David Warlick (a very bright fellow who knows his way around learning, teaching and technology) recently did an ad-hoc survey asking what new generation of textbooks should be like.
A lot of it relates to leveraging the technical opportunities that eTexts provide and some of it is a bit utopian given the current limitations in Higher Ed (money, time, imagination). For me, the best point was that the next generation of textbooks will be “aligned to the learning needs and experiences of their users”.
A present most of our texts aligned with the dogmas and dicates of the knowledge domain. They are encylopedias with a few questions slapped on the end. If we accept the fairly common definition that learning occurs when we make meaning from content, then surely teaching material should be focused on making meaning for the target audience, not on the academic construct of the content.
If we are looking for models, we should have a gander at the activity orientated textbooks being used in secondary schools (rather that out of date Funk and Wagnels as appears to be currently the case). When the Publishing reps do the rounds, slap on of these on the desk and ask, “have you got anything like this?”
One of our own, Prof Robyn Moroney has recently collaborated on a hybrid PBL text. It uses a fictional company ‘Cloud 9′ to provide practical cases and activities through out the text. It’s not revolutionary but it is evolutionary, and in her field that’s the smart way to go.
If you’re knocking out your own text have a look at the best of what’s out there. Maybe bring an instructional designer into the process. At the end of the day textbooks should be less about us and more about our students.