There was a post on Dangerously Irrelevant challenging teachers and parents to examine the quality of textbooks compared to free materials that are available online. Conveniently this is what I spent a semester researching for my graduate work. There might not be a single source solution for an online resource to replace a textbook, but there are an endless supply of great resources.
A quote was referenced from Michael Doyle’s that
a well-crafted web site with a thoughtful teacher acting as the curator to the links can produce a body of knowledge superior to textbooks.
I think the next part of his statement is equally important:
Textbooks are a convenient jumping point, and they have nice pictures.
If the convenience is not addressed, many teachers will not be willing to make the switch away from traditional textbooks. It goes beyond just the textbook itself. Textbook publishers have tried to make themselves irreplaceable by creating unit maps (that too frequently become the course curriculum) and tests with answer guides. All teachers had to have a methods course in college where unit maps and test questions were drilled, there is no reason the textbook companies have to do it. It might be easier to just use the textbook provided materials – however, creating a unit map or writing a test are only challenging the first time. After that, there might be tweaking but not actual labor.
Teachers who are willing to research, read, and share will be rewarded with activities that are much more engaging than a textbook. Compiling and organizing the resources on a website will benefit the teacher and other students. The suggestion was to use wikis, blogs and social bookmarking to get the students involved. I have been successful with engaging students through Moodle and going to expand my teacher website by using Weebly for next year. My Spanish Techbook will provide easy navigation and search features like a textbook, but it will have videos and audio which are important components of language learning. Our outdated textbook takes two pages to describe the alphabet. YouTube provided Plaza Sesamo videos (Mexican Sesame Street) with the alphabet that the students requested to watch over and over. I am happy that my district does not block YouTube because there are many valuable video clips; however, I know other people have written blog posts about YouTube alternatives (like Free Technology For Teachers).
Foreign language tends to have workbooks with practice activities. There are just as many online options for practicing a language as for learning the vocab or grammar concept. Vocabulary sets can easily be added to websites like StudyStack or Quizlet. Authentic resources provide the best practice for seeing vocab and grammar in context. EuroNews is my favorite site for quick and easy authentic resources. The news clips are fast, but a transcript is provided and the video provides context for students to understand.
Additional online resources for Spanish: