[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [seul-edu] open textbooks

Hi Ray, 

I don't feel picked on -- ask as many questions as you like.  But these are 
just my oppinions, I am not a professional author and I have only written 
several technical documents.  I stumbled into this opportunity.  I actually, 
come from a technical background.  

I started the "mini-text" book over x-mass break when I realized that I had no 
resources for my next units.  At that point I got a jump start I spent nearly 
all 3 weeks working on it, "6-10 hours a day."  That got me throught about half 
of a 120 page document (mostly graphics).  At that point I had outlined and 
decided what I was going to teach too (that takes surpisingly long, however, I 
don't remember the details now though).  The rest of it I wrote over the next 6 
months as I realized I was running out of teaching resources -- but that seemed 
easier once the content had been decided.  At that point I had also had 
experience how well the students responded to the various ways I had presented 
the material.  Having a foundatation and experience with other sections was 
tremendously useful.  At that point it almost got boring and tedious.  Dealing 
with so many graphics is also tedious and can be difficult to keep the images 
and content in sync.  

Maintaining and correcting the errors the students found and clarifing the 
confusion the kids had was at times difficult, but interesting and rewarding.  
I was amazed at how many assumptions, mistakes and otherwise difficult it is to 
produce an accurate and clear text -- especially when it is targeted at kids 
with vast variety of English language skills.  I would keep a copy with me and 
make notes and corrections and then fix them.  I had no electronic distribution 
system -- but this would have simplified this problem considerably.  This is to 
explain that in my oppinion it is very difficult and time consuming and the 
book needs to be "beta tested" before it goes public.  Authors certainly work 
for that wealth if it makes big money.

However, the most dissapointing thing with a "Computer Textbook" - at least one 
that isn't published with a binding is that the kids don't see handouts as 
valuable.  Books are valuable, handouts aren't.  I looked into having them semi-
professionally bound to give them more authenticity, but that was outrageously 
expensive (well a couple of dollars a student -- but multiply that time 80 
students and well -- I decided that if they didn't take it seriously and didn't 
do well then I would catch some hell from administrators and parents, but I 
would save a lot of money -- this was only one of many time consuming expenses 
I incured working for a state that was nearly fiscally broke.  So somehow 
students (people in general) have to learn that books can come in any form.  In 
fact at a certain point -- when kids would ask me a question in the booklet I 
would answer with a page number.  My experience is that kids are as lazy as the 
rest of us and if someone has the answer it is easier to ask then to look it 
up, figure it out.  BTW, this goes for adults too, as the "computer expert" I 
often get called to look up something in a manual with or for someone.  I don't 
know how to get around these two problems with near god like belief in 
published books and with the strong reluctance to look up material -- most 
people don't like to hear RTFM.

But in the end, I would do it again anyway.  They do help some and it is still 
saves time to quote a page number over the phone, than to get up, stop my 
current project, walk accross campuss, help someone for a few minutes, walk 
back across campus, sit down, reorganize my thoughts and then start the project 
again.  Especially, since the ratio is 400 to 1 -- although soon it will be 
200:)1! It's just a lot of effort once -- and hopefully a good learning 
experience for my assistant, too.

I did register it with an open-textbook website, but I lost track of that so I 
never submitted it.  So for now if one wants a copy, I give it to them.  At the 
moment I just print it and give it to the people who need it at my current 
school -- MS Word isn't a great platform for electonic publishing, so I would 
have to rework it to be viable to distribute electronically.  At the moment, I 
think it would be too much work to convert this document, since there are so 
many Windows books one can buy and people prefer those anyway.  It works for 
what I need now -- it's just a bit clumsy to publish from word (on paper and 
electronically), but it was my first try.  So there are definately things I 
would do differently.  However, I keep thinking I would take that document and 
do the same thing with Gnome and it's applications.  Although, I would probably 
have to add a couple of sections for spreedsheets and databases since those 
don't come free with Windows, but they do on Linux.  I would probably also add 
a unit on GIMP -- graphics which are fun for everyone and Netscape Composer to 
make the graphics more useful and kids seem fascinated with web-pages.  In 
fact, I was thinking this would be a good way to have my new assistant learn 
DocBook, GIMP and Linux with out having to worry about much content it would 
help prepare her for other documents she would create from scratch.  Hopefully, 
in the next year or two, we will move to Linux workstations (our computer 
teacher is slowly warming up to the idea) and it may be useful to others too.

But in the end, I have to do projects that help my school and if that helps 
others, then great.  But if it doesn't count as work then I have to take it out 
of my freetime -- which can be extreemly limited at times.  So it's just lucky 
that I see this as a good training opportunity that helps us and maybe others 
too - we'll see.  Especially, since I bet there will soon be a flood of 
published books (in defense of publishers, they also help make sure that a lot 
of trash and missinformation is not available -- one cannot say that about the 
web, it has other very important merrits, though.  This may explain the belief 
in the perfectness of published and reviewed texts.

I guess I have said way too much, but you asked for it (well I hope I answered 
most of your current and some of your future questions).  I don't know if it 
will help the discussion, but I hope so.


Quoting Ray Olszewski <ray@comarre.com>:

> At 04:30 PM 10/17/00 +0200, Bill Tihen -- Information Technology wrote:
> And where can I obtain a copy of it? Is it released under some sort of
> Open
> Source license? Have you been getting feedback and maintaining it?
> How much work was it to do? Would you do it again?
> Bill, I'm not intending to pick on you here. But these discussions tend
> to
> be severely lacking in input from people who have actually created
> freely-available e-texts. It would be helpful to know what, if anything,
> has
> stopped this one of your from becoming widely available. This might let
> the
> duscission of "what needs to be done" be a bit less speculative and
> theoretical, more concrete.
> --
> ------------------------------------"Never tell me the odds!"---
> Ray Olszewski                                        -- Han Solo
> Palo Alto, CA           	 	         ray@comarre.com        
> ----------------------------------------------------------------