The End of Textbooks (it’s not what you think/hope)

A few days ago my TAs mentioned that many students have to be “taught” how to read a textbook because they have never read one before.  At first I thought this might be the result of a more progressive teaching strategy spreading through our high schools.  I thought that maybe students were being asked or inspired to read more original sources as part of some cutting-edge project-based learning initiatives.  Instead, they explained that students are not allowed to take textbooks home from high school because the schools are afraid the books will be lost or stolen.  Security guards, originally hired to keep drugs and guns out of school, now also keep the books in.  As a result, readings are rarely assigned and students are only asked to read what they can read in a few brief moments at school.  Depressing.  Can anybody confirm or deny this experience?  When I went to high school in the early 90′s there were no restrictions on textbooks (and no security guards).


Associate professor of cultural anthropology. Ed Traceur. Hacker. Car-free.

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45 Responses

  1. Matt Hussein Platte says:

    Why should there be textbooks? Putting information in a book is to hide that information behind a pay wall, not to mention the censorship distortion inherent with the scheme. What textbook could be relevant to The Machine is Us/ing US anyway?

  2. Prof Wesch says:

    I agree, but the reality is that the highest concentrations of good information for many subjects still reside in books.

  3. Prof Wesch,

    I went to HS in the early ’90s and there were many books that we weren’t allowed to take home either. We had too many students and not enough books.

    Text books (digital or printed) do provide valuable information and controls the flow of it. I think that this is the key to learning the root of a topic. Everything has additional information is available, but the consistency (even if it is dated) and the flow of the information is the purpose of a text.

    Case in point, Topic U.S. History, the Civil War of the United States could be a chapter in a text, an individual text or even be many volumes. Depending on the outline and/or direction of the course.

    I think text books are key to learning a topic at the desired level. The Internet has provided us the ability to research at a more granular scale, however, direction can be lost due to information overload.

    A text book should be founded in fact and should include multiple sources as references, the Internet and digital information are these resources, but it is the text that brings them all together and gives a greater value to the student, in my humble opinion.

    In my experience, I have been on both sides of the spectrum, with access to textbooks and without, however, I think that the greatest benefit comes from clear direction of having textbooks for each student.

    The process of education and learning is changing, and it should, however, not at the cost of the betterment of the student.

    Sorry for the soap box response, but I thought it was relevant.

  4. Steven Crawford says:

    I have kids who are in 5th and 7th grade in the Phoenix area and they are not allowed to take textbooks home. In the case of my 5th grader, all textbooks are stored in a special shelf on the wall so that the teacher can quickly assess, with a glance, if any books are missing and who it belongs to.

    Instead, they have workbooks and they bring home just the page they need to fill out for homework. This makes things difficult as a parent since I cannnot “see” what method they are teaching students to solve problems or complete tasks.

  5. Julianna says:

    I’ve been in the public school system for the past 10 years in Raleigh, NC. We either have 2 sets of textbooks (one to keep at home and one to leave at school) or a class set that we could not take home because there are not enough of the books for every student to have them.

    More often than not, we have 2 sets.

    If you lose a book, you have to pay for it, and the librarians order replacements.

  6. Anne Adrian says:

    In my kids’ schools, some books are allowed to be taken home and some are not. In one math class (thank goodness not one of my kids’), the teacher did not allow the students to take books home because of the risk of the books being taken or stolen.

    The books they do carry home are sometimes really big. My 7th grader’s language book is as big a my college chemistry book that was used for 3 terms.

    In the junior high (8th and 9th grades), the students are issued tablet notebooks and the reliance on books is lessened. However, it is difficult helping my kids with math when I they did not provide access to the methods they are teaching. Some web pages are only available when they are on the school network; thus we could not access the reference material.

    There really needs to be a solution for having in depth material (reference, instructions, explanations) available anywhere anytime that does not requirie 100 lb kids toting 75 lbs of books and computers and school buying new editions every 2 years.

