Is the Web Enough?

Today, while walking to morning assembly, I slipped in the slush and fell. The fall itself wasn’t terribly bad. What really hurt, though, was my book bag sliding off my shoulder to land on my right hip. The book bag with my huge, thirty-pound textbook in it. The textbook I was trying to avoid carrying, when I set up the wiki at the start of the school year.

I ached all through the day, to say nothing of having to go home and change clothes. And the dichotomy between the first two events of my day could not have been wider: first, the news from Central Falls, RI, that the entire teaching staff of the school had been fired; and second, the annual award for two staff members who’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty, and consequently received a grant named for one of our most prestigious alumni, to pursue professional development projects over the summer.

At the end of the day, I mentioned to one of my students that I found it ironic that the book is what had really injured me.  And that I hoped next year I could dispense with a book entirely.  He pondered that for a moment, and said, “that’s what you hope the iPad will do, despite its flaws.” I agreed with him, and then asked what he thought of the idea of going to an entirely digital environment.

“We don’t always have very reliable internet service.  What if it’s down?”

Oh. Lightbulb.

“So,” I said, “you’re saying we need a book.”

“Yeah,” he said. “At least until the tech is reliable to the point where you don’t need it. And really you need three stages of access.  A book for the most basic information.  An e-book to supplement it, and give you larger set of digital information that’s accessible on your computer.  And then the Web.  The Internet.”

I love teaching such smart kids.

So there you are: we need books, for the time being, that act as initiators to a subject — something that will give a student or a group of students a place to start, a core set of information.  Then they need an e-book, with videos and audio files, and photos, to supplement the text.  And finally, they need a set of web-links to tell them where to go for further and deeper information.

Call it the Three-Fold Web.  I like it.

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  1. Our middle school has just switched over to digital-only mathematics textbooks. We are a laptop school, so that makes it easier than it would make it at your school.

    The kids love the digital textbooks.

    • I’d like to shift over to digital-only history textbooks, if only so that when I fall it’s not instantly a hazard to life and limb. 🙂

      But I hear you. It’s silly to have dumb paper textbooks, when what you really want is a rich information life.

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