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Textbooks? Textbooks? We don't need no stinkin' textbooks!

As we get our ducks in a row for our new computer science class offerings next year, the high school principal asked me to give him some recommendations on textbooks. I've always hated buying technology textbooks since they tend to be outdated by the time you receive them and because we have this great thing called the Internet filled with technology information.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

As we get our ducks in a row for our new computer science class offerings next year, the high school principal asked me to give him some recommendations on textbooks. I've always hated buying technology textbooks since they tend to be outdated by the time you receive them and because we have this great thing called the Internet filled with technology information.

Not so long ago, it took a fair amount of work, though to assemble a whole semester's or year's worth of coursework from web materials. Obviously, supplemental materials abounded, but textbooks certainly do help with a curriculum and keeping students on track from day to day. So I started looking for textbooks. We were all set for introductory web classes and office productivity, but more advanced web goodies and programming were certainly not in our book closet.

It didn't take much Googling, however, to realize that full textbooks and curricula were now available for free to cover every topic I had in mind. The idea of Open Textbooks is a fairly new one, following in the same vein as Open Source Software. Some of them, like Wikibooks, are works in progress. Others are robust teaching tools, like those found on opentextbook.org:

The Canadian site Free Learning is also a treasure trove of information and is searchable as well. This is more of a meta-database, pointing to a variety of open text resources.

This doesn't even take into account initiatives like MIT's OpenCourseWare. Two introductory computer science courses (including notes, presentations, source code, and other supplemental materials) are available here, along with countless courses appropriate for high school and independent study. Courses particularly appropriate for high school are even broken out on this site

We're certainly nowhere near a time when we can dispense with purchased, traditional textbooks, especially in core subjects that often need to be aligned with local, state, or federal standards. However, I have no doubt that I can give teachers everything they need to teach a wide variety of courses in technology without spending a dime.

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