CCTE: Once and Future World of Textbook Publishing- History of Textbooks

History of Textbooks

John Ruszkiewicz, at University of Texas in Austin

This is a live blogging of the session.

1553 Art of Rhetoric first rhetoric book?
Wilson addresses:
generational changes with new tech (book)
language change (English, rather than Latin)
career advancement ladder (ability developed, rather than aristocracy)

5 major shifts in assumptions and pedagogies:
conceptualization of writing as a process (late 1970s)

Had to learn to teach writing as a process.
Word processing development conveniently paralleled.

Easy to forget our missteps.

Computer and texts matched up through something that could be done with a program.
Invention and outlining were the obsession.
Too many forms of invention used.

undergraduate research
Find 5 books, 5 articles, 5 newspaper stories to write the paper on an approved topic.
Handouts on how to use card catalogs and concordances.

We patiently explained computers: what is a monitor, keyboard, etc.
We had no idea what was to come.
“Research” sections… Wasn’t writing just for students.
Instructors were running as fast as they could to keep up with research techniques.

Overarching it all was the web.
Used search tools and engines with various strengths and weaknesses.
Techniques for evaluating sources were being invented.
Learned about Boolean searches.

Adapting to the media
Teachers often told students they could not use the internet.
Pamphlet look and feel of 43 pages in 1970. Now guide is hardback book of 306 pages.
MLA and APA took two decades to figure out workable guidelines for looking at the media.

Online sources had arrived!

Research papers would no longer be limited to paper.

Once again had to address new information and tools.

“A paper is designed as much as written, drawn as much as typed.”

Document design
College writers needed instruction in document design: fonts, spacing, photographic resolution, and image choices.

Final form of change:
New genres of writing
New ways of conceiving what writing does
What we missed is how often a new medium redefined the genre.
A handbook of rhetoric is apt to use project rather than paper.

In acknowledging and exploring new electronic genres in our handbooks, we need to challenge students to analyze the texts (of images, videos, etc) in words. Words allow them to be shared.

The merger of language and media has been the goal of many recent rhetorics and anthologies.

Much expanded definition of texts.

Are we “people of the screen” already?

If we are, future changes won’t feel as monumental.
Changes in media platforms and tech devices will continue to be constant.

Will textbooks shed their paper bindings?
In 1996, a small composition handbook, first online…
Project failed for several reasons.
Lime and purple were the dominant color of the paper version.
Took a long time to load.
Took up a lot of disc space when there wasn’t a lot.

We are in a different era.

E-textbooks are all about power.
Electrical sort.
To succeed, electronic textbooks will require lightweight, totally intuitive, touch screen that will keep its battery for two weeks and be rechargeable between classes.

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