Feb 5, 2022Liked by David Thomson

"...a physical book can not have a link in it,.."

Well, yes it can with a QR Code! We publish CC licensed casebooks/textbooks in the legal area and our books have lots of links. This works fine in the ebooks, but obviously not so much in print. I am going to look into printing a QR code in the margins for all links in our pbooks. Thanks for the inspiration!

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Hi David, Here are a few thoughts from a recently retired secondary school teacher who spent 30 years teaching Spanish, English, linguistics, writing, etc. For the most part, I would say I agree with the hybrid textbook idea because I can see its merits for using the online components to enhance what's covered in the print version in ways that print cannot. However, when it comes to junior high kids and even most high school kids, it's really best, in the classroom setting at least, that they not spend solo time on their laptops because they don't tend to be doing what they are supposed to be doing on them. Distractions are too tempting and policing them while they work becomes so problematic and time consuming. When technology was forced more and more upon me, I finally gave in and got a Spanish textbook that had online components, but what I found (and what made me actually pretty happy) was that every time I'd tell the kids to get out their laptops, they would groan. Finally, I asked them why, and they told me they were just sick of having to use them because once the school went one-to-one laptop per student, so many teachers started doing practically everything on them. They saw my class as a bit of a relief from the screen time, and I was quite happy to continue to oblige for that. What I found worked well with the online components I wanted to use was when I hooked my own laptop up to the projector and simply showed the things on my white board. Then I could focus all their attention to things, stop the video or whatever was playing as needed to either explain something or redirect their wayward focus, and I could even use it in an interactive way by having kids come to the board to do something related to what I was showing. You wrote that another person said that teachers are basically doing this already, which is true, but I would have appreciated, say, an English textbook with accompanying links or videos to show to go with the pieces of literature we were reading, so I didn't have to track them down on my own; however, I'm sure there would still be times I'd prefer to show a video that I prefer rather than the one the textbook creator came up with. For example, after reading "Our Town," I found a great recording of it from 1977, and I showed it to the students. I also found some fun animated versions of the Rip Van Winkle story that I showed. But, if those things were already available for me to use in a hybrid textbook, I may have simply gone with what was there, so I do see the value of them, but I also know that kids, surprisingly perhaps, get very tired of looking at a screen and they often prefer to read out of a book or, even better, just be taught by a great teacher. As I told you in our conversation, I left teaching for many reasons, the number one being so I could focus on my own writing career, but one of the main reasons I left was the sheer amount of technological stuff I was being required to master and use and implement became too much. I just wanted to teach, and that really wasn't what the job was about anymore. Sorry this is so long. Have a good day! Tammy

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Feb 7, 2022Liked by David Thomson

I spend less time these days worrying about technology and media and more time thinking about whether and how the idea of the "textbook" (casebook, etc) survives. Should it? (Maybe) Will it? (Maybe again.) "The textbook" in a given field (or "a textbook" in a given field) exists partly because that field exists. "US History" for high school students. "Economics" for college students, or "Physics." "Contracts" for law students. And the existence of a textbook, or the text, has the additional effect to ratifying and perpetuating the existence of a field. Again, "Contracts."

But the existence of a "field" isn't necessary in either sense; I can point to a lot of law school "casebooks" that are wishes that fields would come into being. Nor is the existence of a "field" sufficient in either sense. I teach "Leadership," which is a recognized field for research, teaching, and practice, but there are precious few leadership "textbooks" (and the ones that I know of are, on the whole, awful). It's possible to attribute a lot of what's present and what's absent to publishing decisions and profitability, but that's not a complete explanation; publishing, in any format, involves listening to the practicalities of what teachers want to teach and what teachers think should be taught. As we all know in one way or another, publishing is a sales business, and good salespeople listen to their buyers. Does the field justify the book; does the book ratify the field? The proof of the publishing, as it were, is in the buying. Consumption patterns matter to publishing decisions (including formats) as much as and maybe more than publishing or writing decisions in the abstract. Sometimes consumption patterns are in flux; sometimes they're stable.

My bottom line: when it comes to the presence or absence of a teachable "book" - regardless of its format - look to patterns of stability and change in the underlying "content" area(s). It's more difficult to introduce novel formats in areas that have been intellectually stable for a long time. It's easier in areas that are emerging or undergoing changes.

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One thing I've been thinking about regarding hybrid textbooks is weight. My daughter is currently in elementary school. Because of the pandemic, her school bought a laptop/tablet device for every student and ordered new textbooks that had online components. So far, so good. Except that the school now requires her to lug both her textbooks AND the computer to school and back every day, making for a truly heavy backpack for a small child.

Now, obviously, this is one data point among many and one for which there are other solutions (like the school pulling its collective head out of...but I digress), but I think it is worth tracking how much equipment or gear students need to cart around with them. I mean the days of showing up to class with nothing but a pencil and a notebook are long gone, but I'd just as soon that my students don't need to bring a pencil, a notebook, their textbook, a laptop, two extension cords, and the kitchen sink to class.

All that said, one big advantage of digital books is that they can be updated rather than requiring students to buy a new edition every year. On the other hand, I have nightmares about us (teachers, schools, and students) getting locked into exclusive contracts that require monthly fees to access all the features, etc.

I dunno. As I write this, I'm frustrated at choosing textbooks for my courses for next semester and I'm about half a step away from just going with no textbook, just the grammar girl website and some YouTube videos...

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