US: Social Studies textbooks not important; use the Internet says schools
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WORLD / U.S. – No more new social studies textbooks.
This is the decision of several school districts. Metro Nashville Public Schools and some other Middle Tennessee school districts have stated that cutting costs was not the reason why they decided students should learn social studies from the Internet. They feel that students would benefit more from reading primary sources, watching online videos and using other online tools.
Social studies textbooks no longer most important tool
While the old social studies textbooks, which are usually replaced every six years, will be left in the classroom as resources, they will no longer be the most important sources from which students will learn. For MNPS schools, this is a first, reported Joey Garrison of The Tennessean.
MNPS officials state that teachers should have the flexibility to teach social studies topics in a new, digital way. Metro’s chief academic officer, Jay Steele, told Garrison that “the textbook should not be the primary resource for teachers”.
Metro administrators say that the money the district spent on social studies textbooks was used to buy digital materials. The Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses did get new textbooks, however. The district spent $5.3 million on social studies textbooks in 2008.
Not shortchanging education
There is no under-handed plan to shortchange social studies education, district officials say. District officials simply believe that teachers should leverage the massive amount of information online in the classroom to teach students.
Williamson County Superintendent Mike Looney told Garrison that his district chose to purchase new social textbooks in part because teachers would have to do too much research to put together lessons if they had to use all online resources.
One positive aspect of using Internet sources is that social studies textbooks have been criticized in the past for leaving out or distorting historical information. For example, Tennessee state textbook commissioners hearkened to parents in 2013 who took issue with how some social studies textbooks presented information on certain religions, according to WSMV.com. That book was removed from the state’s approved list of social studies textbooks.
Not every student has Internet at home
Still, some detractors question whether students who don’t have Internet at home will be able to keep up with their classmates. MNPS officials responded by saying that materials can be printed off at school for students to take home to read. Internet service providers across the country, like Comcast, are helping close the gap between students with Internet access and those who don’t by subsidizing Internet service costs and even computers for low-income families.
Other school districts are in the process of providing laptops or other digital devices for their students to use at home and at school. Houston Independent School District in Texas, for example, is doing just that for all its high school students. It is also purchasing online-only textbooks that are customizable and that include extra content like embedded videos, according to a June 2014 Houston Chronicle article by Lisa Gray.
What do you think of this move towards online learning – are there glaring pitfalls not addressed?