  7. Professor Wesch,

    I am one of a dying breed in the high school where I teach US History, I still let my students take the textbooks home. At times I’ve been encouraged by my colleagues not to let the books out of the room because “you will never see them again.” Yes, there are textbooks sent home that I never see again, but the alternative of keeping them locked up on a shelf only to be taken out for in-class reading is far more costly to our education system than a dozen lost books.

    I know no-one who is a bigger proponent of utilizing Internet resources in the classroom. At the same time I strongly believe in the value of having students read and reflect outside of the classroom. As Mr. Pitts pointed out the same information is available on the Internet as in books. I believe the synthesis and organization of like information is still better in textbooks compared to even the most academic of websites. Furthermore, it’s my speculation (I know of no studies on the topic) that students are more apt to reflect on their readings when reading from a book as compared to reading the same information from a website.

  8. I finished high school in 2005, and books could be taken home from the high school I attended. My high school’s problem was more along the lines of old books with dated information.

    Maybe this is a good thing. Hopefully this will push the need for more online texts and database readings, which would be easily accessible for many and could be printed at school for those without computers at home.

    Of course, none of this addresses the simple fact that many students are not going to do the readings, no matter their format.

  9. I graduated high school in 2005. We had a variety of rules for the textbooks at my school, which usually varied according to the class. For some classes we were loaned the books for an entire year and allowed to take them home for study. This was true for most of the mathematics classes I took throughout primary and secondary school. However, some of the math classes I took had books that had to stay in the classroom. The reason for this is that some years we had books in desperate need of replacement. Our school system worked in such a way that the mathematics books were replaced in waves over a repeating ten year period. Ten years is a long time to last through the abuse to which young students subject textbooks.

    Coming from a wealthier school district in central Ohio, it seemed a little odd to me that this was the case. I would hate to see what the situation is in rural or inner city school districts. My guess is that the textbooks that disadvantaged school districts have are in worse condition than my high school alma mater. As such, it makes financial sense for these districts to keep the books in the relative “safety” of the classroom.

    My hope is that with the increasing penetration of the Internet, this problem can be averted by new means of education: the “cutting-edge project-based learning initiatives” you were hoping to hear about. Textbooks have a great place in education, as they are a very dense, concentrated distillation of knowledge in a handy, useable form. However, for some school districts they represent a financial hardship that must be endured year after year.

  10. Bookreader says:

    On learning how to read textbooks (and more):

    Adler and van Doren do this in “How to Read a Book”. It’s a book :-) that teaches ways to filter what you read, and how to read the remaining essentials. Appeared 1940, was updated 1972, (should be upgraded with a chapter on internet sources and the assessment of their quality). GREAT intro to working techniques for the student who needs to focus on the assigned topic. Dry to read, but the time investment will repay many times.

  11. Molly says:

    In California, public schools are required to provide one textbook in the four core subject areas for every student for use in the classroom with the ability to take it home to complete required homework assignments (based on a lawsuit called the Williams Case). Most schools therefore issue a textbook to each student, plus have a set in the classroom. I don’t think that necessarily means that teachers are assigning reading, or doing so in a meaningful way, but at least they have the books.
    One interesting offshoot of the Williams Case is that districts do not feel comfortable adopting technology-based core curriculum materials, such as Pearson’s Digital Path. Since the law requires “a sufficiency” of instructional materials, and students may have limited access to computers both during the school day and at home, adopting a progressive series is seen as a legal risk!

  12. naz says:

    Ive been home schooled my whole life but I decided to try out HS a couple years back, when I went we were given text books for some classes but not all. and then most of them were never used. I remember in my Algebra class we never once took a look at the textbook. the teacher kept them stacked against the wall under the marker board. She told us that there weren’t enough of them so she was going to just use her teachers book. One of my brothers went to public school his whole life and most of the time he wasn’t allowed to take the books home. If he was the teacher had to ‘sign’ them out to him. Also when I was in the public HS my English teacher would pretty much scold me for trying to read ahead of the rest of the class if and when we were assigned a book to read, whats a girl to do when she finishes her work so much earlier than the rest of the students and *wants* more work? My mum told me when she was young she was ahead of her class a bit and the teacher encouraged her and just tried to give supplementary work for her and didn’t try to hold her back. Her brother is a genius. Been working with computers all his life. Never went to college and is now the head of Time Warners whole east coast doing something with the security (internet security I believe). He never even applied for the position. Just installed a car system for a friend of the mangers.

