Textbooks or Technology???

I came across an article the other day that had me completely fascinated.  The article posted on many news sites, originated on Live Science which in and of itself is a great site – a must check out for content area teachers!

Anyway, the article describe a recent theory that during the Triassic period, the die off that killed over half of the marine life in the oceans and paved way for the dinosaurs did not come about as a result of many volcanic explosions, rather it came from a smaller explosion that led to a small increase in temperature that in turn triggered the release of methane gas into the waters and in turn killing marine life.

How cool – the earth can “burp!”

So I immediately began to think about which science classes can use this information and how we can begin to embed in into the curriculum and how we can compare theories.  My list of what to do with it was endless because my reality is this is how my school collects and presents information to the students – because  we don’t have textbooks.

Yes – I said we don’t have textbooks (now the one caveat to that is that this past year the math department did get textbooks for the students in math class, however, as the coach I am reconsidering their use as I don’t necessarily believe that they were more successful with them.  The ones that were the most successful with them are the ones that only used them for independent and group practice.)

Now, I know that the reality is that most schools have textbooks.  I would be hard pressed to meet a teacher out there that in the very least does not have a student or teacher copy of a textbook in their content area.

I won’t even lie – for the teachers in my school they are almost coveted because we rarely use them, but nonetheless there are enough floating around as resource.  Yet, the decision was made a long time ago not to use textbooks for the students.  Now at this point some of you must be thinking – how do they possibly teach and what do they possibly to guide the students in an effort to ensure all the standards are met?

Simple – we use technology.  Now before you completely tune out to reading the rest of this post because you think we have some amazing elaborate technology system – hear me out.  We do not have a one to one ration with our students in terms of iPads or computers.  There is a lab and we do use iPads but the majority of the students are not touching a piece of technology every moment of everyday instead they have access to it as their teachers see necessary based on their current unit of study and the progress of the unit.

So why did we turn away from textbooks?  And more why do I think more schools should.  Simply siad – they are outdated – here are some examples why –

Case in point, if you went into five science classrooms that study the solar system, I bet each and every one of them would tell you the textbook says that Pluto is a planet.  I bet none of them cover the fact that Pluto has four moons;

I would argue that there is no textbook out there that covers new discovery that Ancient Egyptians wielded heavy weapons

or these two recent articles on animals that were thought to be extinct are back – the Blue Iguana and the very rare Kihansi frog.

Now, I am not saying that textbooks are the demon behind the failing education system.  However, I do think that we can get into a rut in using them and often times forget that we are a few clicks away for a host of new stories that, well, make the textbooks in our classroom pretty outdated and rather boring.






2 thoughts on “Textbooks or Technology???”

  1. How well does this work with new teachers and those switching grade leves? So different from the focus on pacing guides and uniformity and evidence based purchaseed programs. It sounds like which teacher you got would make a huge difference.

    1. Great question – thank you for asking —

      For our school it is two-fold in ensuring that new teachers or teachers switching grades have guides. First and foremost NYS provides scope and sequences for Science, Social Studies, and Math along with the expected standards. Using these as guides I create pacing calendars with the teams and often times entire units that are paced out so that teachers can follow these. Teachers also meet weekly as teams to discuss pacing, projects, and student progress. This ensures that teachers who may be struggling are provided additional support from the team. I will embed a link to one of my units under the ELA tab so you can see how I do it.

      While the math team has used the pacing from the textbooks often times they do not meet the necessary pacing for New York State in time for the state tests.

      I tend to find with textbooks that while they may be tailored for states, the reality is that most textbooks are based off the standards of a few key states – Texas is one of them. Now this may change with Common Core – so we will have to see 🙂

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