5. Textbooks Show Aging Signs: Curated Guides Are Next

10+ Disruptive Factors Transforming the World of Education and Learning — Consequences, Opportunities, Tools

Robin Good
Jul 28, 2016 · 7 min read

The era in which a handful of academic publishing houses maintains a monopoly on the printed textbooks of most academic courses is about to be over.

In the near future an increasing number of textbooks will be written by more than one author. These new textbooks will be the result of a curated collaborative effort in which multiple authors and experts share their understanding of a subject.

As a matter of fact, teachers and professors, trainers and coaches can now design new textbooks and teaching curriculums / learning paths by leveraging the power of open, copyright-free content as well as their personal skills in finding and matching free relevant content to specific learning goals.

…the growing availability of digital content and open educational resources (OER) is giving schools the opportunity to bypass some of the traditional expenses of textbook purchasing.

It’s also giving teachers the opportunities to build their own textbooks

This sort of flexibility to reuse and remix content is made possible through the open licensing of educational materials.

There are several organizations and companies that provide open source textbooks, including Flat World Knowledge and CK-12

States and districts are increasingly turning to these sorts of open resources, particularly as budgets shrink. Earlier this year, the state of Washington launched the Open Course Library, a collection of open source textbooks for the state’s 81 most popular college courses

Edutopia 2011 — http://www.edutopia.org/blog/building-your-own-textbook-audrey-watters

As we gradually move from a top-down, teacher-centered educational approach, to a learner-centered, bottom-up one, the role of the classic textbook, as the key, immutable reference point for any class subject, is rapidly fading.

This new learning approach calls for questioning and critical analysis of any subject vs. taking for true and granted what has been studied and researched before by others.

It pushes the student to explore, ask difficult questions, to look at reality from different viewpoints and to come up with his own, personal explanation of how anything really is.

“Reliance on any type of course textbook — digital, multimedia, interactive or otherwise — only fits as a more marginal element in student-centered learning models.

It’s not the nature of the textbook as much as its reverence in the classroom as “the” singular authority for learning.

Instead we could prioritize “content construction”.

Textbooks are an important gateway — a starting point from which students can learn and then begin their exploration of information on any topic (although even on that point I feel we should encourage the “critical reading” of textbooks).

However the days when students could responsibly rely on any textbook as a singular information source are gone.”

Sam Gliksman

It does not matter whether today’s textbook is still a printed item or a digital ebook. It is the idea that one textbook can mass-pave the way for exploring and learning a subject that is outdated.

Not all students are created equal, and not all classes on the subject need to be run in the same way.

There needs to be a way where each instructor and his class can custom design the ideas, authors and contents that will accompany them in their learning journey.

This is why it we should cease to rely exclusively on pre-selected expensive educational textbooks from major publishers and officially encourage individual teachers to define the contents, style, sequence and the specific resources and ideas to be included in any subject textbook.

…digital textbooks from the publishing companies are our only option.

While these eBooks have come a long way since their first version of static PDFs of the books’ pages, most of these eBooks are not viable and sustainable solutions.

They are too costly, too large in size, not personalized, and would most likely still require teachers to tailor content to their classroom needs.

Edudemic 2013 — http://www.edudemic.com/ibooks-author-hackathon/

There are no more excuses.

There’s no lack of “open”, reusable quality educational content nor of tools to find it, organize it and curate it into highly personalized, custom textbooks.

…teachers can (and should) take control of their courses by creating their own interactive textbooks

(Source: PLPNetwork)

Thus, whether or not “officialized” or “supported” by the educational establishment, courageous teachers and professors as well as independent trainers, have already started to curate their own textbooks by leveraging both:

a) the incredible amount ofopen” educational materials available online

as well as

b) the growing number of tools / services that makes it possible and easy for them to do so.

For these courageous teachers and professors, their key skills, as textbook curators, pivot around their ability to search, vet, evaluate and organize the best and most appropriate content on a specific topic, while looking for opportunities to always improve, refine and add new, relevant and high-value content to it.

