Digital Textbooks and Curricula

Television and films have literary, cultural and ethical themes, and, while that aspect of culture, of literature, is known well to scholars, American public schools have yet to include ethics curricula.

In addition to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, secular multicultural ethics curricula in American public schools is a topic of interest. Due to numerous legal precedents in the United States, the adjectives secular and multicultural are indicated when describing the niche of public school digital textbooks about morality, ethics, and character. With upcoming transitions to digital textbooks, there has never been as opportune a time for discussions about modernizing American public school curricula.

With regard to curricula, I advocate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects and I advocate the subjects of leadership studies, ethics, and argumentation with other themes including: individualism as opposed to conformity, leadership skills, public speaking skills, video blogging and conferencing skills, social comfort expressing opinion or disagreement, debate and argumentation, including as group processes, which can ensure better summations of moral compasses and that reason prevails.

Townhalls enhance communities and Thomas Jefferson referred to townhalls as “the wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government.” In the past, when American towns had more vibrant townhalls, attendance and participation were as implicit forms of education and, at some point in the past, townhall meetings decreased in use. Our public schools can equip students to make fuller use of their townhalls and Web.

In Finding “The Right Way”: Toward an Army Institutional Ethic, LTC Clark C. Barrett suggests that “the U.S. Army profession’s most worrisome cultural shortcoming is the lack of a codified institutional ethic and a means of peer-to-peer self-governance.” The publication “describes the problem, provides a review of the literature, and supplies and justifies a proposed institutional and individual Army Ethic” (http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/military-leadership/) and indicates a that some ethical lapses indicate “a potentially devastating cultural shortcoming” (http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=1129). Such observations may be, in fact, societal, extending across sectors, and public school education topics are where solutions to the identified problems can be arrived at.

Digital textbooks discussing ethics can be authored for extended existing courses, such as social studies, or can be authored for new courses, for example based on leadership studies. The curricula and digital textbooks under discussion are not mutually exclusive to any family or community activities and, furthermore, secular and multicultural public school curricula on the topics of morality, ethics and character can start conversations in homes whenever parents ask their children about how their schooldays went. An inclusive competition to create digital textbooks, as aforementioned, in accordance with the laws and court precedents of the United States, for state and local public school schoolboard selection processes, can effectively commence.

To the broader topics of education technology and digital textbooks, in general, some other discussion topics include: capitalist marketplace, digital textbook selection processes (http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-argumentation/2012Oct/0002.html), consumer feedback, and consumer advocacy. With the Web, new forms of consumer feedback and advocacy are possible (http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-argumentation/2012Nov/0000.html, http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2012Nov/0077.html); I recently wrote to several consumer advocacy groups about how consumer advocacy groups could each independently spider, index, utilize, and make available on their websites blog articles and tweets with certain keywords or folksonomic tags, e.g. “bbb” or “#bbb”.

Additionally, new blogging platform features can facilitate pinging organizations, per article (http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2012Dec/0026.html). Consumers’, parents’, teachers’, and scholars’ commentary, feedback, and opinion, about digital textbooks and curricula could be specifically routed, as indicated by each blogger, empowering bloggers and adding value to numerous organizations’ websites including those of consumer advocacy groups, teachers’ and other education-related organizations.

Teachers encounter digital textbooks occupationally and a policy topic, Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), is discussed by the American Association of University Professors at: http://www.aaup.org/NR/rdonlyres/4C126513-1194-4317-8123-459BD9F30A6D/0/Stetson2011AcadFreedomFirstAmdmtoutline.pdf . Legislation can and should be enacted to ensure and affirm academic freedoms, freedom of speech, including, specifically, professors’ and K-12 educators’ extramural free speech when commenting on, discussing, applauding or criticizing portions of digital textbook content, curricula, and other education-related topics, for example on their blogs, as protected free speech. In addition to addressing Garcetti v. Ceballos, and in addition to restoring or enhancing the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, the federal government can and should seek to ensure and affirm that extramural discussion of textbooks and curricula by teachers is protected free speech.

Combinations of parents’, teachers’, scholars’ and scientists’ commentary, feedback and opinion about the digital textbooks and curricula of each course of study can be spidered, indexed, utilized, and presented on the Web. While hyperlinks can be of use for opening digital textbooks to specific pages and object configurations, some bloggers might want to additionally make use of quotes or multimedia clips on their blogs during fair use scenarios.

With the advancements from textbooks to digital textbooks, there are, in addition to text content topics, hypertext content topics, multimedia content topics, video content topics, and, if textbook production teams want to include interviews with people, additional sociological and political topics. Uses of video in digital textbooks include: the reading of or the narration of hypertext passages, educational video content resembling educational television segments, scenarios with actors doing group sketches for classroom discussions and interviews with people or groups of people from society relaying their observations or wisdom, including scholars.

With regard to sketches for classroom discussion, we can anticipate correlations between such classroom activities and other important sociological skills as students observe, consider and discuss the behaviors of people in depicted situations.

With regard to interviews and panel discussions, we can observe that a sociology of celebrity or politics of celebrity has existed since before radio and television. Some have commented about which guests have appeared on television news shows and we can observe that a subset of all possible guests have appeared on the History Channel. With digital textbooks, however, each of numerous production teams can choose whom they would like to interview and each interviewee can choose with which production teams they would like to participate. In my opinion, exploring the breadth of society for such interviews would result in higher quality digital textbooks. People from all walks of life can be interviewed: businesspeople, scholars, scientists, policemen, firemen, military personnel, from accountants to zoologists.

Multimedia digital textbooks, containing hypertext, video and 3D graphics, could be larger in size, possibly 50, 100, 128 or more gigabytes in size, resembling the capacities of Blu-ray discs. Additionally, digital textbooks can hyperlink to Web content. With bonus materials, independent learning materials, hyperlinked to Web content, and other supplemental content and materials, including for teachers, the total content per digital textbook product can be much more than can fit into the total classroom time of an academic quarter or semester.

Future Americans, skeptical, critical thinking Americans, will reason about matters of their day, matters of importance including morality and ethics, individually and in groups, will speak and assemble freely, engage in civil discourse, argue and debate with one another and in new ways utilizing technology, utilizing the Web.

With upcoming technologies, we can expect empowered communities, consumers, parents, and teachers, and enhanced educational systems. With the new topics of multimedia and video with digital textbooks, capitalist marketplace, digital textbook selection processes, consumer feedback, and consumer advocacy are posited to ensure numerous competitive, quality options for empowering, equipping and enhancing communities, consumers, parents, teachers and educational systems.

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