The internet, digital media, and mobile devices has made access to knowledge far easier than it used to be. I’m going to use 10-15 years ago as a rough estimate. I was in middle and high school during those years. While we had the internet, PowerPoint, and laptops…it wasn’t the same. I still needed “at least one book source” for most major papers. Even more of a problem…I had to lug those big giant textbooks home every day.
It boggled my teenage brain why I had to lug 20 pounds of printed material on my shoulders home to look at…maybe…20 pages? There was usually a short story in my literature textbook, a chapter in my science book, a chapter in my history book, a page for 20 math problems, etc. I usually forgot all of it by the time I got back to school the next day because I couldn’t write in the book (I still have trouble writing in books! Workbooks, no problem, but textbooks? Nope, instinct is still to get out notebook paper).
Why did I have to lug them home every night? Because I couldn’t go out and buy my own. Elements of Literature wasn’t not something shelved at the local Barnes and Noble. So much has changed now. Parents can buy their children home copies of textbooks on Amazon for pennies or a few dollars. Eventually, all the books I’ll need I can carry around on my iPad! Paper and glue not required.
Today, I was at my local library and on Fridays and Sundays there is a used bookstore in the basement of the library that is open. The books come from donations or have been taken out of circulation by the library. I was perusing it, looking for a good,used copy of The Crucible since buying it for my Kindle will cost $12 (I’ll be teaching it soon). I found one for $0.50. As I was slowly making my way towards the counter I saw two literature textbooks: Elements of Literature: Fifth Course (2000) and World Literature (1993). Both were in excellent condition. In fact, when I looked on the inside front cover, Elements only had one name written in it. World Literature only had two! Both originally were $50-$100 brand new when they were just published. I got them for $1! EACH! $2 for two large English textbooks? I’ll get that investment back in using just one story from either book in any of my classes. I don’t know what resources I’ll have as teacher, but I just could not pass up $1 like-new condition of literature textbooks.
Perhaps its the teacher in me, or just a sign of the times…but I’m still taken aback by all-access pass students nowadays have to textbooks. They aren’t these giant books that only schools can buy. Everyone can buy any book. So why go to school? The teacher. It’s the TEACHER that makes the difference and not the books, the technology, or the lack of either books or technology. A great teacher can teach with whatever resources he or she has. Resources are needed because more students learn with a deeper understanding when they are given as many resources as possible.