Wednesday, January 21, 2015

25 Pound Backpack

My Back!
Have you picked up one of your kiddos backpacks lately and immediately thought, oh my gosh that seems heavy?  I often compare my backpack that contains a laptop, iPad, and miscellaneous cables to theirs that are full of books, binders, and pencils, and there is no comparison. I literally weighed one of them recently and it weighed 25 pounds, which I thought was crazy heavy. After digging into the backpack, I found the culprits to be a math book and a social studies book. The good news is the school provides two sets of books and the students do not have to transport them back and forth on a daily basis, however it leads us back to the conversation about textbooks and where we are at with them as an educational community.

I have to be honest, I started this post a few weeks back and it has been sitting quietly waiting to be finished. When I read the recent Center for Digital Education article covering the FCC Commissioner's discussion in San Francisco, the timing seemed appropriate. Jessica Rosenworcel addressed an audience of tech industry professionals, updating them on the recent FCC initiatives, encouraging "digital disruption within the teaching and textbook industry." Rosenworcel pointed out a few things that I feel are worth sharing here.

  • “In the rest of the world, we have an infinite array of digital tools to change our civic and commercial lives. Yet somehow we’ve put up some barriers at the school doors, It’s time we started inviting them in and wrestling with them and doing some good things”
  • "As a market estimated at $17 billion and with price increases in the last decade at 800 percent, the textbook industry’s services burden educators and students alike — average school districts only able to afford textbook purchases every seven to 10 years"
  • “I just think it’s crazy if we keep on doing what we’ve done before because the world and the job opportunities that are out there look remarkably different"

These statements have all been said before in a number of ways by others looking to lighten up backpacks and promote change in a system that has been relatively unchanged for a number of years. I applaud anyone who takes the initiative to start these conversations as a way to reflect on the education we are providing our students. We must provide a relevant experience and not allow a $17 billion industry to give us what we have always had because that is what we have always done. Industry will provide what the educational community wants, so the conversation is important to have at the school, district, and community level. Listen to our teachers and students and allow their ideas, thoughts and needs, drive the industry to develop the disruption that will keep our classrooms moving forward.

I want to make it clear that I am not a book snob by any means and would never advocate for throwing all classroom texts in a big bonfire. Going to the extreme in any direction is what has kept technology a conversation piece, big shiny object, instead of just an everyday part of our classroom environment. But, providing our students with something other than the same basic textbooks like we have always done, is a conversation that is very necessary for today's classroom.   


  1. We should read book out of classroom.I agree that classroom is not a room where keep throwing book.

  2. Textbook publishers are not going anywhere within the next ten years. Neither are print books. Children need to be exposed to a healthy share of both print and digital resources : one that shreds the attention span consistently and one, that for generations, has extended the attention span. The backpack weight complaint was around when my 35 year old son was in grammar school. Evidently, this issue is here to stay and nothing is about to be disrupted anytime soon. PS Districts have limited budgets for resources and many use reliable texts for decades.


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