Discontent Over Content

##AUTHORSPLIT##<--->T.H.E. Journal is bringing together groups from the print, digital,and tech worlds to discuss the future of educational publishing.

Geoffrey H. FletcherTHERE IS AN INTERESTING PARALLELbetween changes afoot in the journalismbusiness and the shifts takingplace in the education business. In journalism,thousands upon thousands ofpeople are "reporting" news via blogs.Some observers are saying this explosionof user-generated content threatensthe very existence of newspapersand magazines. Others argue that aspeople depend upon content that hasnot been vetted and edited, they will beexposed to fraud and falsehoods, andbegin to value what the editorial structurebrings to traditional publications.

Still others, such as Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism at the University of Maryland, believe that the fundamental process of gathering and disseminating news is changing. In November, she wrote in a blog: "Heading into the future, news becomes less of a concrete deliverable…and…more of an ongoing process of imparting and learning about information. The process of involvement in the news...becomes as important as the output."

Similar themes are at the heart of the debate on textbooks. A few but growing number of educators want all content delivered digitally, they want it interactive and flexible, and they want to pick and choose chapters or parts of chapters to use in their classrooms. Textbook publishers claim that they produce high quality, researched curriculum, and that dividing it up destroys the fidelity of implementation required for success. They say they add value through accurate, vetted content, edited and packaged for learning.

What's needed is a dialogue on these and other issues that takes on the future of content in education. T.H.E. Journal is aiming to provide that dialogue as well as an action orientation to create change in the provision and delivery of content. We are convening a group of textbook publishers and supplemental publishers from both the print and digital worlds, along with numerous ed tech organizations.

This spring, the assembled panel (for a full listing of the participants, go to www.contentcongress.com) will hold hearings in Florida and Texas, with the purpose of hearing, and discussing, the responses of educators and policymakers to two key questions: 1) What do you want in the way of content over the next five years, and how would you like that content delivered? and 2) What is keeping you from realizing that vision? From those conversations we will create a white paper. The effort will culminate in a Congress on the Future of Content, held May 8 and 9 in Washington, DC. At the congress, we will continue the dialogue begun in the hearings, as well as create workgroups that will identify action steps to address specific problems identified in the hearings.

After the congress, via wikis and blogs, we will keep the discussion alive as well as report on the progress of the workgroups. We will follow up with another congress the following year.

Please watch our website for regular updates, and to learn how you can contribute to the conversation and become involved in a workgroup.

-Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial director

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2008 issue of THE Journal.