Subject matter pertaining to advocating the adoption of Open Textbooks.
Faculty in the Mathematics Department at Scottsdale Community College have been working hard this year to create, revise, and organize materials for our OER project in several of our courses. This is exciting for all of us!
Our goal is to offer all of our MAT 09x Introductory Algebra, MAT 12x Intermediate Algebra, and MAT 150 College Algebra courses using OER materials starting this Fall 2012. During the 2011-2012 academic year, we have pilot tested our materials, formed a learning community of very talented mathematics faculty, and collaborated with each other to further refine the OER textbook, student support materials, and online homework assignments. This summer, several faculty (Bill Meacham, Judy Sutor, Jenifer Bohart, Donna Guhse, and Linda Knop) will be working hard to take what we have learned from our spring pilot and, once again, refine these materials. The exciting part of the refinement process is that we have complete control over the quality of what we adopt to support our classes! We love this!
Recently, our OER team received the SCC Innovation of the Year Award. Only 1 team per college in the Maricopa Community College District receives this award. As a result, we were invited to give a presentation in hopes of receiving the widely sought-after District Innovation of the Year Award. The presentation slides are available at: OER Innovation of the Year. Wish us luck that we are awarded our District IOTY Award very soon!
As part of our OER project, our learning community has restructured the course so that we provide meaningful support for students, both inside and outside of the classroom. Before class, students can complete a “mini-lesson” to help prepare them for the next class session. During class, they receive instruction and engage in paired board work. After class, they use iMathAS and problem solving activities to support their learning. The next class session then allows for more active learning and engagement with the mathematics. Outside of the classroom, students’ learning is supported by the OER textbook and video tutorials created by MathIsPower4U’s James Sousa, as well as the Khan Academy.
Students have been appreciative of our efforts to use free (or nearly free!) materials for their mathematics courses. In fact, feel free to watch a couple of student testimonials about their experience in an OER math class. It’s exciting to hear that they are using technology — their smartphone, their tablet, etc. — to complete online homework and to access the textbook.
It’s a wonderful time to be teaching college mathematics!
by Andy Oram
The worlds of both education and publishing will be tugged from opposing directions, perhaps to the breaking point, by two recent trends. One is Apple’s well-publicized entry into the textbook market with its iBooks Author app, tied by license to its iBooks store. The other is the movement for open textbooks, on which the state of California recently placed its bets (for the second time).
But let’s slow down for a minute. The iPad, as an entertainment platform, will not morph easily into an educational tool, whereas developing open textbooks raises difficulties beyond the ones that open source software have encountered and surmounted. I recently discussed these topics with Open Doors Group’s Jacky Hood. She is part of a team trying to respond to the California open textbook challenge.
Empowerment versus entertainment
To evaluate Apple’s textbook strategy, compare it to the goals of the “One Laptop Per Child” initiative. The biggest problem with the Apple initiative–missed by most commentators—is that the iPad is an entertainment device, and has many interesting ways to interact with content but not to create it. In contrast, OLPC’s XO system was planned from the start to let children create and share text, video, and other content. It is an empowerment device. (Google claims that its Chromebooks are similarly empowering.)
The same reasoning drove the OLPC decision to distribute all free software on the XO. The use of free software promotes learning and exploration. Numerous other considerations (lower cost, rugged design, and orientation to underdeveloped regions with limited capabilities) also separate the XO from the iPad.
Now the iPad is obviously a beautiful product, so we can assume that its qualities will be put to good use by textbook authors. But authors will need help creating an effective user interface for their own textbooks.
If school districts respond positively to Apple’s textbook initiative, I hope they relinquish some of their zeal for aesthetically superior, expensive hardware and license some cheap device (several options are available) for student use.
The Limits of Open
Do open textbooks present as robust an alternative to the Apple model as open source presents to the Microsoft’s of the software industry? Not in practice. The development model used by Open Doors isn’t as radical as you’d expect when you hear of open textbooks.
Textbooks are extraordinarily detailed and have high standards for correctness in all those details. Good writing values–pacing, selection, the introduction of topics–all have to be top-notch too. Textbooks may be criticized as bland or timid, but they make their points without the nuanced ambiguity that authors can get away with in other settings.
Numerous open source activities exist in education, but they tend to deal not with textbooks but a broader set of material known as “open courseware.” (A survey of available courseware can be found in the appendix of UNESCO’s A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources). It may turn out that, in a collaborative and action-oriented classroom, textbooks will turn out to be an obsolete concept and the pastiche of other courseware will be all that is needed. But this article starts with the premise that a textbook is still useful.
