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Re: [seul-edu] Open textbooks

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Chris Hedemark <hedemark@bops.com>

> > Here's what I am thinking. If textbooks were developed in an
> Open Source
> > fashion, it could be more effective for schools to
> distribute laptops
> > instead of textbooks. 
> > The only real problem that I see is getting qualified people
> to write &>
> maintain the texts. What is the incentive?
> >
I've been thinking about this topic a bit.  I think we actually
have two related topics here.  The first is content creation. 
How do we get people to write educationally useful textbooks and
make them available for free?  This is something that has little
to do with the technology behind things.  It's much more a
social and managerial question.  I'm sure there are people on
this list with loads more experience in the educational world
than me who might be able to address this.  Ray, I'll defer to
your greater knowledge of textbook publishing.  Frankly, I was
just guessing.

The second topic is content delivery.  This is where I think we
will have our greatest role to play.  Writing open source texts
is all well and good, but if each student needs a computer to
get at those texts, how is that going to help impoverished
schools?  I think that we need to set up a process where open
source texts are written and then made available as HTML (for
online use), PostScript or LaTeX (for downloading and printing),
and PDF (for use from a CD-ROM) at the very least.  That way,
the same text could be used directly off the internet, locally
from a CD-ROM server, or printed and duplicated for use offline.
 I see the printing as the most cost-effective version of the
text in that only the portion the teacher actually intends to
use needs to be printed.  If we do set up something like this,
it will be important that we not update the "canonical" text
constantly.  I doubt that a teacher could teach effectively with
a text that changes from week to week.  We'd have to have some
policy of announcing updates well in advance and making them
only between semesters (if that will work with an international

Between the Open Book Project and the DocBook-based SEUL/edu
documentation project (I don't want to start any discussions
over DocBook, I just note it because it has the ability to
create all the versions I mentioned above), I think we have a
good basis for starting something like this.  What we need is a
way to get educators to write texts for us and a way to let
schools know those texts are available for free use.  It's worth
noting that this open text project is in keeping with open
source software, but that it doesn't have anything particularly
to do with Linux.  That's fine, because it's a clear need that I
think we're well positioned to work on.

I know there are a number of educators on this mailing list. 
Here's my requests of them: if you've written a text that you've
found useful in teaching any of your subjects, consider
submitting it as an open text.  If you've been dissatisfied with
the texts available on subjects you teach, consider writing an
open text to replace them.

Bill Tihen, you're familiar with the various DocBook creation
programs.  Could you give us a list of them again so educators
interested in trying this could look them over?  Both Bill (I
hope) and I will try to help anyone writing open texts to put
them in DocBook form.  Interested writers should also contact
Jeffery Elkner at the Open Book Project too.

Doug Loss           The art of medicine consists of amusing the
dloss@suscom.net    patient while nature cures the disease.
(570) 326-3987             Voltaire