Monday, October 31, 2011

Ditching Textbooks for Digital

The idea of completely replacing textbooks in an entire school is radical and shocking, but that was exactly what the Vail School District in Arizona did, and the results are very promising. The district started by focusing curriculum on standards, and collected and organized resources based upon meeting those standards dynamically. Instead of, for example, following the strict learn, review, test outline of textbooks, the materials were arranged in a logical fashion to best encourage learning.

The idea of having an English class that uses free online resources to teach reading, writing, and critical thinking makes sense to me. Why would I let a book dictate the flow of my classroom just because I cannot change the text to better suit my students’ needs? Instead, I want to pick and choose what goes into my daily lessons and I want the ability to adapt the lessons based on reflection and feedback. Digital resources meet that need perfectly.

Digital resources are dynamic. In an English class for example, I can choose to have students write papers or have discussions about a video, an audio clip, or even a website that I found online. Textbooks are not capable of providing this level of customization or interaction.

Using digital resources in place of textbooks also cuts costs significantly. According to the article, the Vail school district was able to cut the costs of teaching a single student from $53 to $9. This is hugely significant and that money could be better spend of reintroducing programs such as sports and the arts, the second being tied inextricably to English classes.

Carney, K. (2011). Think Outside the Book. Learning and Leading with Technology. ITSE. Retrieved from


  1. I think that getting rid of text books is a good idea. I feel like the text books that are in use are so old and there are so many new things that can be used in the classroom. I like how you said that textbooks determine the flow of the classroom because I think that that is so true. Teachers are stuck to using the same teaching meathod on the same material that they have been teaching for years. Let's face it, students are more technologically save than we are sometimes and they would have no problem using the internet for lessons. The only question that I would have is based on homework. How would students who do not have computers be able to do their homework that they would normally do out of a textbook?

  2. Cutting costs where ever possible is great for any school! But doing away with hard copy text book may no be the best answer for every student. We all know that there a different types of learners, what about those that need to tactile and visual aspect of a text book? Does that mean that every student needs to re-learn how they learn? I know I'm set in my ways and do need that hard copy textbook or I am not learning a single thing. Doing away with textbooks completely sounds like a great froward movement, but I think it should happen at the earliest age with respect to the development or learning styles.