A Recent New Book on Education & Media – The Textbook & the Lecture: Education in the Age of New Media


I meant to bring this book to your attention last year, but for various reasons that intention failed to be realized … until now. It is written by my friend and colleague, Norm Friesen, a Canadian who teaches Educational Technology at Boise State University. There are plenty of McLuhan and Postman references in the book, as well as Dewey, Illich, , Eisenstein, Dewey, Vygotsky, as well as other education and media thinkers…….AlexK

Why are the fundamentals of education apparently so little changed in our era of digital technology? Is their obstinate persistence evidence of resilience or obsolescence? Such questions can best be answered not by imagining an uncertain high-tech future, but by examining a well-documented past—a history of instruction and media that extends from Gilgamesh to Google. Norm Friesen looks to the combination and reconfiguration of oral, textual, and more recent media forms to understand the longevity of so many educational arrangements and practices.

Friesen examines the interrelationship of reading, writing, and pedagogy in the case of the lecture and the textbook—from their premodern to their postmodern incarnations. Over hundreds of years, these two forms have integrated textual, oral, and (more recently) digital media and connected them with changing pedagogical and cultural priorities. The Textbook and the Lecture opens new possibilities for understanding not only mediated pedagogical practices and their reform but also gradual changes in our conceptions of the knowing subject and of knowledge itself.

Drawing on wide-ranging scholarship in fields as diverse as media ecology and German-language media studies, Foucauldian historiography, and even archaeological research, The Textbook and the Lecture is a fascinating investigation of educational media. (Source: John Hopkins University Press: https://tinyurl.com/y54ol2yw)

See this review from the London School of Economics Review:-

“Friesen’s review of more than 4000 years of educational continuity is meant to reframe current accusations of ‘inertia’ in education. Critics of educational traditionalism are usually the proponents of novel methods and technologies that should bring education up to our current needs. But can we explain this educational continuity over thousands of years by calling it inertia? Could humanity have been so foolish as to maintain useless forms of education while it changed everything, from religion to political systems and social structures?

By using insights from neurology, Friesen proposes the hypothesis that the practices of reading and writing demand a rewiring of neurons in the brain. The commitment to the same educational forms for millennia has not been a commitment to tradition or to fixed values. Culturally speaking, reading and writing have served remarkably different purposes throughout history: for the small scribal class of ancient Sumer, reading and writing was related to book-keeping, advancing commerce and the first markets. Nowadays, reading and writing fulfil multiple purposes, keeping alive a culture and a form of life, cultivating imaginations and allowing for critical thinking. Yet pupils today learn to read and write with methods remarkably similar to those in ancient Sumer: repetitive exercises, dictations, rote memorisation, artificial problems and examples. Thus, the reformist demand to drop a certain medium from educational practices will understandably be met with scepticism… Read the rest at https://tinyurl.com/y6ffwmuy 

About the Author:

Dr. Friesen has been developing and studying Web technologies in educational contexts since 1995, and is the author of several editions of guidebooks on the effective use of online instructional software and the implementation of technical standards for educational resources. Dr. Friesen is also the author of Re-Thinking E-Learning Research: Foundations, Methods and Practices (2009), and The Place of the Classroom and the Space of the Screen: Relational Pedagogy and Internet Technology (2011). His articles have appeared in AERA’s Educational Research, the British Journal of Educational Technology, the Journal of Curriculum Studies as well as C-Theory…

One Response to “A Recent New Book on Education & Media – The Textbook & the Lecture: Education in the Age of New Media

  1. 1 Terry Gordon

    Very gratifying to see this type of investigation and with such a broad scope. When we were preparing the critical edition of Understanding Media (2003), I persuaded the publisher to include The Ryerson Media Experiment, which had been part of MM’s report to the NAEB but never before published. I had hoped that the experiment in comparative evaluation of media for teaching effectiveness would jump start a fresh experiment updated for the umpteen new media developed in the meantime. Kudos to Norm Friesen for going down this road.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: