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Chelsea Green Blog

The 21st-Century Textbook

I discovered this fascinating blog post by following Tim O’Reilly on Twitter (@timoreilly). It asks the question “What will the textbook of the future look like?” By looking at the way children learn new information and gain problem-solving abilities, the new nimble and (needless to say) digital textbook will be interactive, adaptive, participative, and globally connected. It won’t spoon-feed the baby steps needed to solve complex problems, but will instead spark the student’s innate curiosity such that she begins asking her own questions. It will take full advantage of the newest information technologies to create a rich multimedia learning environment.

From the O’Reilly Radar:

With new technologies constantly coming on-line, and with states like California, Texas, and Oregon allowing digital curriculum to replace printed curriculum, the question arises: what will textbooks look like in the coming years?

Dale’s post, “A hunger for good learning,” featured a fantastic video about teaching math. In a few brief minutes, Dan Meyer showed us a photo of a math problem involving filling a tank of water and calculating how long that would take, then showed us why traditional approaches to teaching this problem stifled student learning. The picture showed a traditional math problem with a line drawing of the tank, a problem set-up written in text (octagonal tank, straight sides, 27oz per second, etc.) followed by short sub-steps that are needed to solve the problem (calculate the surface area of the base, calculate the volume). Then, finally, it asks the question “how long will it take to fill the tank?” Dan’s view is that this spoon-feeding of problem solving in little steps trains students not to think like mathematicians and not to have the patience for solving complex problems. Instead, Dan prefers to show his students a video of the tank filling up, agonizingly slowly, until the students are eager to know “How long until that tank fills up, anyway?” And then they’re off — discussing, questioning, and, most importantly, formulating the problem on their own, just as good mathematicians do.

Read the whole article here.

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