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History Geek Week Session Two: Ditching the Textbook, Teaching US History 1:1

I’ve been saying this for a while now. ePUBs and digital materials will change the way we do our job as social studies teachers. Textbooks will be replaced by interactive, multimedia rich, connected to social media types of materials.

Lincoln High School (Vincennes IN) teacher Michael Hutchison began planning for ditching the traditional textbook back in the spring of 2009.They were committed and used a quote from John Kennedy as their motivation to stay the course:

Frank O’Connor, the Irish writer, tells in one of his books how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall–and had no choice but to follow them.

November 21, 1963

They threw their hat over the wall and had to climb over.

By the fall of 2009, he and his department moved completely away from print. And since the fall of 2009, kids at Lincoln haven’t see a textbook. By this fall, the department has gone to a 1:1 iPad program using something called Active Classroom. (Unsolicited opinion? Active Classroom is a powerful tool for moving classrooms into the mobile learning world. Is it perfect yet? Probably not. Will it change over time? Probably. But it is a good start for teacher and schools who are thinking about moving away from traditional and expensive textbooks.)

Active Classroom is a tool created by the Social Studies School Services.

What has to happen?

  • Teachers need to agree that this is a good idea
  • Administration needs to support the process
  • Teachers need proper training
  • Tech upgrades may be needed
  • Tech needs to be reliable

What might go wrong?

  • Tech does not solve all classroom issues (Kids are still failing his classes)
  • Instruction must remain linked to standards
  • Parents need to be informed as much as possible
  • Learning curve for teachers
  • There are limitations with tech at times (typing is sometimes an issue with iPads)
  • Active Classroom doesn’t solve evey problem or meet every standard so teachers must somtimes create their own stuff

What do they do without textbooks?

  • Analyze primary sources
  • Download / interpret documents
  • Research online
  • Student collaborate with each other and other schools
  • Multimedia content is much easier to access
  • Digital content provides a way for absent students to access content
  • Easier to create truly flipped classrooms

You can find more of Michael’s stuff at his class website.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tyler Anderson #

    I was in that presentation too. It seems like Mr. Hutchison is ahead of where all of us are going. I wonder what the active classroom platform and material costs.

    November 16, 2012
  2. Michael Hutchison #


    Active Classroom is all self-contained and totally online. So, no print ancillaries are needed.

    The cost is competitive as well: $500 per teacher per year, regardless of the number of students in that teacher’s classes. Consider that cost in relation to buying textbooks for students to use, and it seems to me that it’s cost-effective.

    Feel free to download materials from my NCSS session page for more information. I would also recommend contacting Aaron Willis of Social Studies School Service for more information about content and pricing. I’d be happy to discuss my school’s experience with Active Classroom as well.

    Michael H.

    November 23, 2012

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