A Technological Reinvention of the Textbook: A Wikibooks Project

Spring, 2011

Source: Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 27(3), 109–114. (Spring, 2011).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This paper proposes a relatively radical hypothesis: Textbooks as educational tools are outdated and in need of reconceptualization. Furthermore, the authors believe that present technology affords us the opportunity to experiment with this reconceptualization in ways that not only facilitate teaching and learning but also redefine the role of the teacher in the classroom.
Working from a philosophical foundation of Constructionism, the authors propose that it is time to reconceptualize the textbook, especially given the needs and characteristics of learners in the information age.

The authors investigate one example of the intersection between technology and pedagogy, describing a college course in which students compose the course text using the wiki platform. This initiative is taking place at Old Dominion University (ODU), in Norfolk Virginia.
The authors discuss both the philosophical underpinnings and practical implications of this approach.

The study explores the advantages and disadvantages of this wiki process to provide context concerning the efficacy and utility of employing particular types of Web 2.0 tools.

Advantages of the Wiki Approach

There are several obvious advantages to the wikibook approach in the educational process. First and foremost, this is a truly student-centered learning experience.
Second, this paradigm naturally facilitates the learning of a panoply of information literacy skills.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, is the adaptability and flexibility of this type of instructional design.

Disadvantages of the Wiki Approach

The authors have also indicated some disadvantages of the wikibooks process,
There are practical problems of managing the technology and the process.
The lack of user-friendly interfaces means that a substantial amount of technological support is needed to ensure success.

This leads to another critical issue that must be addressed: This pedagogical approach can reach its full potential only if the teacher’s role changes. The challenge of evolving a new role for teachers stems from the fact that teachers are often told that they must make this transition but are seldom given guidance on how to do it or a context in which to make the change.

Another issue that must be confronted is that textbooks in general encourage students to think in “sound bites” rather than delving deeply into primary sources of information.

The authors conclude that the course development rationale points to its potential for radically changing how students and teachers interact with the phenomenon of ubiquitous learning.

Updated: Aug. 28, 2011