I read a great article highlighting some state-level policy changes that are paving the way for real classroom instructional material reform. Classroom instructional material is a big way of saying textbooks, but, in fact, these changes point to a move away from traditional texts and towards a range of materials that meet student needs better than an average textbook could.
Textbooks and all of the supplemental materials that publishers sell with them can be very helpful in the classroom. However, as writer Geoffrey Fletcher pointed out in The Journal,
I think textbook publishers have too many people telling them what to do. Fifty sets of state standards, not to mention big districts, each with its own requirements and everyone on a budget. Publishers seem to try to please every single one of them. They cannot afford to take any risks because they have to meet everyone's needs and don't want to offend anyone. My artist wife tells me that when you mix all colors together, you get gray. I think that is what happened with the social studies textbooks in the eyes of the Indiana State Board of Education. The color has been washed out by throwing everything in.
He's referring to the recent rejection of a set of texts by the Indiana State Board of Education. The only way to get around the problem he describes is to allow teachers to develop materials themselves and select from a variety of media, electronic and otherwise, to supplement or replace texts that don't meet their needs.
Interestingly, Indiana changed their interpretation of "textbooks"
"... to allow school corporations to use computers and other data devices, instructional software, internet resources, interactive, magnetic and other media, and other 'systematically organized material.'
Similarly, Virginia is encouraging teachers to develop modern, relevant content to be shared over the Web with other teachers.
As teachers, we are supposed to be subject matter experts. Doesn't it make sense that we could gather best-of-breed information for our students and develop curricula from many media so we can fully exploit the power of 1:1 initiatives and widespread Internet access?