Faculty Summer Institute
This year marked my fourth trip to the Faculty Summer Institute (FSI) held in Champaign each May. The conference had record attendance this year with 385 people networking and learning about various education technologies and teaching methods.
The theme this year, Engage, was centered on how to keep students engaged in the classroom. After attending even a few sessions, you realize just how many ways students can learn material … and how many ways teachers can deliver it. We’ve come a long way from the 1-room schoolhouse in which my great grandmother taught and the large lecture hall equipped only with a chalkboard in SIU’s infancy.
Today, we can use the traditional textbook, e-book, mass merchandise book, video, podcast, narrated recorded presentation, slideshow, photo, mind map, screen capture, website, wiki, blog, among a myriad of other options. Much of these can be created with our own hands, especially for the tech savvy geeks in our profession. Faculty Summer Institute workshops cover most of these tools each year.
This year, one conversation that repeated itself centered around the use of textbooks in the classroom. Faculty lamented over the notion that students no longer read textbooks even if they actually purchase one, which translates into students being ill prepared for class. This caused a bit of debate until someone reminded us that faculty tend to arrive ill prepared to professional development events in which we’ve been asked to complete up-front readings. We all looked around at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and admitted defeat.
I’m going to say something that will cause the stoic professor to cringe. I dislike textbooks. I didn’t like them as an undergraduate, and I don’t like them now. Textbooks are dry, boring and too long. Textbooks aren’t always relevant to current industry trends, certainly in my industry. Textbooks are expensive; for my classes, they range from $80 to over $200. Textbooks are not the curriculum, just a tool used to teach the curriculum. I’m finding that students across all disciplines are not reading or evening purchasing textbooks for their courses.
I’ve always used textbooks in my classes because of obligation. I’ve kept with tradition and tried to find ways to force students to read the textbook. My job in the classroom is to facilitate learning, not to force students to read their textbook. So, I’m moving on … on to different reading materials that are more recent and relevant … on to more engaging course materials that will meet instructional objectives … on to more hands on activities and discussions about topics at hand. The textbook is just a tool. I’m changing tools.