    Makes you wonder whats become of life nowadays.

  13. Lu says:

    My daughter just graduated from High School (Indiana), and many texts were off limits to bring home. Some of the instructors would provide links to the e-text, but “forget” to give out the password.

    My experience with my daughter is that she has no clue how to read a textbook. I’ve tried, but had little impact.

    Do you think your TAs could make a video that my daughter could watch?
    (along with a lot of others).

    fascinated by your work,


  14. Eric says:

    I’ve done some ethnographic work in the Baltimore City Schools. This was back in 2001, but one school I was in had all the textbooks locked up in a room. They didn’t even go to the classrooms out of fear of them being ruined. On the other hand, many schools don’t even have texts, partly due to their expense. While most of the students have some internet savvy, many have no or slow access at home and depend upon school or library computers to access information online.

  15. Brad M. says:

    I graduated from High School in 2004. We were allowed to take textbooks home (of course, this was the small city of Wenatchee, WA). However, the problem was less about taking textbooks home, it was more about outdated texts. We were always warned at the beginning of a class that we may need to locate and supplement more up-to-date information at times for the class via the school library, regional library, the local college library, or the internet. This was especially true in any sort of social studies classes.

  16. Bob Calder says:

    I teach in a high school in Fort Lauderdale. All of our students are encouraged to take textbooks home in every academic class. Often children who don’t want to do homework will tell people there aren’t enough books. Because we are a high poverty area, people believe it. But who in the world *wouldn’t* put books at the top of the supply list? Our school district is the sixth largest in the nation with approximately 650,000 students. We are normal by all measures.

    I would like to say that the designs of most general population textbooks from the major publishers are confusing in that they have call outs, colored boxes, and multiple headers competing for attention on every page with little attempt to prioritize. I find them very difficult to make sense of. On the other hand, the AP Biology book is a very nicely produced text with fairly recent discoveries presented in an interesting way.

    That said, all textbooks are outdated the minute they leave the press. This problem has caused the public health community to create an archive of current presentations that are hosted at the Library of Alexandria.

    We are probably in transition toward open source learning resources.

  17. ladyclayton says:

    I am a junior high school teacher, and the bit about students taking textbooks home is partially true, at least at my school. However, in certain core subjects (history and math), students check out a textbook that they take home and keep there for the academic year, and then when they are in class, they use a class set that is kept at school.

    There are a few reasons for this, the main one being the elimination of lockers. Lockers were removed from campuses in my district in the mid-90s, because students at some of the schools were keeping things of an illegal nature in them. For a while, students would cart their textbooks to and from school with them, but parents complained that the heavy loads would wreak havoc on growing bones, so the schools implemented the stay-at-home textbook I described above.

    In some ways, this program works very well, because a student always has access to his or her textbook at home. However, in some cases, state funding puts a severe damper on the program — in language arts departments, there are not always enough copies of a novel for all of a teacher’s classes to take home the book at the same time. As a result, the novel must be read in class, which cuts into instructional time, or a teacher has to stagger the novel, teaching it to half his/her classes while the other half works on other lessons. The latter solution basically adds an additional prep to a teacher’s workload.

    I teach reading intervention, and one of the standards I teach is how to read academic text. Many students enter junior high without having a basic grasp of how to tackle a textbook at the most basic level. For many of my students, junior high is the first time they have had to actually use a textbook for information. If textbooks are not sent home in elementary school or elementary teachers use other methods to teach the subject matter, this deficiency is not surprising.

  18. This makes me think about the scene in the Freedom Writers movie where the teacher, Erin Gruwell, goes to get classic literature books out of the dusty storeroom, but is told by her English department head that she absolutely cannot use them with her failing, poor, “uncaring” students who will steal and destroy those books. When I first saw that scene, I thought it was a bit of Hollywood liberty. But then I heard similar examples from other teachers of similar behavior. It’s amazing when an individual, creative teacher helps a student find something meaningful and significant, that we (society, educators, whomever) can find ways of stifling it instead of encouraging it.

