The History of the Textbook In Education By: Glenn Goslin For: Brian Lamb Date: June 29, 2008 Course: ETEC 540 Section: 66B Introduction Textbooks are as universal as formal schooling and almost as old. They have been used to aid teaching, and in some cases, to be the teacher for centuries. Textbooks are not just teaching and learning objects but are political documents that hold content that reflects the vision of a specific group (Encyclopedia of Education, 2008a). Although the presentation has changed, the main goal has remained the same; to help build the platform of knowledge for students. Definition of the Textbook The definitions for Textbooks are wide and varied. One common definition is that a textbook is a printed and bound artefact for each year or course of study (Encyclopedia of Education, 2008b). They contain facts and ideas around a certain subject. Textbooks are not like other books. Today, textbooks are assembled more than they are written. They are not usually written by a single author, nor are they a creative and imaginative endeavour. They are, in fact, usually specially made by a corporation to follow a set standard curriculum for a school system or larger organization, such as a province (Encyclopedia of Education, 2008b). History of the textbook Records in history have shown that as long as writing and some form of schooling has existed, textbooks have also been present in one form or another. They have been printed on such media as clay tablets, scrolls and papyrus up to bound, mass produced books (Encyclopedia of Education, 2008a). The earliest known textbooks up to a period in the 16th Century were written in Latin, the common language of schooling and scholars. These textbooks were probably developed to help students to learn the language Latin. These students probably had learned basic reading and writing of the language, but were not ready for reading of long passages (Ellsworth, Hedley, and Baratta, 1994). These early passages for education were probably from the Bible and some poetry. There are records of textbooks being used in ancient Greece, Rome, China, India, Egypt and other early societies (Encyclopedia of Education, 2008a).Aristotle created textbooks for numerous subjects specifically for educational processes, such as instruction (Ellsworth et al., 1994). In the fifteenth Century printing presses with movable type were invented. Books could now be reproduced quickly and easily. Before this textbooks were rare and only available to a minority of people, generally the affluent. This rarity was partially due to the fact that these books had to be hand made. The ability to mass produce books opened up schooling to many more people, creating an increasing loop of higher demand for books. During the time of colonization, textbooks were imported from the mother country and taught as facts for the new territory, even if the facts did not match the history of the region. These texts served in part, as a form of indoctrination to the history of the mother country. However, when these territories have gained independence, becoming nations through revolution or their succession from the colonizing country, they have changed their textbooks to reflect their new realities (Encyclopedia of Education, 2008a). For example, when Canada became an independent nation, textbooks were changed to meet a popular Canadian view that the War of 1812 was won in fact by the Canadians, not the British or Americans since they had successfully defended the border from invasion from the United States (Encyclopedia of Education, 2008a). For several centuries elementary textbooks were undifferentiated by age or grade level and were used mainly to aid in memorization. They were created to help the school system when there were few trained teachers or even proper teacher training. By making the textbook the ultimate authority, there was little need to have the teacher exhaustively trained to know the subject matter. Pedagogy of Textbooks Throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, textbooks were used mainly as a static means to teach curriculum. The printed textbook has been the means with which knowledge is organized and distributed. They have served to gather a body of knowledge, a mechanism for introduction to learning and as a reference material (Bierman, 2006). For at least a thousand years, the goal pedagogically for textbooks and school was the memorization of definitions, rules or other facts (Wakefield, 1998). In fact, for quite a long period, textbooks were undifferentiated by age. This allowed for older students to help younger ones, rather than a teacher who may have to work with students from very low grades to upper grades having to attempt to reach each grade level individually. As time has passed, the textbook has become further entrenched in the educational system. However, current pedagogy has shown a further trend towards more balanced methods of instruction that still include the textbook. The Present of the Textbook Although there are many other learning materials available in this period, research in wealthy nations shows that the vast majority of teachers still continue to rely heavily on the textbook as their core teaching resource (Encyclopedia of Education, 2008b). This is in spite of the fact that the majority of textbooks still have a prescribed style of presentation and knowledge base that is in stark contrast to many advances in pedagogical research, such as Multiple intelligences, personalization of learning and Universal Design for Learning. However, there is a movement towards understanding of knowledge to take the place of memorization. While lessons derived from textbooks may continue to dominate the classroom, much of the time these are augmented and coordinated with a full set of learning materials, such as audio and visual files, graphics, exercise books and computer access materials. These so called “learning packages” are replacing the basic textbook in many cases (Encyclopedia of Education, 2008b). Even while using basic textbooks, most of these now have an objectives section, to aid student in understating what knowledge they will be able to gain from this chapter and what skills they should garner from this unit. As well, understanding and extension questions at either the start or end of a chapter allow students to synthesize and cement their newly acquired knowledge. Dramatic changes in technology have changed the relationship between information, students and their access. No longer can a static resource hold the student’s attention, when they can access up to date information on any subject through an internet connection (Bierman, 2006). As well, a concern with the static textbook is that it is not accessible to all students. One reading level for all is not designed to provide learning to students with learning disabilities or even physical handicaps, such as students who are blind or have low vision. Textbooks publishers are increasingly providing digital copies of their texts and activities, so students can access them through screen readers and other specialized Assistive Technology (Stahl, 2004) The Future of the Textbook As the nature and accessibility of knowledge continues to change and grow, the textbook will have to continue to change as well. Textbooks will have to change from being a static printed volume to negate being out of date as soon as they are in the hands of students. Textbooks should continue to grow into guides for both students and teachers, coordinating different resources from animations and simulations to interactive exercises. These will include electronic interfacing, and focus on developing critical thinking skills rather than the transmission of knowledge (Cunningham, Duffy, & Knuth, 2000). Conclusion Although the textbook has received a bad reputation over the past few decades, it is still a valuable resource as a part of a balanced program of studies. The textbook has been around since the beginning of schooling and as long as it maintains its course of evolution and growth, it will continue to be part of it until the end of formal schooling. References Bierman, P. (2006, May 26). Carleton Education. Retrieved June 10, 2008, from Rethinking the textbook Web site: http://serc.carleton.edu/files/textbook/summary.pdf Cunningham, D.J., Duffy, T.M., & Knuth, R.A. The textbook of the future. Center for Research on Learning and Technology, Retrieved June 15, 2008, from http://crlt.indiana.edu/publications/journals/tr14_00.pdf. Ellsworth, N.J., Hedley, C.N., & Baratta, A.N. (1994). Literacy: A redefinition. Philadelphia: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Hamilton, D. (1990, July). What is a textbook. Paradigm, 3, Retrieved June 11, 2008, from http://faculty.ed.uiuc.edu/westbury/Paradigm/hamilton.html Overview of Textbooks. (n.d.). Encyclopedia of Education. Retrieved June 16, 2008, from Answers.com Web site: http://www.answers.com/topic/overview-of-textbooks Stahl, S. (2004). The promise of accessible textbooks: increased achievement for all students. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum. Retrieved June 15, 2008 from http://www.cast.org/publications/ncac/ncac_accessible.html Textbook. (n.d.). Encyclopedia of Education. Retrieved June 20, 2008, from Answers.com Web site: http://www.answers.com/topic/textbook Wakefield, J.F. (1998). A brief history of textbooks: Where have we been all these years? Paper presented at the Meeting of the text and academic authors (pp. 1-39). St. Petersburg: Educational Resources Information Center.