Reconsidering the Textbook > Who Attended > Paul Bierman

Paul Bierman


Geomorphology and Geochemistry

Department of Geology

University of Vermont

Delehanty Hall, 180 Colchester Ave
Burlington, VT 05405

802 656 4411

802 656 0045

What are, to you, the key issues in creating learning resources that support your teaching style and your student's learning styles?

The ability to keep student interest is a key issue for any learning resource. I find that many of my students have less interest in the written and spoken word and far greater interest in dynamic presentations: video, simulations, demonstrations. I think the issue here is producing material that interests students while at the same time remaining accurate, authentic, and substantial.

What is your vision for the "textbook" of the future and what impediments do you see to realizing that vision?

The "textbook" of the future is flexible, adaptive, and interactive. I see one of the largest impediments being the difficulty of getting students to pay the same level of attention to on-line resources as they do printed ones. Sure, on-line texts allow all sorts of visualizations, dynamic simulations and interactivity, but do the students treat them seriously or do they go into "browse" mode and give the pages the type of attention they give CNN. My gut feeling is the latter now and our challenge is how to change that. Perhaps technology will allow us to create e-books that can be all these interactive things but stand alone and are not web pages one can surf away from?

Describe briefly any research you have undertaken on teaching or learning.

Although I've been teaching for years, I've just begun to research how teaching and student-learning works. Over the past two years, I've been working with Christine Massey and Cathy Manduca to understand what students see in photographs, one of the fundamental teaching tools for geoscientists. Our work is tied to educational software we are developing with NSF CCLI EMD support, the learning landscapes web site (

Have you created publicly accessible learning resources? – this site is used in classes about Earth's surface in order to provide background and familiarity before the students go to the field. – this site is a collection of historic landscape images used for research and both formal and informal education.

How would you like to contribute to the workshop?

I'd like to contribute my energy and enthusiasm for helping students learn as well as my interest and growing expertise in understanding what students see and how they interpret photographic images.

What would you like to take away from the workshop?

I'd like to take away from the workshop ideas on what to do better in terms of creating learning resources and I am very excited to get to know a group of peers with whom to exchange ideas in the future. I have signed on as a junior author of a textbook and hope to use what I learn at the workshop to help enrich my chapters.