Sunday, March 17, 2013

Beyond The Textbook - Your Thoughts?

Over spring break I'll be attending Discovery Education's Second Annual(?) Beyond The Textbook Forum:
Last year, we brought together more than twenty content experts and leaders amongst the EdTech community for an open conversation about the future of digital resources. . . This year, we plan to start right where we left off. Forum participants will explore the past and present of digital curriculum, and then collaborate to ideate what the future ought to be.

We have split the event into two days. The first, Wednesday March 27th, will be spent in small group conversations with teams from Discovery Education. While optional, there are many people within the company that would love to tap into your collective brainpower. We know that you each bring a unique perspective to the table and hope you will share your knowledge with our teams.

The main event will take place on Thursday March 28th. It will involve in-depth conversations and brainstorms identifying ideas that aren't just theoretical, but actionable. We have handpicked a forum representing all grade levels, subject areas and roles within the education space.
(Full Disclosure: While I am not getting paid to attend, Discovery is paying all my travel expenses.)

You can read Dean's post (and the links) for more on last year's event, or check out Steve Dembo's delicious bookmarks. (You can also follow this year's forum at the twitter hashtag #beyondtextbooks, although you'll also find lots of other folks thinking about this topic at that hashtag). I imagine this year will be similar in some respects, but very different in other respects. For example, Discovery just announced they will be producing a Math Tech Book in 2014, and the attendees of this year's forum have a definite math tint to them, so I imagine we'll be talking about possibilities in the mathematics arena a bit more.

I have my own ideas, of course, but I would love for some of you to share some of your own ideas in the comments. What does the future of "digital resources" look like? What does the next generation digital "textbook" look like (and "textbook" is used very loosely here)? Specifically, I'd love to hear from math folks (and others) what would a "Mathematics Tech Book" include?

As you think about this, keep your options wide open. Certainly Discovery is looking for ways to package something that not only adds value for our students, but that they can actually package, sell and monetize. But don't limit your own thinking to what you think they could "produce" and "sell," but really think about what kind of digital resource(s) you would want to support your classroom (math or otherwise).

I'll share any comments you leave with the Forum on March 27th and 28th.


  1. I'd love to see a book based on intentional use of open ended problems. I love the work Dan Meyer does with his 3 acts but it's very challenging to use these on a regular basis without additional skills. The problems require a TON of prior knowledge and sadly tend to be at "the end" of some set of lessons.

    Having a team create and annotate these videos in a linear fashion, just like textbooks do (area->surface area->surface area applications) would be great.

    That way instead of the usual "sit down at your desks and answer these 5 questions" I do to assess knowledge, I can say "Sit down at your desks and watch the video on page 124". The video would then go from the abstract to the concrete in about the 5 minutes I would have spent on the board work.

    Then, as with any good teacher, I can utilize pieces of the textbook, maybe assign a few videos for homework, etc.

    It would be a ton of work - the videos would need to be done following a specific plan and produced to a similar quality, but I'd certainly buy a copy!

    1. Thanks Graeme. I imagine Dan Meyer's name will be mentioned once or twice . . . :-) Do you have an example (or could you create an example) and link to it so we have something sorta concrete to look at? I think I know what you're getting at, but it would be helpful to see exactly what "intentional use of open ended problems" that accompany a video in a "linear fashion" would look like.

  2. Is the MathTech book completed for Algebra 2? Will it be ready soon for next school year 2014-2015. Our school district has just partnered with DEN for professional development and the MathTech book sounds "engaging."

    1. John - The math techbook is currently in demo mode with a release sometime later this year -