Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday's Five - What to Do With Your Textbooks (Now That They're Obsolete)

Friday's Five is a feature every week where I pick a new topic and list five items that I think fit best.  Then I ask you to share your thoughts in the comment section.  For an archive of past topics, check the Friday's Five Page

Let me just get this out of the way upfront.  I despise textbooks.

I also have a big problem with anyone involved in education who cares more about political agendas and profit than what's best for my students.  For that reason I despise textbook companies.
Photo Credit: Michael Essany

That may sound harsh, but I'm not using hyperbole. Tamim Ansary, a former textbook editor, does a great job of summarizing the problem with our textbooks in his article A Textbook Example of What's Wrong With Education.  James Loewen, a former textbook author, describes many of the same problems in more depth in his book Lies My Teacher Told Me.  Both are worth reading.

The good news, though, is that textbooks are becoming obsolete by the minute.  The ubiquity of computers, iPads, smartphones, and other portable devices makes accessing information instantaneous and easy.  I've yet to come across any information in the 5th grade textbooks that are provided to my students that couldn't be found on-line for free.  As an added advantage, differing viewpoints and opinions are offered on that information allowing my students the opportunity to analyze and evaluate that information.  You'd be hard pressed to find a textbook that made kids use those higher-order thinking skills.  At a time when school districts are facing debilitating budget cuts, textbooks are decreasingly being viewed as necessities.

When I've had discussions with others before and suggested that we should get rid of textbooks, I often get asked, "How will teachers know what to teach, then?"  My usual response is that they should try teaching their students.  Teachers need to stop using textbooks as a crutch that allows them to simply deliver instruction instead of teaching.

So, in the age of free and easily obtainable information, iPads, and Google, I asked my PLN on Plurk, Twitter, and the Teacher's Life for Me Facebook Page to suggest ideas for using the textbooks in your room now that they are obsolete.  I'm appreciative to everyone who chimed in with great ideas, both practical and satirical.  Here are five ideas for your textbooks:

1.  This idea came from @emprimrose on Plurk.  She suggested turning the textbooks into storage boxes for students.  In addition to being incredibly practical, it looks like a fun activity.

2.  In my classroom, I use textbooks to support our technology use.  Literally.  My classroom projector is propped up on old textbooks so that the image fits nicely on our classroom whiteboard.  One leg of the table in the front of my room is shorter than the others.  I've got an old book leveling that out as well.

3.  @SStephensC200 on Plurk suggested packaging up the books and shipping them to classrooms in countries that are less affluent like the Philippines and those in Africa.  She mentions that shipping costs are one drawback.  I can see a great opportunity for a service learning project here.  How great would it be for our students to help others in another country by raising the funds to send them books?

4.  Textbooks (and outdated encyclopedias) stack very nicely.  Allow your students to get creative by using books to build something.  @cmay inspired this idea by sharing the picture on the right.

5.  Lately, everyone from the CDC to Chinese police forces seem worried about the impending Zombie Apocalypse.  @nkrahn suggests saving the textbooks for just such an occasion, claiming that nothing kills a brain better than a college textbook - both when read and when used as a projectile.

Now it's your turn.  What do you think we can do with our obsolete textbooks?  Share your best ideas in the comment section below and pass the post along to friends and colleagues via Twitter, Plurk, Google+ and Facebook so that we can hear their ideas as well.  If you'd like to suggest and vote for future Friday's Five topics, or join in the discussion on ways to improve education, please stop by A Teacher's Life for Me on Facebook and click on the "like" button.

1 comment:

  1. For the past 25 years we have purchased obsolete books from public and private schools and school districts. Titles that are obsolete to the needs of one school often continue to fit into the needs of another. We only seek titles that no longer serve your curriculum -- books that currently take up valuable space with no other future. Including: never-used publisher samples...un-adopted pilot programs...boxes of workbooks... boxed teacher kits... If it's a book, we may want to buy it. If your school or department could use some extra money, you need to know that we pay cash. We pay by the book, by the box, by the pallet or by the ton. We even pay for shipping. We do business throughout the United States. No inquiry is too large or too small.