The New York Times came out with an article about how the traditional, paper-based textbook is going the way of the dodo and how it'll ultimately be replaced by teachers putting together their own learning paths for their students based on materials that are available online for free. This predictably has caused the various camps who have strong opinions one way or the other over how the educational sector should operate to jump on this as being the ultimate truth, or as being complete nonsense. Personally, I think neither of these points of view are particularly helpful, and that we need to look at the realities of how teachers and the educational establishment actually works. Here are some of my predictions and opinions.
So: death of the fixed-beginning-fixed-end-work-through-linearly coursebook? No. Neither on paper, nor in electronic format (but a shift from paper to electronic core materials will happen gradually as individual markets become more high-tech). And designing materials that build on each other and achieve an externally imposed set of learning objectives (i.e. exams) takes time and professional input. Yes there will be open courseware initiatives, some of which will no doubt produce excellent results. Is it likely that many educational establishments will adopt these though? Not many, I personally don't think. There are too many entities along the line - parents, principals, school boards, even the learners - who want some form of guarantee that the materials have been put together by a well-known brand and a set of people who know what they're doing. This will, of course, come with a price tag. While some educational entities or even entire authorities will consider that price tag too high and go for an open source alternative, I really think these will be few and far between.
None of this is meant to be a value judgement in favour of the book, in favour of a particular form of delivery mechanism or whatever. These are just my interpretations of own observations about how things actually are, and how I think they will continue to be, rather than what some enthusiasts one way or another think should happen.
Thoughts and links to articles about a variety of ICT and education-related topics. Where an article or resource is referred to in the header of a blog post please click the header to read the article.
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