• Andrea Paulakovich

#DBCBlog #11/50: Ditch That Textbook

Matt Miller shares that lectures and textbook exercises bored him as much as it bored his students. I don't know about you, but I started my career by teaching Unit 1 in the Elements of Literature textbook. Each unit focused on a theme and taught students different skills for decoding new words, comprehending text, understanding plot line, and regurgitating facts about characters and conflicts. By the end of my first year, I was bored. My students were bored. I decided there had to be more. Like Matt Miller, I was NOT going to be the teacher who taught from page one to the end of the book by May. I was determined to be different.


Once I realized that textbooks and worksheets were not the only way to teach, I realized curating and creating content was hard work. Seriously...hard work. When you pre-test students, identify their individual interests, passions, and learning styles, its like opening Pandora's Box. You discover a treasure chest filled with endless secrets. Secrets that can unlock the future for a quiet student, an unruly young man, a hyper young lady, or a student who can't seem to find her way. Within Ditch That Textbook, Matt Miller doesn't encourage you to rip up textbooks or have a burn party, rather, he encourages you to see the endless possibilities for curating and creating content. With access to technology, professional learning on Social Media, and experts at your fingertips, there are endless resources to explore and uncover.


The first step in your journey is to understand the "...power of new techniques and digital resources and be willing to try them." There is an epidemic of "paralysis by analysis," as Matt Miller calls it, where we over analyze the use of new ideas or tools.


"What if a student doesn't know how to use it?"

"What if it doesn't work?"

What if I mess up?"

What if...


As @TaraMartinEDU would say, "Cannonball in!" What are you waiting for? The time will NEVER be the right. You will NEVER know everything. Technology is rapidly changing. When you try something new, you WILL fail. But guess what...that's OK! :) Would you rather spend your life asking the question: "What if..." or reviewing your mistakes, refining, and moving forward to a future of transformative and innovative learning?


"With the right ideas, right tools, and right people, all put in the right order, you're sure something amazing could happen in your classroom."

This book is not the answer to your every day problems; however, it is about evolving and finding better ways to teach. Matt Miller outlines the word D.I.T.C.H. and describes it as...


D = Different: Using teaching methods that differ from what students see day after day, class after class.

I = Innovative: Inventing new ideas or modifying others' ideas, then testing them in the classroom, even if their success isn't guaranteed.

T = Tech-laden: Incorporating digital sites, tools, and devices to learn more efficiently or in new and different ways.

C= Creative: Tapping into students' original ideas as well as creating and producing meaningful work.

H = Hands-on: Letting students make and try things on their own.


Using the DITCH model can help free your teaching and revolutionize your classroom. Matt begins Section 1 of his book by sharing his reasons to go digital. He shares his belief that technology can help transform classrooms into places where students learn valuable, relevant lessons. I love how he shares the sadness of technology misuse or omission. Just think...when we fail to teach students how to harness the power of technology, they miss out on opportunities to develop important skills they will need to keep up with a constantly changing world.


"Today's advanced technology offers many advantages; it also presents a new set of challenges. If harnessed correctly, technology can help classrooms transform into places where students learn valuable, relevant lessons that will help equip them for their future lives and careers. If technology is misused or, worse, omitted from the classroom, students will miss out on opportunities to develop important skills they'll need to keep up with a constantly changing marketplace.


Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from the book...

Chapter 1 Free Access


The Perks of Living in a Connected World:

  • Google Hangout with experts

  • Twitter Chats

  • Students can leverage technology to engage in a virtual cultural exchange

  • Digital Portfolios

Favorite Quotes:

"Why is there a lack of implementation? It's not that the technology is brand new. What's missing, I believe, are the vision for the power of these new techniques and digital resources and the willingness to risk trying them. Instead of testing a new idea or tool, "paralysis by analysis" takes hold. We overanalyze new options, mull over all of the things we don't know, think about how students will react, and then we don't act!


Chapter 2 Boost Your Efficiency


  • Going the digital route is worth it simply for the time and effort we can save.

