Sunday, August 23, 2015

Should We Do Away With All Textbooks?

Dollars in the books, isolated on white background, business tra
Schools put a lot of money in textbooks 

       E-book readers or other electronic devices allow the students to read pre-loaded copies of their books. These devices are superior in several ways to last centuries text books. Basic E-book devices are much less expensive than providing a set of commercial textbooks. Online textbooks never become outdated if they are properly maintained. Parents can access texts from a home computer to see what the students are covering in class. Being able to use E-book readers could make life easier for middle and high school students because it would mean they could carry around a lightweight device instead of a library. 

        If you travel down I-24 from Nashville to Chattanooga along the way there is a smallish, often-over-looked town called Tullahoma.  My kids know it only as a favorite spot along the way to the aquarium but something unusual is happening here.  Tullahoma is outpacing the Metropolitan areas with a new innovation that is making life easier for students and teachers and is saving their district money.  Tullahoma has created their own on-line, opensource textbooks for use on E-book readers.

       TCS, Tullahoma City Schools is using their texbook fund to pay teachers to create the digitaltextbooks that are being used across the district.  The books are aligned with whatever the current standards are today and can be quickly changed when the standards change again.  Many of the examples and pictures in these textbooks are local. Local stories and pictures allow the students to learn local history and culture.

      Tullahoma is using an open-source, fair-use copy write so the work could be used in other districts with some changes to line them up with other local areas.  These books are designed to improve educational outcomes but they are not designed for commercial use, so a school could use them but a publisher cannot print and sell them,  That's a good thing.

       Other districts could take the work Tullahoma has put into these books and build off the texts to create their own open source version, micro-brewed for their own population. If you would like to see the works TCS has created go to: This page has Social Studies and the fresh off the press Mathematics texts for Middle School.

      The books can be loaded on to an E-book reader or other device.  The director of schools, Dr Dan Lawson, said he could make individual copies at a local copy shop for seven bucks. So the lack of access to devices is not a barrier to using this high quality source.

        Switching to E-books is compassionate. In 2011, one of my students backpacks weighed 70 pounds.  The child herself only weighed 87.  We can do better than asking her to carry her body mass around on her back.

          My students would welcome an opportunity to save their backs and their backpacks.  My son busted his backpack last week carrying his library of textbooks to class.  When I told him about the new initiative in Tullahoma he asked if we could move there.  I would instead like to see this become the new way we teach in Tennessee.  I am hoping the changes will be made soon but until then we will get by with some muscle and a bag of holding to carry everything in.

        My son's new bag of holding is sturdy and seems to hold a lot more than it should.  You can check it out using the link below.

       So, Should We Do Away With All Textbooks?  I think we would better serve our students, parents, and teachers by dumping the textbooks and using digital books instead.  It can be less expensive, easier on the students and their equipment, and easily updated.  If you agree with me you can reach out to your local board and let them know you are ready to switch to digital.  Together we can bring local schooling into the 21st century.

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