My Grandfather’s Textbooks

My grandfather graduated from the University of Vermont in 1939 and I have some of his textbooks on my bookshelves along with the textbooks I used while an undergraduate student at the same institution 49 years later. The content of the textbooks (we both studied biology) is vastly different, but the literacy skills useful for his books were equally useful for mine (including our shared habit of writing in our textbooks). Those skills are no longer sufficient to interact with content in schools, however. While alternatives to print media have always played a minority role in curriculum, digital media are increasingly the mode of content, and are coming to dominate in some content areas. In a 2014 report on National Public Radio (Kestenbaum, 2014), the growing trend of publishers replacing printed textbooks with digital versions was detailed. Publishers are motivated by the single use nature of digital texts; each student must purchase access to digital textbooks whereas students can recycle printed textbooks until the professor adopts a new one.

The emergence of computers and other digital devices, the information accessed through them, and the capacity to rapidly manipulate information using them is challenging deeply held beliefs about cognition and learning. It is no longer tenable to argue that technology is marginal to the curriculum, nor is it tenable to use computers and associated technologies as an add-on to the curriculum to be used for enrichment purposes. It is only through using digital technologies to access, manipulate, create, and disseminate information that students fully participate in 21st century society. Because this shift from print to digital information is still incomplete and the technologies are still emerging, strategic goals for schools will be actively renegotiated to reflect changing technologies and associated societal expectations into the future.


Kestenbaum, D. (2014). How college students battled textbook publishers to a draw, in 3 graphs. Retrieved from 2014/ 10/09/354647112/how-college-students-battled-textbook-publishers-to-a-draw-in-3-graphs.