Recent discussions about the possibilities of an online Old Testament Textbook (AKMA, NT Blog, Sansblogue, Anumma, AKMA, NT Blog) might cause us to reflect on the whole scenario of textbook-writing a bit further. As several have implied already, the digital age allows us to rethink the way we do textbooks and I'd like to support Tim, Brooke and AKMA in that kind of thinking, and then to encourage still more radical thinking about what we are trying to do when we conceptualize textbooks. I think textbooks have a couple of shortcomings, both of which can be overcome in the digital age. One relates to the "text" bit and the the other relates to the "book" bit. In this post, I'd like to address briefly the text bit.
Old-fashioned textbooks are just too texty. For those of us who have some investment in the digital world, and that is all of us who are engaging in this discussion, we are familiar with the fact that it is now possible to access audio and video material far more straightforwardly than it was in the past. In our area, there is a wealth of good audio and video material and this is only going to increase with time. Think, just for starters, about Bibledex from the University of Nottingham, or the several resources available at St John's Nottingham. I have added audio and video pages to lots of the NT Gateway pages in order to gather together the best of these resources. The importance of this should not be underestimated. Different students learn better with different media, Some respond much more positively and learn much more quickly by listening to audio, others by seeing things represented graphically. And that is to say nothing of the importance of thinking through how we work with students with disabilities, in particular, in this context, those who are blind or near-sighted. Newer, digital textbook resources can integrate, embed, link to material that is not just blocks of text.
Let me try to illustrate this point by engaging with AKMA's original post:
Hey, in a perfect world, you could persuade the authors to record their chapters so you could distribute digital audio (and video — or perhaps, a video abstract of each chapter). So at this point, you have a textbook that’s free to consult as web pages, free to download as PDFs, and (again, ideally) free to listen to/watch in digital media.I like the sound of this because it addresses the importance of integrating multi-media into the newly conceived, digital textbook. It is the kind of thing that makes me enthusiastic about the way that AKMA is talking. But my point is that the authors of the textbook in question do not have to wait for the perfect world for this to happen because high quality audio and video resources are already available on the web for free. Let's say you are talking about the topic of form-criticism and introducing Richard Bauckham's recent contributions about the involvement of alleged eye-witnesses. You could record your own audio or video about this, in which you attempt to summarize his position, or you could watch and listen to the man himself doing it for you. Examples of this kind could be multiplied. My point is not that we should stop producing new resources -- of course not. But rather that we should start thinking seriously about the integration of good existing resources into our new model.