  19. Mike Mihalek says:

    This video really shows how far we have come in society, and how the basic ways of learning has been changing for the good and the bad. This video really shows how much of our society really depends on teachnoligy, and does a great job of showing how wastfull our teaching meathods can be. I personally don’t think this is setting a good example for the future generation.

  20. Sarah says:

    I’m a high school teacher in Queensland, Australia.
    In my school students are allowed to take books home (in fact I have never been in a school where students are not allowed to do so). I have a sort of wry reaction to how cavalierl attitude with which students treat their books. They don’t understand that they are repositries for information and therefor a means of gaining valuable cultural capitol. (i was the same at their age of course – hence the wry feeling, and NOW I understand some of the looks on my teachers faces ). I think that the evolution wave in teaching and learning which we are surfing at the moment is one which shifts the focus from the information itself to finding and evaluating the information. It’s very important that students learn how to use textbooks; and to learn their value (good information is information which is …? recognised and valued (acknowledged) by experts in the field? …?) and it is important for them to learn how to find information and to evaluate it’s worth. (I love wikipedia, but…some students don’t realise it’s limitations)… I heard recently that maybe one day they’ll let students take mobile phones into exams as the emphasis will be on finding the information and using it correctly….sounds exciting to me!

  21. scroll_lock says:

    Hey, I was a student till 2000. I can say that I was allowed to get books out of the school. There was really a problem with the shortage of books and when more students go to get the same book there were not enough for the others. So that was a bit frustrating. But I too think that the format of the text is not important. I could be reading the same books on PDF if it was possible :)

  22. Patrick says:

    Molly mentioned the Wiliams case, and when I was teaching in Southern California between 2002 and 2005, our students had a class set of text books that stayed in school and one set they brought home. Still it was highly discouraged and very difficult to get productive reading out of these middle school students due to he disparate reading and English proficiency levels. I agree about the high concentration of good information in text books, but sometimes they are a government mandated resource that is unusable. Tough situation.

  23. Colette says:

    Los Angeles, California
    The Williams Settlement
    On the one hand, I understand that some students commute by walking or taking the bus for longer distances. On the other hand, many students have a similar attitude as those required to leave them behind–they don’t open the book. Let me repeat that: They do not open the book at home. Yes, this also means that many never do homework, some for the entire school year. Then again, over 75% of my freshmen students can’t read a ninth grade text and 22% are below fifth grade. It’d be like as me to choreograph a ballet–a task so far out that I can’t even imagine how to take the first step–and neither can they.
    I should add the the EAP modules and teacher RIOP training released by the Cal State system is aimed at better preparing students for college, at least where expository texts are concerned.

  24. Professor Welsch,

    I’m a student of a BA in Applies Linguistics which takes place at Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas (UAT), capus Cd. Victoria (México). In our subject “Computer Mediated Communication” (CMC) we got the great opportunity to view a couple of the videos that you have uploaded to This led to a series of discussion in and outside the classroom, making us wonder and reflect about the present state of education not only in your context put in ours as well.

    At the beginning of the “semester” (we only attend from four to five months) our teachers of Corpus Linguistics proposed us to create an online course for the subject. This is a pioneer project, being the first online course that our faculty will provide.

    Currently my classmates and I are working on the elaboration of material and development of activities for the course. The use of technology has been quite amazing so far, because we have learnt to use several tools from the internet (such as the awesome bookmarking!) that most of us didn’t know.

    Getting to know that other people are doing something to change the way education is being developed, makes me feel that we are not fighting alone, and that the use of internet and technology, has so much to offer for current and future learners.

    Your work has inspired me, and I believe it has done the same with some of my classmates, to keep improving and to do something about this situation. Currently I’m following your work via (of course!) and this page.

    I hope we can have a response from you in a near future and share with us a piece of your great experience that sure will help us with our current work.

    Thank you for your time.

    Yurith Karina Jaramillo

  25. sorry!!!! It’s Applied Linguistics….not “Applies” -.-’

  26. Socect says:

    Hi Mike,
    Fascinating thread… I had no idea that public education at the high school level in the US had become so perverse!

