Last week the math textbook samples started rolling in with their grade level samples, suggested resources, “free” incentives to purchase, and press kits. Each one claimed to be the best, the most content-rich, research-based, and correlated to state and national standards. They are pretty packages with some perks to make life “easier” for teachers (notice that I didn’t say “more effective in the classroom”). As I perused the books, I would stop and think about my preferences and why I liked them, often having to convince myself. One textbook now comes with pre-made interactive whiteboard lessons for each objective. But, then I stepped back and really thought about it. When was the last time I cracked a math book? It’s been 2 years. My student math editions have been sitting in their desks and cubbies and on my bookshelves for 2 years, just in case they are needed in my emergency sub plans. My teacher’s edition hasn’t been opened more than once or twice , although the sheer weight of its three volumes helps me justify skipping the gym on a daily basis. Why do we need more dust collectors and obsolete resources? Research says to make learning in mathematics learning more concrete and applicable to the real-world. I haven’t seen a math book that does that. I’ve seen great teachers using the resources around them to create unique and individualized lessons.
Last year it was time for Social Studies books (our state rotates textbook adoptions each four years). We didn’t want those either. As a grade level, we decided to ditch the adoptions and order class sets of literature to help teach our state standards. Our principal re-allocated the textbook funds and we chose novels, picture books, and publications from the state historical archives. Our students are doing more multimedia research and independent studies. What do you think is more engaging for our students?
So, why can’t we do the same for math books? That’s a pretty taboo area. Math books? But that’s a “tested” area, Kelly. Gasp! We (meaning MY big mouth was “voted” to represent the team) went to the principal, this time with grander intentions. This year we want laptops instead of math books. After the initial shock, my administration was all for it. She’s seen what we’re doing in our classrooms. She stops in our class at least once per day to see what my kids are working on now. The next stop for us is the central administration. Will they “allow” it? Will they think we are insane or visionary? We’ll see. Don’t worry. I’ll keep you posted.
Here’s my argument in terms they might understand.
In a child’s educational career in just grades 3-12, students will have approximately 5 textbooks per year. Each book is about $60, but since we’re on a 4 year adoption rotation, we’ll say $15. That’s $75 per year on textbooks or $750 in grades 3-12. Now consider these books. They are full of mistakes and certainly can’t update themselves as information changes. Think about the fact that we had just bought new science books in the year that they decided Pluto was no longer a planet. For the next 4 years, teachers have to correct that part of their text.
We could purchase each child a “netbook” at approximately $400. Being wirelessly ready, it would house all of the information/resources that they would ever need in a 3-12 classroom and save (conservatively) $350 in simple textbook funds. Consider the ability of this information to be constantly updated and supplemented and correct. Then consider the money for copy paper, copier toner, encyclopedias, dictionaries, workbooks and other consumables used every day. Then consider the environmental benefits… well, you get my drift.
So, my final question is: Why in a time of budget crises and an unsure economy are we cutting funds in technology? To make room for books? Really?
This blog post has been marinating in my head for a few days, and it has been ignited by recent tweets with some members of my personal PLN on Twitter. Thanks Twilliamson15, gardenglen and cwebbtech for helping this along!