The Final Days of My Science Textbook

I love textbooks.  I have always loved textbooks.  When starting University (dinosaurs roamed a dark and fiery Earth) I purchased my first texts.  When I was in high school I was given textbooks. But these had missing pages, rips and a list of scribbled-out names from the eight previous “owners”.

My first purchased textbooks were all mine.  They were about topics I was excited to learn.  The covers were glass-hard and the pages were crisp and smelled fresh-printed and new.  For a geek, this was a great time.

One of these texts had an important diagram, which is one way of picturing the entire universe – unalterable and timeless.  This picture is the Periodic Table.  I still find myself capitalizing the term, because of its importance as an edifice of human understanding.

Today, several tens of millions of these textbooks became out-of-date.  Today a group of Russian, American and Japanese scientists completed the seventh row of the Periodic Table by reporting the discovery of four new elements. Besides being a great accomplishment of modern science, this event also has implications for how we think about knowledge / content in a modern world.

For me, this event underlines several important points.  Technology is out-pacing traditional ways of communicating content.  Science texts are out-dated before they are printed.  Further, because this content is communicated globally and instantly, I don’t need a traditional teacher to find and disseminate this information.  Instead, I need a guide to help me through the implications of this new information.  Finally, I need to think about how new technologies and scientific breakthroughs are changing the world.  This includes changes in media, computing, student needs, classroom development and the use of textbooks.

I recently cleaned out my storage room.  I found those University texts and flipped through a few of them. I threw most of them out. Although I felt a little sad and nostalgic, I knew it was for the best.  They were a little mouldy and out-of-date. The pace of change needs a digital format to keep up with all the changes. I suppose a new love of mine is the internet.

So, I suppose I love (and loved) the information more than the form it comes in.

Four New Elements

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