This thing called the internet: part 2 of a post #opened15 textbook brain dump

This is part 2 of my post #opened15 brain dump on the role of open textbooks in higher education, prompted by many discussions about textbooks in the wake of #opened15.

In my first post, I touched on the role that open textbooks can play in bringing new people into the open community. This one is a bit more technology focused.

There is the tension around why we are even talking textbooks? Those static, information transmission devices of yesteryear. The textbook (like Powerpoint) is becoming a flashpoint symbol for bad pedagogy. That we should be post-textbook, even post-content, and that textbooks – even open ones – are prescriptive devices that enforce existing power and authority structures endemic in our education system. Textbooks are a barrier to truly progressive pedagogies, and open textbooks set up the the illusion of being progressive when really they are regressive and represent a content-centric view of learning.

Okay, that is likely just me heaping a lot of representational baggage on the poor old textbook. But this isn’t the fault of the textbook any more than a bad lecture is the fault of  Powerpoint. Poor pedagogy is poor pedagogy, regardless of whether a textbook is involved or not.

As I stated in my last post, the real problem (at least here in North America) is that, we have embedded a culture of textbooks so deeply within our education systems that it is almost impossible for many to imagine there are other ways of doing things.

And here is where I think open textbooks (and more broadly OER) are playing a crucial role, because they create an opportunity to see one different way of doing things, enabled by the internet.

See, I have this crazy belief that this thing called the internet has changed things, and I see OER and open textbooks as beautiful examples of what the internet enables. They certainly are not the pedagogical be all and end all of living in a networked world. I drank the networked learning kool-aid long ago.

the internet

But OER and open textbooks do represent one of the ways that higher education has responded to the new affordances of living in a digital, networked world where we can create, copy and distribute stuff with relative ease. And if it takes people using OER’s and open textbooks to help people see that the internet enables new ways of doing things, then that, for me, is progress. This is what brought me to open education. Open education is something the internet made possible.

So, to the innovators – keep on innovating and please don’t pull away from the community. Push the edges, do cool stuff, bring it and share it and show people that there is an open world post-textbooks (open and closed). We are all at different open paths along the spectrum, and in order to continue growing the community we have to have spaces for those on the edges to join – the legitimate peripheral participation places that allow people to build their own bridges into both open, and the net.


Building an EdTech library – what would you recommend?


I just received the textbooks for my next class and among them is Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education by Tony Bates and Gary Poole. I was expecting to run into this one at some point during my Masters and I am happy that it is sooner than later. It’s a book I have heard many references to in the past few years and one I am anxious to dig into.

I’ve been going over a recent post by Alec Couros where he asked his network for 5 article/book recommendations for an Associate Dean in his office to help “inform his understanding of current changes regarding social networks, knowledge, and technology in education”. So, I am going to toss something similar out here. My network is considerable smaller than Alec’s but hopefully I’ll get a few responses to bolster my fledgling EdTech bookshelf (like my Masters program won’t pile enough on over the next 2 years).

Here is the question to you, my considerably more experienced EdTech brethren; What would you consider some of the seminal or defining works in our field that examine the intersection of technology and education? If you had to recommend one or two books that seem to inform our industry/sector as a whole, what would those be?

Photo: Iqra: Read by swamimbu. Used under Creative Commons license.