SXSWi: Textbooks of the Future: Free & Collaborative!

Textbooks of the Future

This panel features Rich Baraniuk (Rice Univ) Melissa Hagemann (Open Society Institute) SJ Klein (OLPC) and Erik Moller (Wikimedia Foundation). Each panelist introduced him/herself and told how they became interested in free collaborative textbooks. (Hint to Erik, a monotone is a big yawn and irritating, too. I don’t have a clue what he said.)

Klein said he sees computers as communication devices and libraries. In the rural and developing world, people don’t have books. With OLPC, the only barrier to delivering books is a licensing question.

Rich said things are coming together in this area because of 1) technology such as digital downloads, 2) creating in lego blocks of material for recombinable objects, 3) intellectual property licensing, and 4) the development of quality control mechanisms. He showed an example of a “content lens” on a page that helps you evaluate the quality of particular content.

Rich talked about print on demand (POD). He showed a site with a hundred modules for print on demand for a music curriculum. POD can create almost professional quality textbooks. This saves a great deal of money. Erik also talked about print on demand. This time I got about one word out of three: empowering educators was something I heard. I could see the Wikimedia Educator Collection he had on the screen, which looks like a good resource.

SJ mentioned that POD documents can be instantly updated when errors are reported. He thinks publishers should see themselves as the curators of information. Rich mentioned that publishing is becoming unbundled. Specific companies may develop for just copyediting or just shipping. He suggested the way Red Hat adds value to the free Linux OS, so should publishers provide value added to the content they publish.

Rich said there is an Open Access Declaration that is pushing scholarly publications to be open licensed. He thinks there may be a similar declaration around open textbooks. (Cape Town Declaration) One of the Cape Town Declarations is that all publicly funded education materials should be available freely online.

Delivery of knowledge: collaborative transcription of video, collaborative editing, collaborative notetaking. This means no individual authorial rights. Blurring the role of teacher/student/author to allow for mixing roles. Blurring of lines between content containers such as novel/encyclopedia/textbook/etc. Context can be added with open textbooks–now books can be personalized for teaching more effectively. Notes around material are becoming as important as the material itself.

Additional photos from SXSWi at Flickr.

Technorati Tags:

Leave a Reply