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In this paper, I provide a short but broad history of the textbook as a multimedia pedagogical and cultural form. In doing so, I pay particular attention to the interrelationship of oral and textual media and cultures, highlighting the ways that these two communicative modes are reconfigured over the history of this pedagogical form. I also situate the textbook in the context of changing instructional methods and practices, and demonstrate that instructional forms and practices have neither progressed along with new technologies nor gradually evolved from a primitive orality to sophisticated literacy. Instead, I show that these practices as well as textbook media change much more in synchrony with larger cultural and epistemological developments—such as those identified by Michel Foucault, Friedrich Kittler and other historians of media and culture.

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This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at Explorations in Media Ecology, published by Intellect. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1386/eme.17.4.411_1