    I recently posted a thread about textbooks – and why I don’t use them – in my blog that people might be interested in…

    Although, I’m talking about the university level, there might be some overlaps.

    This has also got me thinking about a way to link (at least conceptually) participatory Wiki-based learning with the textbook problem. Textbooks, are basically, one author’s synthesis of a vast amount of primary research. I make my students read primary material, which as I say, is very challenging for them… In a way, the way I’m constructing (framing) the course wiki for my anthropology class, the students are (to some small extent) creating their own “textbook”. Well, ok, it is actually a bit more like “Cliffnotes”, but nevertheless, I think this approach has some serious potential! For anyone interested, the Anthropology and the Human Condidtion Wiki can be found here:

    Best, Eric

  27. Adam says:

    I graduated HS in 2003. It was common to be required to cover your books somehow to prevent wear and tear, but I don’t recall being restricted from taking books home. Writing in them was, of course, strictly forbidden.

    It’s a shame schools are so strapped for funds (or so greedy for them) that they are forced to rob students of the joy of critical reflection and independent interpretation that comes with reading a book at home in private. Are our schools returning to the days when books were scarce and knowledge was necessarily homogenized through the interpretation of authority?

    It’s ironic an economic system with its roots in Protestantism, a denomination arguably catalyzed by the spread of print (i.e. books), now seems to be imposing a model on our schools that’s constraining them to return to a time when books, and knowledge, were scarce. In the age of the Internet, nonetheless!

  28. Adam says:

    To briefly add on to my last comment: I’d like to know how often the Internet is being used for reading assignments. When I was in HS, it was rare to get reading assignments via any other medium than print. However, it did happen a few times.

  29. Charles Forstbauer says:

    I’m a third year HS biology teacher having switched careers after 25 years in industry. The wealthy CT school district I’m in provides textbooks for all students to take home. In my class, I tell them to keep them wherever they study. Our curriculum doesn’t match the book very well therefore reading assignments are sporadic depending on how well syncs with what I’m covering.

    The idea that the given text is the be all end all source of knowledge for the course is something I dispel on day one. We end up on the net a lot – as I said it’s a wealthy district and computer access in near universal, but the bigger issue is reading itself. Students have difficulty reading and comprehending on line. It’s treated more as a visual medium even if it’s an article. I have gone so far as to recommended printing out articles for better reading comprehension. The text book serves as a necessary static anchor for the class and as a basis for further work.

    Generally, I am a proponent of the idea of spending book money on laptops for class. There is no way that I can cover all of the topics in the discipline – check Wikipedia for “topics in Biology” . I am more interested in giving my students a basic understanding, a glimpse of the complexity of the subject and the tools to explore it collaboratively and on their own through internet communication tools. But to do that digital literacy skills have to be improved. Maybe that is happening as children learn to read on screen and when they get to my class in a few years I can scrap the printed text entirely.

  30. In twenty years as a teacher, teacher educator and educational researcher, I’ve been in hundreds of middle and high school classrooms. As the previous posts indicate, textbook access varies. It’s not uncommon in poorer districts for textbook access to be limited and that’s not new.

    This isn’t an issue in schools that serve the middle class and wealthy.

    I’m unsure how much it matters — as noted in one of your videos, students have $100 textbooks they don’t open. The problems with textbooks and their use are practically innumerable.

    The most widely used high school biology textbooks in the US are over 1000 pages and introduce more new vocabulary than the typical first year foreign language text, for example.

    And, while almost every high school graduate has taken high school biology using one of those textbooks, stunningly few of them understand the most basic biological concepts like evolution or the carbon cycle.

  31. I’m a teacher (and Head of Curriculum) at an independent (private) school in Melbourne Australia. This is a very interesting discussion that well at truely hooked me in! It seems odd to me that the richest country in the world can not afford to distribute the materials that educators require/desire to develop the best possible learning experiences, in fact it is appalling!

