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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Professor Response: McGill's Education Technology Textbook is Embarrassing

Response from the Professor
Before I put this post online I sent a draft to the professor, Sam Bruzzese, so he'd have a chance to respond. He did!

Seeing as I brought these issues to his attention while I took the course, I originally made a list of possible reasons the textbook is still being used. We can now cross off a few items:
  • Someone is pressuring McGill to use this textbook.
  • Courses require a paper textbook, even if it's garbage, for academic credibility.
  • The professor doesn't think the textbook is that bad.
  • The professor picked this textbook because his friends made it.
  • The professor doesn't care.
  • The professor can't find anything better to use.
  • Or my personal favorite: all of the above.
His response was thoughtful and polite, so I definitely think he cares. He says nobody is pressuring him to use the textbook, and he originally chose it because it was cheap (he says 40$ instead of the usual 150$, though I remember paying almost twice as much).

I mentioned the merits of Minecraft. He says the class is now set up for Minecraft - which sounds great! Except... when I took the course he said the we'd spend a class playing and discussing WoW (whatever). We never played it or discussed it. Furthermore, he sent me the new and detailed syllabus which does not contain the search term "Minecraft". So I'm skeptical and a bit confused.

Again, not much time is being given to the most popular educational game in history.

Friends with the Authors?
I'm not ruling out "his friends made it". I think I remember him saying in class that he or his wife knew one of the authors. I'd feel bad making the accusation based on my foggy memory, so instead I'll just keep the question open. While he gave a great number of rebuttals, he did not address this point.

Defending the Textbook with Buzzwords
Sam says the textbook supports constructivist learning, the QEP, and ISTE standards. I am a big critic of the QEP. And while I generally like constructivist learning and ISTE, the textbook was worthless on both topics. We seem to have a case where the textbook says it's about Buzzword-A and Buzzword-B, and that's enough for Sam.

The textbook has pages and pages of projects that are described and not discussed. Many of them are now impossible to use or even find. How this supports project-based learning is beyond me.

19th Century Writing Tips
His other point defending the textbook was about the value of its rubrics, evaluation strategies, and writing tips. Originally I left these out of my post, but here we go! These tips do not belong in an education technology textbook. All of that advice could be straight from the 19th century and we couldn't even tell the difference. Does that sound like education technology to you?

This is not a bonus - it's off-topic fluff.

It's Not About the Tools
Sam says "The text builds a strong case that it's NOT about the technology tools but rather what one does with the tools that's important." I strongly disagree. The textbook spends pages and pages, chapter after chapter, listing old software, broken websites, and unusable projects. If this textbook isn't about the tools then why does it spend so much damn time describing and cataloging them? Our assigned readings were often just lists of old busted shit. No analysis.

Rebuttals like this have me questioning whether Sam has read all the readings he assigned.

Sam, That's Not Open Source
Sam says "The authors have the copyright back from the publisher & are at the point of rewriting the text as far as big picture and the activities and recommendations. The links will be listed live - so it will always be up to date via open source. And it will not be very expensive." This makes me a bit sad. Sam, listing links is not "open source". And it's not an open source textbook if it has copyright or has a price (in practical terms). Open source textbooks are free to be copied and changed by anyone, and distributed for free. That's the entire point.

Sadly I don't think Sam understood all my arguments.

There is one bit of good news: Sam says if "they don't come through then the plan for Sept is NOT to have a textbook." Maybe there is hope yet! Maybe my post will sway him further.

If You Care, Complain
If you think your textbook is a joke or a waste of money, please contact your professor about it. If they don't do anything while you're taking the course... then make as much noise as you can later. That's if you care about the school you're going to, or care about the students that go there.

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