Apologies for an enforced absence . Minor eye surgery took longer to heal than anticipated , so I was left in the dark for two whole weeks . Imagine it : the horrifying compound growth of email , the buckets of spam , the listserv viral multiplication . Oh , the agony of life without the delete key !

In my darkness a kindly amanuensis has intervened to warn me that tomorrow They will call to ask me about “The Future of the Textbook “. They have sent 10 questions , apparently . They say I could answer them with my eyes shut , which may be fortunate this week . They also say that I am to concentrate on the 10 years out scenario. I love research when I am asking the questions , but , somehow , I feel a bit worried about providing the answers .  Do you mind if , like Old Tiresias beneath the wall of crumbling Troy , I count my beads in public for a space and soundlessly mouth some types of answers ?

Crumbling Troy ? Surely the age of the textbook is over . In ten years there will not be a textbook market , but a market in networked mass customization of learning objects , held in commercial stores but also freely created by teachers online and traded between teachers . Lesson planning softeware , deriving objects from stores , from teacher networks , and from VLE/LMS environments where these survive in open network usage , will enable teachers to create and trade learning journies/pathways designed for particular ability levels or learning problems . As education becomes more self-applied in older age ranges , higher education and vocational training , so these pathways will be increasingly designed by their users .Learning plans will have assessment and diagnostic tools on board , with the opportunity to rehearse or create new pathways of greater intensity to accomplish remedial requirements . Where these learning workflows are developed by teachers for learners , only a small proportion of teachers will be the creatives , but the work of peer schools and teachers will be widely acknowledged and imitated and customized in other contexts . 

So how will textbook publishers survive here ? The answer is that most of them won’t .Like newspaper publishers in the last five years we shall hear them intone ” Textbook content is king ” and “No one feels safe without a textbook ” until it is obvious to all that like Tom and Jerry in a madcap chase , they have run off the cliff edge and only the violent oscillation of their feet will keep them from plunging into the valley floor . Which they then inevitably do .

Some publishers have hedged this change . Pearson will sell textbooks until the end , but I suspect that long before that Pearson’s Learning Solutions , providing contracted -in school consortia systems integration to cope with these new workflows , will be the dominant revenue source . Elsewhere others have grasped enough of the point to go to interim customization, with Safari Books and Macmillan’s new Dynamic Textbooks demonstrating some of the range of possibilities .

This change to the personalized learning route is independent of gadgets . iPad will not revolutionize it , or iPhone or Android or anything else . These access modes will create accessibility , and add access features , but the learning services  requirement here is more about the network than the device . Collaboration between learners is a key element here.And it is all about mark-up , standards and accessible objects . Most of these are already in place .

Who will win here ? Two or three integrated software/content houses with global markets will dominate . Pearson plus who ? Small software players offering enhanced user experiences will rip across the market like comets , but mostly end up as acquisitions for the big players , or widely emulated feature sets . About a third of content in the market will be created as proprietory objects , another third available to teachers by local school board/authority licensing deals – and the rest will be free and Web-located. The major role for “publishers ” , if we use such an archaic term , will be in locating , indexing and relating suitable objects , and sometimes encouraging teachers to invent new ones if required . Come to think of it , to behave like educational publishers used to do when they sought to s eflect the best practice of the best schools back to the rest .

I could go on , but having had more light today than I am used to , I need to stop . What do you say ? One last question ? Will blended learning prevail ? Since I am on record as saying that blended learning is as much an oxymoron as military intelligence , I am surprized that you ask . The only thing that blends properly is coffee . If you are suggesting that blended learning is as interesting as instant coffee then I might agree . But other markets show us likely patterns : when people grasp the digital point they very soon go for it unadulterated .

« go backkeep looking »