    However this is a different debate to whether text books as still relevant, to which there is no one answer as it is dependent on the subject / teacher / students / learning environment etc. Recently I had this discussion with the Heads of Department at my school. At the commencement of 2008 the school was moving towards tablet PCs for students, an opportunity I used to “cull” the textbook list (it was necessary to show some savings to offset the cost of the tablet). Midway through the year the tablet PC programme was put on hold (indefinitely). Consequently many departments put textbooks back on the list, despite agreeing earlier in the year that many were not relevant to student learning, why?

    All students at my school are expected to purchase the set text books and carry to and from school – from age 10. I wonder what the long term health effects of this will be?

  32. Regenesis says:

    The teens in the academic high school bring home their books and have lots of homework. The teens in the tech high who have academic difficulties are not allowed to bring home their books. For parents, it’s really frustrating because the one who needs the most help and is most likely going to have difficulty processing information in a busy classroom, is the one that parents are powerless to teach or encourage. If the tech kids realize they’ve been shortchanged, they have to do a year of pre-whatever at College and try to pack 4 years of information into 1 year. My son accomplished that hurdle and is studying business. If he graduates from College or starts a successful business, his picture will be placed on his high school’s hall of fame.

  33. Nina says:

    I teach at a local communty college in So. Cal, and I have two kids one in 3rd grade, the other in 6th. My 6th grader came home this fall with a CD-ROM of her social studies text, including printable home work and practice book pages. This is complement to her text book that she is able to bring home. If she loses the CD-ROM there is a steep charge for replacement, but I thought it was fairly novel to see the text in a different format. I think Harcourt is the publisher.

  34. Donna Setzer says:

    My children are in 4th, 6th, and 8th grade. In elementary school, our child has his own set of books to bring home as needed. In the middle school, they are given a set of books to leave at home so they don’t need to carry heavy books back and forth. As parents, we are required to sign a form stating that we will be charged for any books that aren’t returned. All of our children have access to websites that supplement the textbooks. I was shocked to read about so many schools that don’t allow books to go home. Florida has some crazy ideas about education, but fortunately that one hasn’t caught on in our schools.

  35. Betsy Hester says:

    I am a high school literature teacher in an inner-city school in eastern North Carolina. What an interesting discussion this is! A former student of mine hooked me up to this link. Remind me to go back and thank him!

    Text books are part of the “industry” folks! Text book companies are making record profits. Do you wonder why we are mandated to adopt new text books every 5 years? My goodness! I haven’t removed the shrink wrap from the last text book adoption and we are up for renewal this year. I’m not kidding. The text books are filled with the same “excerpts” that were in the last text book, and the one before that, and before that. The only additions are “snippets” of novels I have been teaching in full for years. Give me a break!

    With all that said, the big frustration is that I see students are not reading anything at all. I am fortunate to have 25% of my seminar class of 60 tenth grade students actually read the novels I assign. They have mastered the art of accessing the “net” for summaries of novels that keep them from reading the actual text.

    Keep the money in the school districts and quit making the textbook companies rich, and please invent a software program that will make the kids read! I’ll take students who are willing to read anything. Please!

  36. Jin says:

    Prof Wesch,

    I completely agree that students need to be “taught” how to read textbooks. I teach at a community college where 50-70% of the student population can’t read college-level text. Granted, I work with a different student population compared with a four-year university. Nevertheless, I find that most students lack basic reading skills that help them actively engage and understand text.

    However, I don’t agree that the lack of textbook accessibility during high school is to blame. I think that there are several reasons why students can’t read well by the time they get to college. There are many factors that can affect a student’s reading skills such as inadequate phonological awareness training during preschool. In the past, I’ve tutored many students in the K-12 grade range; in my experience, I’ve found that there are a lot of students that lack basic reading skills that should have been mastered in elementary school. Of note, one of the more disturbing things that I found is that some of my college students will brag that they have not read a single book since elementary school. Luckily our school does have several very dedicated faculty members that are teaching reading skills.

