I taught J333 News Editing for the first time this quarter, and I debated whether to use a textbook or not. As the quarter has progressed, I’ve kind of regretted it. A good textbook guides the class and keeps it on topic. This quarter I’ve felt like I’ve ad libbed quite a bit, adding things that seemed a bit tangential.
But I doubt I’ll use a textbook the next time I teach it over ever again really because CNN money has called text books one of their biggest rip offs ever. It’s hard to argue with their stats. I know textbooks are overpriced. I know new editions are printed with minor changes just to pad some pockets.
But I think this short blurb oversimplifies things tremendously. Students all learn differently. Some don’t get my witty lectures. Others are overwhelmed by all my in-class exercises. Gleaning a few tips from a book would be helpful.
What we as academics need to do is make sure textbook prices decrease, and I think the iPad might be the solution. Apple has an agreement with McGraw Hill to offer interactive textbooks. The iPad will also allow students to view PDFs, which a lot of professors, myself inlcuded, upload to our course Web sites.
I’m not going to go as far as my alma mater did and require students to buy an iPad, but I think it’s an option, especially for journalism students. What I’d like to see even more of, however, are online books, such as the text I use for my Online Journalism Fundamentals class. Dan Gillmor has made his We, the Media available for free download through O’Reilly media. Mindy McAdams has also made a ton of great guides for multimedia journalism on her Web site that I’ll draw liberally from.
If the goal of education is really sharing information and inspiring thought, free or low-cost textbooks must be available. One day, I hope to write a text, and I’m seriously going to consider offering an interactive version that’s available for free download.