Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Technology/Textbooks
Many may think having students write their own textbooks is a ridiculous idea. When we were first told of this idea, I have to admit that I did not know what to think of it. Student written textbooks can be seen as a way of collaborative learning. Collaborative learning is a method of instruction in which students of all levels work together in groups (Tao). It isn’t exactly collaborative learning, but it encourages the same concepts of students taking responsibility for their learning, and sharing it with others.
Today the world is changing at a rapid pace. Obsolescence is an object's attribute of losing value because the outside world has changed. For example, if a teacher is handing out a textbook which has been being used for thirty-five years its content cannot be up to date, therefore it has lost its value. New technology like the internet has made finding information quick and often times easy. Students are not only using textbooks to learn but television channels such as “Animal Planet” and the “History” channel. Textbooks are usually outdated by a few years due to how lengthy the publication process can be. Textbooks take years sometimes to be published, by then new information has been developed and students are not getting as up to date information as they should. People are coming up with new ideas to engage the minds of today’s generation. The student of today has video games,computers and television to entertain them. As teachers we have to come up with ideas that the students can relate to.
New Ideas Helping Shape Today’s Education Systems
Ideas such as project-based learning which is defined as a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks (Project Based). In layman’s terms, it’s a way to get students involved in their learning, so they are not just listening and taking notes. The idea of having students write there own textbooks is a good example of project-based learning.
Another way of changing the way students are taught today is using technology integration, which is trying to use things such as PowerPoint, videos, internet and other sorts of technology for teaching students. Lets face it the student’s mind of today is always engaged by video games, television, and computers; we have to find ways as teachers to keep their attention. Learning can be entertaining and students can have fun while learning. It is possible for the word learning and the word fun to be used in the same sentence. By having students write their own text books they are not only experiencing project based learning, but they are also experiencing technology integration.
Pros and Cons
Having students write their own textbook can be a risky process. On the one hand, it could turn out to be a well-written easy to understand book that includes every important topic and adds no unnecessary ‘fluff.’ On the other hand, it could end up being a messy simplistic book that does not do justice to the important topics. This is where clear guidelines, instructor input and rating/approval options become critical. Clear guidelines within which the student writers are expected to stay are important to ensure some sense of cohesiveness throughout the entire text- even with a wide range of students with different styles and levels of writing contributing to one project. The instructor also needs to be very present during the process whether in making suggestions or edits or deciding on the final cut for content and other specifics (Mankiw). Feedback in any form, whether positive or negative, whether in person or electronically, is helpful for students so that the process is as much of a learning process as is the absorption of the content. There should also be some sort of rating or approval system in place for the final product of each student. It can be peer rated, faculty rated, or even a self-reflective checklist. It could be a very general system that just reflects on the overall quality of each student’s work, or it could be quite specific and consider the style, length, adherence to guidelines, and level of writing of each composition. The beauty of student written textbooks is that there are no rules. The process can be completely different for each and every case, and the final product can literally be anything imaginable.
How will this affect the student?
Student-written textbooks makes the student more responsible for his or her learning. By taking responsibility for their own learning, students should be able to not only read information and remember it for a test, but they will have absorbed the information. Also language of an article may be easier to understand if another student wrote it, then coming from a professional who may have many technical names for ideas. In addition, the student will save money for textbooks which we all know is a refreshing thought.
Student-written textbooks although somewhat new will be being used in classrooms. It will allow project based learning for students which will in turn allow a more active role in their learning. It may take some time for students to adapt to this concept but once learned it is pretty easy. This being my first time helping to write a student written textbook; I do not have any complaints. I also feel I have learned more from doing, rather than just reading and taking notes.
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- Allen, Dr. Dwight. Social and Cultural foundations of Education. Old Dominion University. Second semester 2007.
- Definition of Obsolescence. About: Economics. Retrieved February 10, 2007, From http://economics.about.com/cs/economicsglossary/g/obsolescence.htm
- Edutopia The George Lucas Education Foundational. Retrieved February 10, 2007, from http://www.edutopia.org/php/keyword.php?id=137
- Lamb, Annette, and Larry Johnson. "An information skills workout: wikis and collaborative writing.(infotech)." Teacher Librarian 34.5 (June 2007): 57(3). InfoTrac OneFile. Thomson Gale. 
- Mankiw, Greg. "On Textbook Writing." Retrieved April 13, 2007. http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2007/03/on-textbook-writing.html.
- Project Based Learning Handbook. Retrieved February 10, 2007, from http://www.bie.org/pbl/pblhandbook/intro.php#history
- Stahmer, Tim. "Think outside the blog.(weblogs)(Column)." Technology & Learning 26.6 (Jan 2006): 28(2). InfoTrac OneFile. Thomson Gale. 
- Tao Annie. The Daily Bruin. Retrieved February 7, 2007, from http://web.archive.org/20070714050323/www.dailybruin.ucla.edu/news/2006/apr/18/istudent-authored-texts-make-s/print/