An open source textbook is more than a book

An open source textbook is more than a book

Summary: Coordinator Jim Batterson announced the project in October, and his 13 authors had their work done by February 27. They included active researchers, high school teachers, and college professors, as well as some retirees.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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The release of an "open source" physics textbook by the state of Virginia is a serious milestone.

I put the words "open source" in quotes because, while the work has a Creative Commons attribution license and was built using open source tools, its chapters are all bylined and it was done with strict peer review.

The technology platform comes from CK-12, Palo Alto, Calif., built using open source projects like Apache, Django, mySQL, PHP and Google Tools. Progress was tracked on a Wiki.

What may be most remarkable here is the timeframe.

Coordinator Jim Batterson announced the project in October, and his 13 authors had their work done by February 27. They included active researchers, high school teachers, and college professors, as well as some retirees.

Naturally, the new text is based on current technology. No talk of cathode ray tubes. And the resulting book can be updated, rewritten, on a regular schedule so it's new with each school year. The FlexBook can be viewed online with a CK-12 Flexbook reader or printed.

The contrast with current K-12 textbook acquisition methods is night-and-day. No multi-year lead times. No publisher control. And the approval process is also flexible.

CK-12 is a non-profit organization run by serial entrepreneur Murugan Pal and educator Neeru Khosla.  The group has several dozen active authors, and a board of advisors heavy on the Sun exes.

Think about how texts are developed now, think of how much faster this process is, consider the costs of each, and I think you'll admit that what we have coming is a revolution. The fact CK-12 is far from alone here may be the best news of all.

Topic: Open Source

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7 comments
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  • Competition is good

    The commercial textbook publishers have gotten way too fat and happy over the last few decades, with college students and taxpayers picking up most of the tab. The existence of freely copyable alternatives will surely force the publishers to offer better quality for lower prices.
    John L. Ries
  • What a fantastic idea!

    I think this is a great idea. I actually had something similar in a college business course, although it wasn't electronic. The teacher created the text based on prewritten chapters that he selected to match the syllabus he wanted to teach to. The result was a quality text with a lower price than most of the other texbooks I had.

    This will allow schools to use this as an e-textbook or have printed copies available with far fewer bureacratic costs rolled into the books.
    endermc12
    • Savings bigger than in college

      States like Texas buy literally millions of
      textbooks each year, most of which are obsolete
      before they are printed. Wire the schools and
      update them every year -- it makes for a quantum
      leap in education.
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • RE: An open source textbook is more than a book

    When the Internet was little more than an idea, the promise was a new age of human growth through learning. Couple this with a Wiki accredited college, and we will peek into a future that we thought would only exist on Star Trek. Imagine fact trumping belief, it's easy if you try.
    KlipschFan
  • I would love to read an electronic text book.

    And get rid of the old tech books I have...

    I'm focusing in Computer Programming and
    Analysis.

    Man, I feel so much more comfortable reading an
    eBook in
    the computer... It just makes my hand focus on
    the
    keyboard and mouse than having to go back and
    forth
    reading the textbook and get back into the
    computer.

    It'd also be great if I could have a math eBook
    when it comes to intermediate Algebra,
    trigonometry, Calculus (well, not Business
    Calculus, but Calculus for 2D/3D math), etc.
    Grayson Peddie
  • Message has been deleted.

    omarsman
  • RE: An open source textbook is more than a book

    Think about how texts are developed now, think of how much faster this process is, consider the costs of each, and I think youll admit that what we have coming is a revolution. The fact CK-12 is far from alone here may be the best news of all.<a href="http://ipadbagblog.com/"><font color="white"> k</font></a>
    zakkiromi