Photocopied Education: Textbook

I just finished reading Photocopied Education, by National Post’s Kenyon Wallace. And, no doubt, the fears that the new copyright law, Bill C-32, will bring to Canadian textbook publishers is well-founded. But, I think that it’s more of an issue of ill-founded assumptions rather than what big-publishing might have us believe. These “concerns”appear to be the cries of a desperate industry that is quickly recognizing its unavoidable (r)evolution, and is not willing to risk change.
As the British Columbia Ministry of Education prepares to unveil its grand plans to embrace ‘personalized learning’ (finally!), the rise of the etext and PODs in our schools, the push for more collaborative/cooperative learning, the documented successes of inquiry-based learning, and those here-for-good formative assessment practices teachers have begun to embrace, will all push the boundaries of the twentieth century print textbook. At the very least, these pressures will redefine the purpose of the standard textbook in our classrooms.

Yes, Bill C-32 contains a caveat “that ‘education’ become a category under the bill’s fair dealing provision has authors and publishers waxing prophetic on the coming end to Canadian content in the classroom if the bill, as written, becomes law. And Nordal and his ilk fear that this extension of the fair dealing definition will allow teachers and students the rights to photocopy textbooks and other “educational” materials without permission or payment to publishers.

True enough.

But, that’s not what is at issue for me…

Nelson Education CEO, Greg Nordal, makes the all too obvious (and ignorant) connection that the demise of printed textbook will somehow lead to the demise of learning about Canadian history. In a sense, yes, Nordal is right. In our schools for nearly one hundred years, textbooks were THE source of teaching and learning of Canadian histories. Heavily edited, light on details, and heavy on breadth, the print textbook served its purpose for learners of the industrial age.

But, we all know that this is no longer the case. And the white elephant in the room, the one that Nordal and others in the textbook publishing industry won’t acknowledge–the Internet–has become the preferred choice for many teachers and students.

Indeed, this is truly a fear-mongering approach that Nordal and his publishing industry folks has chosen to leverage; but it will turn out to be an extremely ineffective form of rationale.

Enter the knowledge age. Young and newly minted teachers fresh from two years of teacher training immediately recognize the need to impact student learning, and no longer use just one source in both preparation and delivery of Canadian civics classes. The expectation by both schools and school districts is that their teachers offer students greater variety or resources (and teaching styles for that matter) in order to meet the varied learning styles, and individual needs of their students. In fact, many colleagues are currently not using any one textbook in their classes. And they frequently cite the increased freedom and flexibility that this new approach brings as refreshing and far more liberating and impacting on student learning.
Nordal assumes that education needs textbooks and other standardized publications in order for learning to happen in our school. Nordal asks, “How can content creators and publishers support Canada’s educational aspirations without assurance of compensation for the work? And how can educators expect to achieve their desired outcomes if the publishing community is not there to support them?”

Again, I’m not so sure that Nordal has been doing his due diligence on this one: the face of education is/has been changing for over a decade. Yes, Canada has been slow to respond. Yes, under the current system that has become obsolete, textbooks have their profound niche. But, this niche, too, will continue to morph.

Read more:

And I’m all for paying for intellectual property as it relates to legal “educational” usage. As a teacher-librarian, I am the advocate of a need to respect and ahere to copyright regulations among my staff and students. The onus falls to teachers and teacher-librarians to model appropriate copyright behaviours and help our students to understand intellectual property and fair dealing practices in our schools. We can no longer continue to shriek this responsibility but simply turning a blind eye.

But, isn’t it time for the “education” publishing industry to have a better long term plan, too?

Educational leaders in this country have begun to adapt and embrace the new face of learning in the new media age. Personalized learning is where the ship is headed. No one is saying that big-publishing is not wanted on the voyage. They just need to pack a little more effectively…

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