    Interestingly, I’ve also found that my students have a difficult time reading and understanding online “academic” text. When they have to read an article online, with the help of some sort of collaborative platform (i.e., blog, wiki, … I’m going to teach my students about Diigo next week), they will read the comments posted by their peers and not the actual assigned text. Granted, they learn the main concept of the assigned reading, but they are taking the “short cut” by learning from their peers. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; but, the downside is that students are not learning to read “academic” text. Is there a solution to this? I’ve considered teaching my students to use Zotero instead of Diigo. I do like the collaborative nature of Diigo. However, I also think that it is important to force students to buckle down and do some academic reading. If you have any thoughts, please let me know. We’ll see how the next few weeks go in my class.

  37. surplus says:

    I graduate from high school in 2001 and all of the books that we needed were given to us. We were able to check out and take home our math, history, English etc books. Except for the English books we were required to make slip covers for them to prevent wear. For the biology books which were enormous we were each given a book to take home and there was a set kept at school for in class work so we didn’t have to haul the book to school and back, however there was only one classroom set so they had to stagger the days we used them in class so that we didn’t have two classes trying to use them at the same time. Occasionally for English class we had to buy our own copies of the books we were reading because the school didn’t have enough copies for everyone.

  38. fingers says:

    This does not happen in my inner city high school. We encourage students to take home their books. I tell my kids to take them home and keep them home (English class) because there is a class set in the classroom and there’s no need to carry it back and forth.

    I teach freshmen.

  39. vangahh says:

    Our school district purchases a set of textbooks for classroom use and each student is issued a textbook to keep at home. Students can also arrange to receive a second set of books if their custody arrangement requires them to spend weeknights at different homes.

    Access to books is not the issue for many students (especially college bound). Sadly, many students just don’t read and are surprisingly hostile towards its value. They view reading and the “book thing” as passe. The notable exception in recent years has been Harry Potter because he’s perceived as “cool” and all their friends read the books and saw the movies.

  40. David says:

    I went to high school from 99-03 and we were permitted to take our textbooks anywhere we liked. The issue prof Wesch raises is a serious one, but it is also a regional issue. This restricted access to books obviously is contingent upon the resources of the school/school system in question.

    Unlike some other respondents, I feel that paperbound textbooks are an incredibly powerful medium for transmitting information and has varoius benefits over digital media. For one thing, you’re probably more focused when reading an article in your hands than on a screen: computers tempt us with all sorts of distractions, from internet sites like digg, youtube and facebook, to static computer objects like video games and tv shows.

    More importantly though, books give us a completely different interaction with the text, a more personal interaction. You can flip back and forth between far apart sections more easily to compare ideas, underline, highlight, write in the margins, bookmark with descriptive post-its….There’s a huge differnce between turning a page and scrolling down.

    I had a professor in college who would assign most of our reading as articles he published online as pdfs: You bet your ass i printed out and read on paper every last one.

  41. Jeff says:

    This is a slight change of the topic, but there is a company call Flat World Knowledge If successfull will do away with the text book scams on campus.

    Recently UT-Austin announced they will go with digital textbook this spring (article in the Chronicle somewhere).

    If you can somehow post reading on students facebook pages we can get students to read.

  42. Janet Hawtin says:

    a book on music, art, surgery, ceramics, love, can be concentrated information but it is often in the exploration of the information in a tactile or a discursive manner which makes information real.

    we need to live learning
    the internet is increasingly powerful because of its living texts.


  43. Jamie says:

    I went to high school from 2000-2004 and we were able to take our textbooks home, but we only had one copy of each book, so we had to carry them around everywhere. I wasn’t aware that there’s been any change that prohibits textbooks from leaving the school (at least in California).

  44. Joan says:

    At our high school our literacy committee reminds staff to have an introductory lesson on using their textbook called “reading around the text.” Those that use the strategy give their students a great study skill that translates well to higher learning.

    The trend to having only classroom sets of textbooks started in our middle schools about 12 years ago. The high school teachers denounced the trend, but now embrace it. High cost of textbooks and high loss made them throw in the towel. When departments tell me about textbook adoption processes, I ask the school district to also buy some for the library for overnight circulation. They say yes every time.

    Cheers and congrats on your national award. je

  45. Hey, got a question about your blog. I noticed it loads pages lot faster than mine. Do you host your blog on dedicated server? thanks.