Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Technology/Textbooks

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Should students write their own 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 Textbooks are usually outdated by a few years due to how lengthy the publication process can be.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[edit]

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[edit]

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?[edit]

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.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

Sarah has a textbook which was printed in 1989. What is this called?
A. Collaborative learning
B. Obsolescence
C. Animal Planet
D. Project-based learning

B. Obsolescence

Derrick is currently helping to write a student-written textbook. He is experiencing which of the following?
A. To be responsible for his own learning.
B. Learning updated information.
C. Saving money on a textbook.
D. All the above.

D. All the above.

How are student-written textbooks related to project based learning?
A. Students are involved in their own learning.
B. Students are taking notes and listening to lecture.
C. Students are working for individual purpose only.
D. Students are trying to save money.

A. Students are involved in their own learning.

Why does the way teachers teach need to be updated to today's student?
A. Rapidly growing society.
B. Different generation of students.
C. Technology is the norm in every day life.
D. All the above.

D. All the above.

The reason for having a class create a student-written textbook is ideally:
A. To keep the students busy.
B. So the professor can sell it and make lots of money.
C. To make students responsible for their learning and possibly produce something for future classes that is more usable than traditional textbooks.
D. To encourage the students to become textbook writers or publishers.

C. To make students responsible for their learning and possibly produce something for future classes that is more usable than traditional textbooks.

Clear guidelines that are preset for a student-written textbook are a good idea because:
A. Each student's individual voice will be stifled right away.
B. Then the students can do the best job possible from the start and can be creative within the given boundaries.
C. The textbook will then have a nice format regardless of content.
D. All of the above.

B. Then the students can do the best job possible from the start and can be creative within the given boundaries.

A ratings system for a student written textbook is a bad idea because a low rating will give a student low self-esteem even if they spent little time and energy on their section.
A. True.
B. False.

B. False.

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal sample responses.

Why is it important for education to evolve with today's student?

It is important for education to be changed for many reasons. First of all the student of today is different than the student of 100 years ago or even 20 years ago. The student of today has so much technology which in turn has his or her mind engaged most of the time. There are many technologies today which include: video games, high definition television, computers, and iPods. Because of these new resources for education, and fun it will be difficult for many student to sit, listen, and take notes while a teacher is in front talking. The project-based learning idea is a great idea because it is involving the students and getting away from the sit, listen, and take notes idea. It is important for today's education to evolve because today's student is not the same as it used to be. If education doesn't change the students will suffer in the long run.

There are many reasons why education needs to evolve with today's students. The obvious reason is that each new generation of students brings with it new social and technological experiences that can possibly be used to better the students education. If schools had ignored the integration of computers into modern society and just kept using the same methods of teaching that they had in let's say the 80's there would now be a huge gap between the students education experience and real life. The gap between education and real life is something schools need to be ever vigilant in trying to close. If students think what they are being taught is obsolete information they won't care about it. The methods that are used to teach students needs to keep evolving too. I have to admit that if I would have had access to some of the learning software that students today have access to I probably would have been a lot more interested in subjects like math and U.S. history. Educators also need to recognize what social issues are affecting each new generation of students. Divorce has had a huge impact on today's generation in comparison to 20 years ago. Socially controversial issues will find their way into the classroom and if educators are prepared they can use those topics to help engage their students more in what they are trying to teach them. Tomorrows schools will always be different than today's because of the kids that are filling them, and the education that we want those kids to value needs to evolve as they do. —Joshua Geimer