Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Shelf life

When textbook writers and people like me writing resources online choose what to write about we are faced with a minor dilemma. We want to make our resources up to date and relevant, but want to ensure that they can be used for at least five years or so. If the shelf life of a resource is too short it cannot be used for very long.

I am sure we have all come across textbooks containing material which may have been fashionable at the time of writing, but which seem out of date five years later. This includes use of pictures of, say, cars or clothes. The best textbooks avoid this trap by using more timeless, generic texts and images.

That's why I try to produce resources with a decent shelf life on frenchteacher.net. When I write or adapt articles I avoid pieces based on fresh news because they will usually be of no interest a few months down the road. I would rather teachers found the resources useful over a longer period. One or two people who respond to my surveys would like to see some material on current affairs, but I avoid this because of the shelf life issue. It's up to teachers themselves to source fresh material when a major event occurs e.g. an election, a social crisis or interesting  fait divers. Many do.

With this in mind I have just been updating some A-level reources which contained statistics or information which now seems a little out of date. It is usually pretty easy to get up to date information online which makes the resource usable for a while longer.

As an aside, the ALCAB/DfE proposed MFL A-level syllabus has, as one of its three main topic categories, "current affairs". I believe this was a mistake, since it will be difficult for resource writers to provide materials for this topic, Furthermore, exam paper writers will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to write questions months in advance based on current affairs.

So, in sum, if you are a teacher who writes resources for your classes, fresh is good, but resources with a long shelf life may be better.

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