07 March 2007

The adaptable customizable dynamic coursebook -- Are you ready for it?

In a discussion we were having Betty Azar explained: "It seems to me that a textbook that provides a solid core of good material is crucial in a classroom..."

I really don't wish to argue with Ms Azar. She is certainly my senior in this profession. I haven't used her books but they are being sold here in China and I have never heard a single criticism of them but I have heard considerable praise. As for myself, I am a mere teacher sans-MA and unpublished and holding a mere certificate with only a few years of experience under my belt.

I don't wish to argue against the coursebook. I want to advocate for a better coursebook. I would like to see coursebooks that are alive and dynamic. I would like to see coursebooks that can adapt to teachers and students. Teachers and students should not have to adapt to coursebooks.

Today's coursebooks are too static. They are written for a mass market or even for a specific market that is not the market you are teaching in. All of the business English coursebooks I have to use were written for Europe. My students are learning about entertaining in London and doing business in Poland. I'm in China. My students are not going to Poland but they may need English to negotiate a contract in Tokyo and check on suppliers in Korea. There's a new business English book that is for Asia but it's more centered in Thailand and it doesn't focus on the language well enough for my students' needs.

Why can't we have an adaptable coursebook? Why can't we have coursebook templates that a teacher can use to fill in the details specific for his class? Why can't we have a coursebook Wizard like MS Office has so that you can fill in some information and it will generate a Word document or a PowerPoint presentation or a coursebook for us? Why can't we have a coursebook format for upper intermediate students that we can use for business English and shift to logistics English and flip to warehouse English.

Do you know there are actual computer programs that can help script writers write a script for a movie? They step the writer through the structure of a script and help him keep control of character development and story line. Is it going to win an Oscar? No. And are you going to teach the world's greatest lesson tomorrow? No. We don't need magnificent lessons. We need good lessons that are geared to the specific needs of our students.

I am making my lessons in PowerPoint. I sometimes make changes in my lesson in mid-exercise if it is not just right. I can even include pictures of my students in the lesson or pictures of our city.

Wouldn't you like to have a "Betty Azar" Wizard to step you through the process of customizing the grammar focus for your particular students? Wouldn't it be cool if a virtual "Jack Richards" was at your elbow making suggestions on more activities to reinforces some new vocabulary for tomorrow's lesson?

We don't need less Betty Azar, we need more Betty Azar. So when can we have something like this? We will have to wait until the big publishers figure out how to make money out of it. But the longer the big publishers take to do that the more we will start doing it ourselves.

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