Soapbox Raymont van Diemel

Dump Textbooks in Digital Learning
Presenter: Dr Raymond van Diemel, Stellenbosch University, Military Academy

The textbook has been declared dead many times over (The Conversation, August 2018). Progressive educator John Dewey decried the “text-book fetish” back in the 1890s. Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wished out loud for textbooks to become obsolete. Articles on the demise of textbooks regularly appear with each new school year. They describe these books as only so much content, as an indifferent information dump, as dead tree versions of information that would be better presented interactively, via multiple media.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will (is) undoubtedly have a profound impact on Education in general and Digital Learning in particular. Digital Learning, in my humble opinion, assumes that the coursework (literature) go hand in hand with Open Access (free) Resources. We have witnessed prominent universities embracing Open Access. The question then arises: why do we see the dominance of prescribed textbooks in Digital Learning? More importantly, when technologies are actually adopted – like smart boards or laptops – they fit in with the larger patterns of the classroom, rather than “disrupting” them.

Higher Education is not about a single narrative,. This is precisely the danger inherent in relying on one or two textbooks. Far too many academics not only build their curriculum around prescribed textbooks but those textbooks dominate Assessment (Test and Examination) forcing students into memorizing facts as a method of study. I call for a re-thinking around the place, role and dominance of textbooks in Digital Learning.