Reading the textbook is not enough

Here’s an idea I like:

Students should not read textbooks; they should write them.

Bruce Tognazzini said it in the 1990s, and David Weinberger considers it in a story in The Filter, published by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.

Weinberger was initially ambivalent, but since the advent of wikis he has warmed to the notion. He describes how the collective, collaborative – and no doubt contentious – act of crafting a coherent, accurate wiki on the subject of study is itself educational:

Let them argue about how to organize it. Keep the discussion pages up. Keep the differences visible. Let them fill it with links. Let them connect with other students in other schools creating related wikis.

A class’s wiki is not going to be as complete, well-grounded or well-written as a good textbook. But students will learn more by writing one than by cribbing and cramming from a professional textbook.

In my (by now, predictable) view, the same principle applies to museum exhibitions and websites. If you’re only ever engaged in a passive way, as a consumer, it’s hard to remain interested. But if you have the chance to think through the issues of what to put on display, how to arrange and describe the items, and what they mean, it’s a faaaar more interesting experience. A journey, rather than a sushi train of neatly prepackaged ideas. At 5 to midnight, my metaphors are failing me, but I hope you know what I mean.

I’d like to see more programs that work on that principle. I’d love to hear about yours.

(Thanks to Mal for the pointer.)

3 thoughts on “Reading the textbook is not enough

  1. That’s a really interesting idea and one that we’re trying to come to terms with now. Our site contains syllabus specific content enhanced by rich media but we’re looking to develop more interactivity and user generated content. We want our users to develop a real sense of ownership and involvement in how our site grows. We’ve got a range of ideas but I’d certainly appreciate any advice on how to implement and manage these sorts of projects.

  2. Pingback: Gaming learning | Making manifest

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