Critics question Michigan’s online textbooks

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – The Michigan Department of Education has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on e-textbooks, hoping to save money for school districts.

But critics say many are full of misinformation and errors.

The free textbooks were commissioned under a $600,000 grant from the state and were written by Michigan social studies teachers.

“I mean there’s a reason why these are free. They’re worth what you’re paying for them,” said Steven Cook, Michigan Education Association.

But some critics say just because you can teach a subject doesn’t mean you can write a book.

The main point of contention among critics is that these online textbooks are filled with factual inaccuracies, over-generalizations and cultural insensitivity.

“A collection of people got together and they produced a resource book, with what looks to be very little vetting or editing. I’ve got a problem with that.”

David Johnson is the developer behind the Michigan Open Book project.

“I really believe in the value of open ed resources like this that are living, breathing documents that either districts will be able to take and customize and update on their own,” said David Johnson, project manager, Michigan Open Book Project.

Johnson says the biggest feature that comes with digital resources is the flexibility that textbooks don’t have.

“If your print text book has errors in it, you complain enough to the company and they’ll issue a new edition, but they’re probably not going to send you 150 new copies of the book that has that.

But Steven Cook says this is a case of weighing cost over quality.

“Quality doesn’t seem to matter anymore, it’s simply cost. If it’s cheaper, we’ll use it, with very little thought given to the actual quality of the materials you’re using in the classroom, and I think this is a symptom of that,” said Steven Cook, Michigan Education Association.

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