  • Is this your life..."Hand-written lessons, photocopies worksheets, and long hours correcting assignments and recording grades consumes your evenings and weekends? Today's technology allows me to work smarter and faster so my focus can stay on creating quality learning opportunities for my students. It allows me to be more productive and efficient so I'm not at school all hours of the day.

  • Before, grading quizzes and tests required a red pen, a comfortable seat, and more than an hour of interrupted time. TODAY, simple assignments can be auto-graded with Googls add-ons like Flubaroo.

  • Before, finding a document to distribute to kids meant digging through filing cabinets, flipping through file folders, and finding the right document ...assuming it got filed in the right place. TODAY, a quick keyword search through a database of digital documents can help you find a file in seconds.

  • BEFORE, all the books in your cabinets and on your shelves could yield great ideas - if you could only remember and track down the right book. TODAY, a search engine can find those ideas for you quickly, or colleagues on social media can suggest other ideas within minutes.

Chapter 3 Use Technology to Defeat Insecurity


  • Technology provides outlets that let even the shyest students feel comfortable enough to be themselves.

  • I suppose we all have experiences - good and bad- that drive us as teachers. Our best course of action is to allow those "I wish I would have..." moments to motivate us to improve for the next round of students.

Chapter 4 Empower Students to Find Their Passions


  • "Research from an MIT study, shows the demand for routine work - think turning widgets in a factory - and manual labor have been on the decline since 1960. Today's employees are doing more non-routine, analytical, and interpersonal activities. In a nutshell: they're using their brains and their imaginations more than their muscles. Wait a second. Routine work. Doesn't that sound a lot like what students do in so many classrooms? Students everywhere are drowning in busywork: worksheets, workbook pages, and repetitive, simplistic activities.

  • In a TED talk titled "Changing Education Paradigms, creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson talked about what happens to students as they get older and progress through the education system. In the talk, he noted, "They have spent ten years at school being told that there is one answer. It's at the back. And don't look. And don't copy, because that's cheating. I mean, outside schools, that's called collaboration."


Chapter 5 Reinvent Education


  • MOOCs (massive, open, online courses)

  • "...we must teach our students the skill of adaptation. Alvin Toffler explained in Future Shock, "The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write. The illiterate will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.""We cannot keep our great work hidden within our classroom walls. If the education community and public perception are going to change, people have to see what forward-thinking teachers are doing. Otherwise, how will they know the magic that happens when kids get excited about learning?


Chapter 6 We are no longer the gatekeepers

From Gatekeepers of info to Guides


  • When you want to learn something, you go to YouTube. Students don't go to the library or their teachers to learn these things. They go to the Web, where people from every walk of life contribute content.

10 Ways YouTube Can Engage Your Class Now

1. Capture videos with a webcam

2. Create a photo slideshow

3. Splice your videos with video editor

4. Make something new with Creative Commons videos

5. Add annotations

6. Use slow motion

7. Choose your thumbnail

8. Create a playlist

9. Embed your playlist

10. YouTube Capture App


Chapter 7 Real-World Skills


  • "A report from U.S. Department of Labor predicts that sixty-five percent of today's schoolchildren eventually will be employed in jobs that yet to be created."

  • Timeless Skills

  1. Adding value - Analyze what is out there. Figure out what is not. Then, contribute something original and worthwhile.

  2. Create Content Online - Students need to know how to harness the power of the Internet. In the classroom, we can help students learn how to design websites, create videos, post blogs, and publish ebooks.

  3. Continuously Listen/Watch for new Ideas - You never know when a passing comment from someone or an innocuous sentence in an article may be the inspiration for a life-changing project or opportunity. Attentiveness is a skill that will always be in demand and will always create success for those who work at leveraging it. In the classroom we can make a game out of finding worthy ideas in unlikely places.

  4. Glamorizing Hard Work - As Thomas Edison said, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

  5. Turning wasted time to productive time - We can help students by making the most of their waking hours.

  6. Cultivating Relationships - Maintaining connections with others - In the classroom, we can create opportunities for collaboration

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