Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Ditch That Textbook!

Ditch That Textbook is the brainchild of US Spanish teacher Matt Miller. Although the 'ditch' approach, as the name suggests, obviously advocates moving away from a dependence on textbooks, it involves much more than that - it is about ditching a textbook approach to teaching and learning. Matt's website is full of useful blog posts that suggest many different ways to approach ditching. 

The 'DITCH' part of Ditch That Textbook is in fact an acronym which stands for:
  • D - Different - trying out different approaches to pedagogy in the classroom
  • I - Innovative - coming up with new ideas, or modifying great ideas from other teachers, without being afraid to fail now and again
  • T - Tech-laden - making use of the latest digital technology and incorporating it where appropriate for the material
  • C - Creative - giving students the opportunity to explore their own creative potential
  • H - Hands-on - giving students more opportunities to engage in active learning

Ditching is a great way to customize materials for classes to make them more relevant for your own particular students. For example, if we are studying invasive species in my biology class, instead of using examples given in the textbook, I can provide my students with case studies based on invasive species here in Thailand, such as water hyacinth. In our evolution topic, I can draw on the most recent research into the evolution of resistance to antimalarial drugs on the Thai-Cambodian border. 

As can be seen from the acronym, the use of tech tools forms an important strand of the ditch philosophy, the 'T' standing for Tech-laden. The use of learning management systems like Moodle, and more recently Google Apps for Education (GAFE) tools, like Google Classroom, lend themselves perfectly to a ditching approach. Another great way to ditch using tech is through Hyperdocs.

I was already moving away from a reliance on textbooks in my classes when I discovered the weekly #DitchBook chat on Twitter. By participating regularly in this chat, I rapidly accelerated my ditching journey. Although I still find the need to use textbooks in class occasionally - plus students find it useful to have reference materials in one place in our exam-heavy system - I am using them less and less. 

A new 6-week Ditch That Textbook study group will be starting soon on Twitter, using the hashtag #DitchBook. The Team Ditchbook stalwarts, including Sandy OttoKarly MouraChantell ManahanRachel MarkerSean Fahey, and of course Matt, are always happy for new ditchers to join the chat! The first chat is on June 23rd 10pm EST / June 24th 9am Bangkok time.