Monday, February 22, 2010
The New Textbook: DynamicBooks from MacMillan
It's a textbook! It's a wiki! It's course management software! It's MacMillan's DynamicBook. (See NYT, "Macmillan’s DynamicBooks Lets Professors Rewrite E-Textbooks") This is what we've been waiting for but we're going to have to wait longer. It's just for college. At Episcopal, I know of several books that we have written internally: 3 Latin grammar textbooks, 1 anthology of science writing used in 9th grade biology, and one Middle School English text. We have the expertise to do a lot internally. Which makes you think how much more we could do with access to a wiki-like online resource. Let's say we had access to a large online resource of material to teach world history in high school. We could adapt that to create our own course/text. So we do an end-run around the huge beaurocracies of the Texas and California school boards that wield so much power over the content of our current texts. Resources like this will cost less, weigh less, be impossible to lose or destroy, will never be outdated, and will unleash the creativity of teachers and local communities instead of constricting it. Remember when your teacher would say, "skip chapter 5, it's totally irrelevant to what we're doing?" There won't be a chapter 5 any more. Chapter 6 will now be chapter 5. And remember that packet that your teacher would hand out and you were supposed to keep safe in your 3 ring binder but which got chewed up and dog-eared and lost its pages before the test? That's now part of your online resource for world history, part of your dynamicbook. Our language teacher, Lauren, is using a version of this from Pearson Learning Systems, but that system lacks the wiki quality: you can use it but you can't add or subtract from it. We think we need iPads, 1:1 laptop programs, smartboards, iPhones, but we don't. The dynamic book is what we need to really move forward. It will have authority, but it will maintain some open-sourcieness; it will be cloud-sourced, but it will also be edited and supervised.