Edited: March 9, 2018
Matt Miller, a high school teacher, professional development speaker, and former news reporter, declares to other teachers to Ditch That Textbook. He goes on to suggest that teachers Ditch That PDF and hyper-annotates. These are a few among his fascinating ideas for helping educators to join the advancing communications revolution underway today.
I am sympathetic and want to encourage his effort to close the gap between what the sophisticated people of Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Carnegie Mellon University can do and what most public school people teach their students to do.
Miller’s and other people’s efforts today remind me of programs such as Summerhill, and teachers and schools without rooms or walls. Some of us who started them operated in and out of schools in the 1960s-1980s. They were variations of the Jane Addams Hull House and the Oxford University plan of “show me what your can do” to earn credit and a diploma or academic degree. The early preschool experiments of the 1960s are among the most noticeable survivors of that era. Another survivor is the CAPA program at the University of La Verne; CAPA was one of if not the first higher education institution to offer an accelerated bachelor’s degree program in the United States for working adults.
One of the problems many of the earlier efforts encountered was not having objective academic performance data to justify continuing support. Also, those efforts were easy to adapt to other existing conventional programs and policies of the sponsoring as well as competing schools. So, experimental programs ran out their life cycle usually in 5-7 years as most fashions in public schools still do.
One of the great puzzles for me while directing a few as well as reflecting on those programs, was, What did people do while learning? What was it about the activities in which they engaged that occurred during learning? During the operation as well as an administrator and studying those programs as a social scientist, I did not take time to reflect on that question beyond preparing to teach about them in classes, attend meetings, and write reports. Now, I have time for that reflection, analysis, and reporting.
My writing is more like reading a technical-scientific report, textbook, or professional scientific journal. It uses hypertext annotations. It discomforts many teachers when they first encounter it. It is not as dramatic or concise as reading Miller’s Ditch That Textbook. I am refining those notes into a book manuscript for easier reading and use in separate drafts.
But, I describe the same implicit points Miller makes about teaching-learning. I do so by describing what learners say that learners do while learning as teachers instruct lessons. I write this from a learners’ view of learning. This view reveals an infrastructure of how learners learn lessons during instruction of lessons, likely including those Miller conducts.
If you have not yet clicked over to Miller’s website, I urge you to do so in order to see in more detail what he suggests replaces textbooks, PDFs, hypertexts, etc. in schools.
Then, ask yourself, How do people learn? What do they do first, second, etc.? to learn lessons you teach, irrespective of whether you use textbooks, hypertexts, or other resources. At that time, you may find that a learners’ view of learning offers databased descriptions of how learners use Miller’s and your approach to learning.
Then, let me know what you find useful in this article, so I may offer more of the same to support your teaching.