no more textbooksI gave a final exam based on quotes from the following links:
BBC News. June 8, 2009. Online push in California schools.
Caleb Johnson, June 9. 2009. California moves toward online textbooks. Switched.
Associated Press, August 18, 2005, Look Ma! No schoolbooks! Wired
E-Textbooks- For real this time? Jan. 3, 2008. Inside Higher Ed.
Ashleigh Jardine, Feb. 11, 2009. Textbooks going paperless, Andrews University. http://www.andrews.edu/news/2009/02/etextbooks.html
Christopher Dawson, Feb. 5, 2009, Textbooks? Textbooks? We don’t need no stinkin’ textbooks! ZDNet Education. http://education.zdnet.com/?p=2127
It wasn't until after I graded the finals that I realized that my students had been 14 to 0 in favor of online textbooks.
This stunning result does not necessarily mean that the same percentage, 100%, truly favor online textbooks, which clearly have some disadvantages (among them, you can't write native words in the margins). The results are skewed by the fact that the job of the test-taker, in a timed situation, is to take quotes from these articles and use them to make arguments; the arguments in favor are certainly clearer, and easier to use (by virtue of being direct from the author, as opposed to second-hand, the author quoted x as saying...). The results are further skewed by the fact that they may suspect I am in favor of it or believe this is the essay I would want.
But most of all, the results are skewed by the fact that, as university students, they have now become accustomed to the huge textbook monopoly and its results, because of which they have to pay $80, $100 or more for books that are "outdated" within years and can't be resold to classmates or returned for half price.
My own feeling is that we in the ESL business should just become very good at using "authentic" materials, and make them where they don't otherwise exist; we should at least listen to our students about the issue. It was not only 14 to 0, it was a rather strong 14 to 0. Very few even had time for the opposing argument, although that may have had more to do with their writing skills in general.