The "End is Near" for the Textbook
I had a difficult time writing the five-year textbook replacement plan this year for the high school. I found this to be a little ironic though, considering where Sanborn was just a few years ago -
My first week on the job as assistant principal in 2006, I was attacked by a swarm of teachers begging me to order them some much-needed textbooks. The math department wanted to stop the practice of having just one set of classroom textbooks for each teacher (meaning no one could bring a book home). The science department was still using a biology book with a copyright date of 1984. The Social Studies department had ten different sets of US History books that they had accumulated over the years and none of them talked about the "War on Terrorism," the biggest news of the last decade. The problem was, by 2006 the textbook budget was grossly inadequate for the needs of the school and by the time books were actually purchased for a course or department, the information in them became obsolete before the end of the school year. Over the past five years, we have "fixed" the problem. I was able to quadruple the textbook budget and we began aggressively purchasing new books. To date, we have invested over $325,000.00 in books since my arrival in 2006. Now, looking towards the next five years, I wonder if spending another $325,000.00 to keep our textbooks up-to-date is the best use of our money. The fact is, the "end is near" for the textbook.
Mrs. Bartlett, our Media Generalist (that means Librarian for those of you who haven't been to school in a while) might not be happy with the statement I am about to make - Kids these days don't get their information from books and other print materials, and I think that is OK. I challenge you - next time you go to your local library with your child, pick an obscure topic and have a race with them to see who can learn about the topic quicker - you tackle just the books in the library and have your child use only online resources - in fact, let your child stay at home to do their research since they can access everything they need from the family computer. I guarantee you in the time it takes you to find just one book (which will probably be outdated anyways) on the topic, your child will have already skimmed through a dozen or more journal articles and informational websites and will already be formulating a detailed summary of that obscure topic.
This generation of high school students, often called the "Millennial Generation" by some, are skilled at processing large amounts of information quickly. At school we teach them how to access information and determine what relevant to their topic (and what is not). With the rate of new information that is produced every day, this skill is more important to the survival of our students than it ever has been in the past.
What would it take to stop using textbooks in our school, you ask? I think the obvious first step is we will need to put a piece of technology in each of their hands and require that they use them in all of their classes. Netbooks and iPads have come so far down in price that as a school, we could practically get them for free if we could just fund the monthly Internet access for each of them. We already have several online tools that teachers in all content areas access on a daily basis. There are Kindle-type "aps" out there that could allow us to download novels and other literature texts onto student hand-held computers, so even the printed novel's days are ending. Our new District Strategic Plan will be addressing this very issue in the years to come.
If you are reading this blog post, I suspect you might already understand exactly what I am saying in today's post - because for starters, you read blogs to get your information too! I am looking forward to what the next five years will bring.
Oh, and for the record, I have to go write that five-year textbook plan now - just in case we need it.