CCK11: Week Pre-1
Focusing and Foreword/Forward
To be successful in my own mind for this learning experience in the Connectivism and Connected Knowledge course, I must round back again and again to a central focus. For me, it might be what “instructional materials” will become in the new classrooms and schools that must result from the explosion of information that the internet provides. If teachers and schools are no longer the only sources of knowledge and information, then both the profession and the institution have to change—and so what happens to textbooks? My Day Job revolves around the production of these enormously expensive and, frankly, fairly ineffective materials.
Unless you’re in this business, you might not understand that the content of (preK-12) textbooks is created by teams of people rather than by the author whose name appears on the cover. This happens in what are known as “development houses,” that in the service of the publishing company that hired them, farm out the work to various freelancers—some of whom do not have any background in the subject matter but who are simply decent writers. The original publisher defines the parameters of, for example, the lessons. Those parameters include not only the content but also the metacontent: for instance, they must identify appropriate images or illustrations, link produced content to the learning goals and the state-mandated academic content, and identify and track such things as the proportion of people of color to white people in text and images. Increasingly, this development work is shipped to countries outside the United States because it’s cheaper.
Most K-12 teachers see textbooks as the necessary evil of their job. Textbooks do help them track their teaching in relation to state standards and indicators that they must prove they have covered (with the idea that “coverage” means students are able to pass a test on them). But as you can see from the explosion of teacher-created resources and lesson plans on the web, many teachers are unhappily aware that their textbooks are lacking.
In response, some publishers have jumped on the “e” bandwagon with electronic teacher editions and student books that are interactive to greater or lesser degrees. My own Day Job (herein, DJ) recently launched an iPad app. Whee! But it’s not asking itself how “textbook publishing” will survive the ability of students and teachers to find their own content. At the same time, I’m not seeing teachers and parents asking tougher about the free open educational resources found on the internet. I suspect that they can be manipulated (maliciously or otherwise) just as some Wikipedia entries have been. Thus it seems to me that there’s some role in this for a curator, to use an expression I found in the PLENK2010 materials. That role is what textbooks should morph into, perhaps. However, I see little indication that the educational publishing industry is ready for such a role.