Sunday, February 22, 2009

Coloring 101; crosslisted as American History 101

I just had the chance to see an advance copy of new American history textbook. (I'm not going to post author, title, or publisher.) This book is different. Publishers have to do this, of course--show why their books are different (and better) than all the others. Here's the gimmick for this book: the publisher asked students what they wanted in a textbook and gave it to them. "Textbooks get boring," said a student review quoted on the publisher's web site; "it is the same thing page after page." So this book looks like a nicely-produced glossy magazine. Chapters have lots of subheadings, many followed by one paragraph of four or five sentences (I kid you not) and then a new subheading. The book even has a half dozen or so full-page advertisements (for the book itself, or rather its special features).

I saw the Instructor's Edition, which means it comes with detachable cards, one for each chapter, that list the learning outcomes, useful web links, possible assignments, group activities, and the like. The following is a group activity from the card for the Progressive Era chapter:

As the instructor, you may be ready for a tension-breaker, since the chapter will be reached somewhere near mid-semester, when students are usually frazzled. Spring for several boxes of the original eight Crayola crayons, perhaps even one box per student. Print a blown-up picture of Teddy Roosevelt and the teddy bear. Make a copy for each student and give them free time to color the drawing.... Relate to the class the story of Roosevelt's Mississippi trip that gave the world the "teddy bear."


Yes, this is a college-level textbook.

Make sure you have plenty of gold star stickers.