Textbooks

I suppose I’m a bit of a Luddite when it comes to learning. As a graduate student I find that I’m increasingly at odd with textbooks.

For starters it seems that most textbooks are written with the sole purpose of answering the question: Just how bad do they want to know this information? The simple fact is that textbooks are written with the assumption that transmission of knowledge has to be boring.

I also feel that excessive use of jargon is deliberately inserted into textbooks for the dubious purpose of defending a profession. While it’s true that professions do adhere to certain agreed upon vocabulary and language, it’s perhaps more important to write thing from the layman’s perspective and then layer the appropriate vocabulary on top of that. Learner’s understand new information better when it can be related or compared to something they already know.

Additionally, I don’t think that context clues are enough to clearly convey certain terms. Why not highlight industry specific terms and place them in the margins of the text? This saves having to skip back and forth between the regular text and the glossary.

Let’s also be frank about the fact that textbooks are now existing in two separate media. There’s the standard print edition and then the digital versions of the copy. How learners interact with a screen and how they interact with a physical book are radically different. The physical copy forces you into a very specific format which may not necessarily do modern learners any favors. In a world of tapping, clicking and zooming, why are textbooks still adhering to the old print layouts that everyone and their grandmother have seen since grade school?

I think we need to deconstruct the textbook. Put layman’s terms first then equate them to industry language and spell definitions for people in the margins of the text. We shouldn’t be obfuscating knowledge behind heavy-handed wording and jargon that only someone else in the industry would already understand. Textbooks shouldn’t transmit encoded knowledge. They should transparently transmit it so that everyone is on the same page.