The Future of the Textbook

10 February 2009 at 1:27 am 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

Cliff Kuang at Fast Company points us to smARThistory, which looks very nice, and asks:

Why the hell are we still teaching kids from textbooks? Granted, the system works. But you’d at least expect more experiments in the genre, along the lines of smARThistory. For one, textbooks for each student routinely cost hundreds, even thousands per year — and a massive chunk of those costs aren’t in the production of the material, but rather its printing and distribution. Better to give kids laptops, and dynamic textbooks with high production values (like smARThistory). You could arrange them with assigned lessons that require modules to be checked off. A system of clicks or periodic questions could ensure that the kids are engaged. And what about flash animations that illustrate physics or math concepts? The list goes on. If done right, a virtual textbook would far outshine any print textbook we’ve ever cracked.

In economics and management we sometimes use online simulations, experiments, and other interactive learning tools, but the traditional textbook (or set of journal articles) reigns supreme. Do the newer tools work? Which are most effective? And, most important, what clever names can we give them? huMANresources? pricECONnections?

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Education, Innovation, Teaching.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bo  |  5 July 2009 at 11:54 pm

    I just attended a session entitled “Disseminating Thought Leadership on Managing the Flat versus Spiky World: The
    Case for “New Generation” IB Textbooks” at the Academy of International Business in San Diego. Unfortunately, this session turned out to be little more than a marketing stunt – Rugman, Beamish, Verbeke and othes telling us how great their (extremely boring and traditional) textbooks are..only slightly interesting event was Alan Rugman bashing Charles Hill’s best selling IB textbook, which was easy given that Hill was not in attendance…but the point is – none of these “great” scholars offered anything new, exicting, different or even slightly innovative in terms of future IB textbooks…

    My sense from this session is that we will be stuck with the traditional textbooks for as long as the best selling books are based on the authors and not the content….

  • 2. Peter Klein  |  6 July 2009 at 1:35 am

    Thanks Bo. Curiously, in economics, the best-selling textbooks aren’t always written by the best-known authors. There are many failures — Stilgitz’s principles text, or Kreps’s graduate text, for example. OTOH Samuelson was famous before his text, the all-time best selling undergraduate text, came out, and Mankiw was already reasonably well-known when he signed his mega-advance. I don’t think Hal Varian was a star before he wrote his graduate text, however.

    Somebody needs to write a master’s thesis on all this!

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