Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Revealed: the Internet is Lame, Print is Cool & Textbooks will be replaced by textbooklets - The short story

The web is Telephone + TV + Search + a big filing cabinet + the best way to buy and sell stuff every invented.

Print is a 500 year old evolved search platform in physical space. Everyone with eyesight was born with necessary tech to search Print. The visual part of the brain can be harnessed to search in the background. Well crafted typography and design enables search in a blink.

The web serves a niche market. Print serves a mass market.

Back on February 13, I did a post in which I said,
I'm now the bi-weekly Print Correspondent for MediaShift, which is a part of PBS.org.. . . you know for sure that in two weeks I'm going to blablabla about the new opportunities for newspapers to replace textbooks.
The title of the post is Read for Free, Pay for Print or Stuff. Selections and out takes follow:

Textbooklets instead of textbooks.

No doubt, once textbooks are redefined in college ( Flat World Knowledge is releasing Open College Textbooks) the next low hanging fruit is K-12, textbooks. One possible scenario is that the companies now dominating the textbook industry will respond fast enough to do well in the new market. But then again, consider General Motors. The legacy overhead is going to make it very, very challenging.

I did a post a while ago about replacing textbooks with textbooklets. Below are some thoughts about how that might play out.

The Use Case from the teacher's viewpoint
A teacher in a high school history class is starting a unit on World War II. it will take 4 weeks.Wk 1 - the background. Wk 2 - the outbreak of war. Wk 3 - the course of war. Wk 4- the outcome.

He goes to a website, chooses the appropriate "textbooklet" - a 24 page tabloid print product. Each Friday 120 copies of the next week's subjects are delivered. Each of his students gets a copy to scan, search and view over the weekend. Those who are absent can scan, search and view on the web.

Starting Monday, the class will work together to read and think about the words on the background of World War II. For the inevitable, "I lost it. I forgot it. You never gave me a copy" a supply of textbooklets are on hand for the Monday morning class. Every student has a highlighter. The discussion ensues.

The Use Case from the newspapers point of view
A three person team--an educator, an editor and a writer create the content for the textbooklet.

The educator makes clear to the editor the standards in place for 9th grade high school. The editor chooses legacy copy from the newspaper's morgue and perhaps an ongoing related story. The educator collaborates with the editor to get it right. The writer creates a 300-500 word summary and some captions and call outs to surround the original source material. The educator, editor and writer look over the final before it's approved to go.

The read for free part is that all the content and links to more are posted at the newspaper website. In the best case there is a social web component to host and nurture a discussion about the content. High school students and their teachers might rub shoulders with World War II buffs and, if it were played correctly, old timers would chime in with their experiences.
If the discussion is productive and permissions granted, it is published on paper for the class.

The pay for print or stuff part is that school pays for the print by moving some of the textbook budget to pay for textbooklets. Meanwhile the newspaper team and some graphic designers are working on inventing more "things of value" their growing audience will buy. Quizzes? Posters? DVDs? Baseball caps with a Learning is Way Cool logo? and of course the T shirts.

The real problem with textbooks in the service of learning
It is not that they are too heavy or too expensive. It is that they are too slow. . . .
. . . Newspapers, on the other hand, are built for speed. . . .

Teachable Moments
As every teacher knows it is impossible to predict when the "teachable moment" will occur. They will also tell you that it can disappear as quickly as it appeared.
. . . More at PBS.Media.org..

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