Writing about Literature in the Media Age | NEXT\TEXT
A copy of a comment I wrote over at Next/Text. I'm putting it here because I'm not sure it posted there (got an error message after posting):
I've seen the same behavior Kathy's described -- students despising the books they're assigned to read. Sometimes they should. The books are bad. Sometimes they don't like the book for other reasons -- they don't care for the course; the subject doesn't interest them; the teacher doesn't use the book the well. For those extra-book reasons, it's unlikely that, once you get past the novelty of a new media book being new, that some new form of the book is going to change much how students feel about it.
That said, rethinking the whole idea of what a book is matters greatly because education matters greatly.
In so far as a textbook is a pedagogical tool, the real question is about how it is delivered --via print or digitally-- but rather what it helps students and teachers to do in the context of a classroom. What's changing radically, of course, is what is meant by "context of a classroom." The tools for teaching and learning have changed and are changing the epistomologica (and ontological) frameworks and assumptions of education.
Dan's CD does some really cool stuff and it gives teachers a leg up they didn't have before. It helps with the transition; it's a kind of bridge and its necessary to the evolution of things.
And I'm guessing for a lot of teachers, part of what's needed to help them work with the CD is training --workshops, ideas from other teachers, some sense of how this new thing can fit in with the traditional things (the print literature anthology) they're using. What role does the CD play in the course? What assignments can it support? What does it help teach? How can it help students learn? What changes to the course will a teacher need to make to take advantage of that? How can those changes be made in ways that don't make too much new work? What will be given up to make way for this new way of learning? How can you make it clear to students why the work matters? What do you do to tie the work to the goals of the course and your learning objectives so that it's not busy work or new media distraction?
All those questions need, if not answers, some tentative directions. And it's those kinds of things publishers are trying to think through as they develop variations on the book of the future.
Luckily, there are teacher/scholars like Dan (or Cheryl Ball and Kristin Arola) who are fun collaborators to think through these things with. And it's really an adventure now because who knows where we'll end up.
Director of New Media