This week’s post was supposed to be about using Twitter to teach geology, but work intervened. One of the textbooks I use, Structural Geology of Rocks and Regions (Davis, Reynolds & Kluth), was updated as a third edition in 2012. Unfortunately I didn’t become aware of this until two days ago when I received a copy in the mail and found that a course amendment document was urgently required for my structural geology course at Athabasca University.
This third edition was released for exactly the right reasons. The authors have made substantial changes and, so far as I’ve been able to tell, many improvements. For example, I’ve already found updates that cover material I wrote for the course in order to remedy gaps in the second edition. The fact that the second edition was issued 12 years after the first, and the third edition 16 years after the second, suggests to me that the authors have a commitment to meaningful changes. This is in contrast to the suspiciously frequent updates to introductory historical and physical geology textbooks.
In the past, I’ve had to modify course materials because of the release of new textbook editions. This happened recently for one of my other distance education courses. The process took part of an afternoon and consisted largely of changing out a few page numbers.
Not so this time. I relied heavily on the textbook when designing the course (why ask students to buy it if they aren’t going to use it?), and incorporated readings and image references throughout the course materials I’d written. I knew I was in trouble when I read the preface to the new edition and found the phrase “sea-change” more than once.
As I said earlier, the changes are not minor. Readings I used from the second edition have been chopped up into little pieces and sprinkled throughout the chapter. Figure 1.42, “(A) Geologic map and structure profile of a medium-sized pepperoni pizza. (B) Kinematic model of the translation and rotation of the pepperoni,” has moved from page 33 to page 9, becoming Figure 1.9 with an additional “(C) Detail of displacement vectors.” This means that words like “kinematic,” and “vectors” have come into play much sooner than I would like, and spoiled the gentle introduction to the subject that I had intended. Whole chunks of the chapter on plate tectonics, including key images, have been excised. This probably makes sense for this textbook, because the students who use it should have been introduced to the concepts in prerequisite courses, but my students tend to need the background.
My course amendment document is at 4 pages and I am only at the beginning of Unit 2 (of 7) in the theory section of the course. I feel sorry for the students who will have to use this document to navigate the course until the necessary revisions are implemented.