Thinking about textbooks

April 4, 2006, 10:38 pm

Speaking of publications, David at Ticklish Ears writes about textbooks at the college level:

The cost alone is eye-popping, certainly in computer science and math. And they’re never exactly what you need: they cover too much in some places, and not enough in others.

Furthermore, as was pointed out in our Readers’ Roundtable last week by one of the wisest professors at our university, they’re written with the wrong customer in mind. Who do publishers market textbooks to? They market them to professors, who can read them (sort of) and not to students who are still struggling with the language of the discipline.

Bingo. David goes on to describe the role of textbooks in homeschooling, where he concludes that on-the-fly adaptability is crucial. Bingo again. Which is why I’m beginning to wonder what sort of print resources are really appropriate at all in education, and whether we assign textbooks more out of habit than out of a sense of their usefulness, and whether using existing software tools to seek and evaluate information wouldn’t be more educational. I’ve blogged about that before.

I’m going without textbooks for two of my three courses in the fall. Probably there’ll be more to say about that coming up.

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