You don’t have to be a teacher to know the names McGraw-Hill, Pearson, or Houghton Mifflin. For decades textbook companies have run the show in education providing teaching guides, reading materials, and workbooks. As a teacher, all you have to do is jump in and follow along. Teaching could be as simple as following a script. Sounds nice, right?
Close your eyes and think back on your last year of teaching. Think about all those staff meetings, professional development sessions, and conversations in the hallway. Now think really hard. Do you remember anyone sharing an exciting story about a textbook? Do students visit your classroom years later and tell you how inspired they were by your choice of textbook? If those things did happen it probably had more to do with your skill as a teacher than a book.
Textbook companies have tried to respond to changing needs in education. They have added shiny stickers to the front of textbooks saying they align with the Common Core standards without actually changing the content of the book. Math textbooks have become multi-cultural by changing some of the names in word problems to Alejandro, and history books now include four sentences about Japanese internment.
Clearly my sarcastic comments are not going to earn me an endorsement from one of the aforementioned companies.
We don’t have to play the game any longer. The jig is up. There are thousands of amazing FREE resources online available at the click of a button. As educators, we are more digitally connected than ever before and we therefore have an opportunity in front of us to revitalize curricula everywhere.
The internet has democratized education. Everyone including parents and students can play a role in selecting resources. The power is now in the hands of many instead of a handful of textbook companies.
The world has come a long way in terms of making educational resources available online for little to no cost. Take for instance all of the resources available on Globe to Go like Global Oneness Project, Netflix (yes, even they have skin in the game), Google Arts and Culture, Asia Society, CNN, and countless others. When you add in websites that were not originally created with education in mind like Google Street View or simply news articles that are updated as soon as an event occurs, the options are truly unlimited.
What do we as teachers do with this information? Ignore this revolution in education? I think not!
We join the revolution by helping others to discover these resources. We curate them. We use them. We share them. We welcome the new content creators to the party.
You might be thinking I already don’t have time to go to the bathroom during the school day, how can I look up new resources? There are a number of ways teacher leaders and administrators can support teachers in this revolution in education.
Give teachers time to collaborate in order to create innovative curricula, find resources, attend conferences, and use social media to network with teachers in other parts of the country and world.
This shift away from a textbook might not be easy, but it also cannot be ignored. Why not take advantage of the best possible resources available instead of relying on what a textbook company thinks is best?
The world has changed and as educators we need to make sure we are keeping up with what is out there. There will continue to be exponential growth of content creators. The sharing of information across the world in every aspect of life including education will not stop. The revolution has already begun. Will you take part?
Do you have a story about using online resources not originally intended for education in your classroom? Share your story below.