“As instructors dig deeper in the curriculum to find or create the best learning materials and activities, they engage in a continuous improvement process (aka the personal learning network). “

comments on http://www.edutopia.org/blog/building-your-own-textbook-audrey-watters

These new teachers /curators will also gradually develop the sensitivity to create great collections of exercises, case studies, real-world examples and models, people’s profiles and toolkits to further facilitate the exploration and learning of any topic.

But the innovation, when it comes to curation and textbooks, will not stop just here.

The format and the way such textbooks are organized will also change.

From a linear page-based, text and images-only format, new curated textbooks will include also audio and video, maps, and other means to explore, navigate and engage deeper with the topic at hand.

Curated textbooks will be customized to the specific needs of each classroom or learning group and easily updated and extended when the need arises, often with the contribution of the students / readers themselves. Students will in fact gradually become revisers, aides and original contributors to the very content they are studying and learning from.


By having the possibility:

  • to comment,
  • to provide additional resources and relevant tools,
  • to ask questions and
  • to provide answers,
  • to vote and
  • to rate any and all of these contributed items
  • to integrate the best ones in the textbook contents.

As the open education movement continues to grow and become an even more rich trove of resources, teachers can use the content to make their own interactive textbooks.

It might seem daunting, but the availability of quality materials online and the power of tapping into personal learning networks should make it easier.

KQED.org 2012 — http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/01/how-to-create-your-own-textbook-with-or-without-apple/

McGraw-Hill Create service is a tangible demonstration that curated textbooks are here already


  • Gradual decrease in production and sales of traditional proprietary textbooks
  • Students save millions otherwise spent on expensive textbooks
  • Teachers, professors and educational institutions of all levels start producing their own custom textbooks by gathering, editing and organizing available, copyright-free open content into highly personalized and updated learning anthologies and reading guides.


  • Development of new tools and services that facilitate the creation / curation of custom textbooks
  • Emergence of free public resources that collect and organize best OER content available for re-use inside custom textbooks
  • New books offer licensing options that let educational publishers take up and integrate portions of their content into other textbooks
  • Educators increasingly involve students in the process of reviewing, updating, extending and improving these educational publications.
  • Collective intelligence boost. The involvement of students as curators / reviewers of their textbooks gives way to an endless, iterative, curatorial open peer-review process whose only goal is to perpetuate the review and understanding of any subject.


  • Curate Your Own Textbook
    The process of creating a digital textbook, tools for each step of the process and strategies for involving the students in its development.
  • PanOpen
    Peer-reviewed, comprehensive open source course solutions (peer-reviewed content, tools for customization, assessment, and analytics) which enable mainstream institutional adoption of Open Educational Resources as an alternative to commercial textbooks and offer a means of financially sustaining campus-based OER efforts, allowing faculty to lower costs and improve learning outcomes.
  • Openstax
    Open-sourced, peer-reviewed, 100% free access to high quality textbooks.
  • Openstax CNX
    Open library of educational content where anyone can contribute. View, share, and add material in small modules that can be remixed and reused for guides, courses, learning programs.
  • List of tools and services that leverage Openstax open resources.
  • Mc Graw-Hill Create
    Curated publishing system allows the search, arrangement and customization of content for educational textbooks by tapping into a vast library of existing quality learning materials.
  • Boundless
    Customize your textbook or tap into off-the-shelf content in 20+ subjects.
  • Wikibooks
    Wikimedia project for collaboratively writing open-content textbooks that anyone can edit.
  • LibGuides
    LibGuides is an easy to use Content Management System used by many thousands of libraries worldwide. Librarians use it to curate knowledge and share information by creating online guides on any topic.
  • TED-Ed
    Create custom video lessons by leveraging available video content from TED talks and Youtube video. Free for everyone to use.
  • Film-English
    Free lesson plans built around films (short movies, freely accessible documentaries, etc.)

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To find out more about digital Curation from a different perspective please check here:

Content Curation Official Guide

Curation dissected. For the journalist, publisher, educator, change-agent. Focus on how to create value for others by collecting, verifying and organizing existing information.

Robin Good

Written by

Explorer of new media technologies, communication design tools and strategies as enablers for 21st century individuals. Curation, collaboration, design.

Content Curation Official Guide

Curation dissected. For the journalist, publisher, educator, change-agent. Focus on how to create value for others by collecting, verifying and organizing existing information.