need to shift to a paradigm of students being able to make sense of history, rather than memorizing a bucket of information “Center of New Media History” at George Mason

David J
– our students buy their textbooks
– our teachers tell us to take them home, the students say they are not used
– is it possible for this ‘digital resource’ to become something which is utilized

Eric S:
– we’ve got textbooks which have been stacked in a locker for years, literally

– the textbook may be ‘the bible’ for teachers, but it isn’t for students

My thought: We need to help pre-service as well as inservice teachers cultivate skills & comfort creating their own textbooks
– also we need to provide support and scaffolding to help teachers make this shift

Are we passing out textbooks to comfort parents, reassure them “nothing has changed”

David W:
– Scotland set good model through its process: Asking everyday people to share the skills they need to do their jobs / live their lives, then aggregated that
– we need to prepare students to OWN and CREATE the future

Mary Beth:
Renee Hobbs points us to the fact much of what students learn today is from the media around them in the culture
– we help students learn to be critical thinkers about media as they become content creators

Hall D and David J:
– the textbook and devices themselves are very important because of the interaction it can enable/empower (reference “Medium is the Message” by Marshall McLuhan

Angela M:
– your competency is based on your experiences and context

David W:
– basic media task with digital cameras: assign kids different words, take a photo, and bring it back to the class

@hjarche: @courosa curriculum is bullying (2005)

– creativity research on constraints is so important
Johnny Cash project
– Alec has research paper on this he did awhile back (I’LL TRY AND ADD THAT LINK LATER)

– story of forcing entrepreneurs on the bus

Mary Beth: same idea for artists, limiting your palette for certain projects

Great idea: We should host a #beyondthetextbook forum which mainly involves students, rather than just adults

Joyce V:
– so important to remember identify and personal branding of devices, importance of students changing

Alec quoting Steve Jobs on futility of focus groups: people don’t know what they want/need but don’t know about yet

Tom W:
– are 7.2 million educators in the US alone, and they aren’t having this conversation yet

What are the absolutes in education which we don’t even discuss? Can we do away with the textbook? via @djakes #beyondthetextbook

There are times when you have to “get on board” when it’s not your choice, & this is one of those times via @djakes #beyondthetextbook

Diana L:
– when you take away the textbook, you take away the certainty of ‘delivering that test’ which the system currently uses as our metrics

if u take away textbooks u take away certainty of ‘delivering that test’ which our system uses as metrics @dlaufenberg #beyondthetextbook

Validating teachers and their work the past 10-20 years is very important, telling teachers you need to do something else can be ‘soul shattering’ via Diane L

Hall D:
– with digital we can really differentiate between math, science, social studies
– those are very different subjects, social studies can be driven by stories
– no one understood math or computers, that’s why math departments got the first computers

My thought: shouldn’t the textbook be conceived as a piece of the puzzle, not the entire puzzle or table where the content fits together?

Jon B:
– put good people in a bad system, the system wins every time

David W:
– great idea of students ‘writing the next chapter’ of our next textbook, students build identity along the way

Ability to embed stories in our curriculum is essential for learning, transfer, & engagement

Joyce V:
– many new nonfiction authors are very concerned they are not being invited to ‘the table’ for these discussions about the future of the textbook
– they are concerned about lockout, but about their work being utilized on an ongoing basis on platforms which are emerging


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7 responses to “Morning discussions on digital content, textbooks, & learning”

  1. teachermrw Avatar

    I’m sure you all accomplished great work.  But, what disturbs me about such forums like Discovery Education is that the same voices are always invited to participate.  Additionally, the population of children that moving beyond the textbook will impact are those in urban schools.  There wasn’t one person of color, i.e. an African American, from an urban school, that couldn’t have been invited to participate? Really?   Something to think about.  

  2. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    I thought about this quite a bit too. Who would you have invited?

  3. […] here.  I would point you to better reporters, Audrey Watters (Hack Education) and Wes Fryer (here, here, here and here) and others who will come linked in the #beyondthetextbook Twitter thread that […]

  4. […] Wesley Fryer’s posts about the Forum:… […]

  5. Michael Doyle Avatar
    Michael Doyle

     Jose Vilson (@TheJLV), Ms. Bethea (@21stcenturychem), Joya Clark, founder of new charter school in Newark, NJ–just a few off the top of my head…

  6. 6chihuahuas Avatar

    What I find interesting is that people are still under the impression that a “textbook” is only paper and print.  Today’s textbooks might be traditional texts, and they might not.  They are also digital. 

    With that understanding, I would like to say that not just anyone can create a quality “textbook”.  Professionally designed instructional materials are much more than a stupid app full of .pdf files accompanied by a $3.00 Apple graphic calculator. 

  7. 6chihuahuas Avatar

    As I was saying, textbooks are more than just an app full of .pdf files.  The professionally designed ones go way beyond that, containing interactive components that allow students to experience the concept they are studying in multiple dimensions.  A great digital textbook provides remediation, enrichment, and immediate feedback.  Until you can create something like the publishers do, which contains all the widgets, graphics, animations, and edited narratives, do us all a favor and leave it to the pros.