Monday, June 16, 2008

Among other pedagogical discoveries of the first week of my summer vacation, I realized just this morning that I no longer have to buy textbooks for my classes, because everything I could possibly want my students to learn is available on the internet. This was an astounding realization for me. I think I actually shouted with excitement in my apartment when it became clear to me. After all, in my decades of teaching I have always assumed that ordering books for my students was an indispensable summer ritual, an essential part of the process of teaching. If I wanted the students to read Dickens, understand the process of writing, and learn the current grammar conventions, then I would have to procure books for them -- books they could store in their lockers, bring to class each day, and tote home in their backpacks after school. This morning, though, as I was browsing educational sites on the web, it suddenly came to me that a new era was dawning – an era when physical textbooks may become obsolete. For every concept, skill, or author I wish to introduce my students to next year, there are literally thousands of websites ready to provide instant and orderly information. For instance, every aspect of grammar can now be easily taught and learned by referring to the countless teacher-prepared websites. Additionally, for the kinds of classic literature I normally teach, whole stories, novels, and plays are available to the students on their computer screens. They could read Joyce’s short story “The Boarding House” on-line at home, make notations in a notebook, and then discuss the story during class while I project it on the screen from the internet. I find this to be amazing – even revolutionary. It’s as astonishing a change as the concept of the “open classroom” was back in the 70’s when I was a young teacher. I was energized about teaching back then, and even more so now. I feel like a green, keyed up graduate starting on a new adventure in a thoroughly new kind of classroom.

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