Of all the weapons that free software can wield in its battle for world domination, the heaviest guns are the ease of making and distributing derivative works. But textbooks are not used in a community the same way software is. Textbooks are designed for courses, and are chosen by instructors. Most instructors would need strong assurance that any derivative work was superior to the original before using it.
When I look at the demands made by students and instructors, and the constraints placed on textbook production–whether the Apple model or the open model–I sense there is a place for both and a place for expert authors and publishers to create the experiences that modern educational environments require.
To read more about my viewpoint on these initiatives, look at my in-depth article on O”Reilly Radar.
ABOUT ANDY ORAM:
He is an editor at O’Reilly Media. An employee of the company since 1992, Andy currently specializes in open source technologies and software engineering. His work for O’Reilly includes the first books ever released by a U.S. publisher on Linux, the 2001 title Peer-to-Peer, and the 2007 best-seller Beautiful Code. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Mentor Cloud and Open Doors Group / College Open Textbooks Partner to
Facilitate Sharing Best Practices Among the Open Education Community
New Community to Share Best Practices and Facilitate Mentoring in Open Education
Cupertino, CA, January 26, 2012 — In honor of National Mentoring Day, Mentor Cloud and Open Doors Group/College Open Textbooks announced today the availability of an education community that allows 24×7 discussion threads and broadcast email messages to all members by all members. Generally all members will be both mentors and mentees in keeping with 21st century models of learning communities.
Education in the 21st Century faces an enormous challenge:
Education in the 21st Century is afforded three important opportunities to meet the above challenge:
Collaboration tools are needed in at least three areas of open education:
OpenDoorsGroup.MentorCloud.com, powered by Mentor Cloud, is the tool that allows for all three of the above. During the beta period, OpenDoorsGroup.MentorCloud.com will be free of cost to individuals who are thought leaders and contributors in open education. Invitations will be sent starting in early February. There may be a fee for organizations that sign up 5 or more individuals as well as organizations looking to tap into the open education community. There will also be a fee for organizations that are looking for facilitators to drive conversations on certain topics and areas.
“There is absolutely a need for a central place for those in the open education community to share best practices” says Mitchell Levy, Co-Director, College Open Textbooks, who emphasizes that Mentor Cloud is a great tool to provide this level of service.
Guest Post by Brendan Baker of Chegg.com – committed to making education more affordable by offering cheap textbooks for students to buy, rent or sell.
As we look for ways to make education more affordable, what can start as a simple idea can often expand into something bigger. Just as the open textbook cause spawned into a vast network of open textbook organizations and communities, you never know how big an idea can become until you’ve put it into action.
For Chegg.com it started with the idea that all college textbooks could be—rather should be—cheaper for students. But what if you take that belief one step further? What if students had the ability to rent textbooks, which would make them more affordable while helping to save paper?
The idea snowballed from there, and soon enough a partnership with the American Forest Global ReLeaf Foundation was formed. The idea: for every textbook rented or sold through Chegg.com, a tree would be planted. The result? Since the inception of the partnership, over five million trees have been planted around the world—from the San Juan National Forest in Colorado all the way to Pondicherry, India—and the number continues to rise.
Several years later, the trees are still serving their purpose. Whether it’s by repopulating areas that have been damaged by wildfire or through improving the water quality in community rivers, the trees are a much needed presence in their environments.
What’s more, since the start of their partnership with the American Forest Global ReLeaf Foundation, Chegg has picked up a few more partnerships along the way, effectively creating what they now call the Chegg for Good program. Their motto: to encourage and inspire students to become active on their campus in social causes and become philanthropic leaders who make a difference on their campuses, in their communities, and around the world. Beyond tree planting, Chegg wants students be a catalyst for change and help them realize their dreams of making an impact on the world.
Among many of their initiatives, Chegg has even hosted a competition where four student founded non-profit organizations competed for a chance to receive additional financial support towards their cause. Each organization posted their story on the Chegg blog in order to help drive votes (and ultimately more funding), to their respective programs.
And it doesn’t stop there. Chegg has also sponsored two Habitat for Humanity playhouse builds involving the company’s very own employees. In fact, a new employee volunteer program hopes to encourage everyone on the Chegg team to give five days a year, paid by Chegg, to volunteer with organizations that matter to them.
As they look to the future, Chegg continues to seek out influential partners that will expose students to some unique and once in a lifetime opportunities in the philanthropic space. And with any luck, the circle of giving will continue to spread from the high-level organizations down to the young and ambitious students of the world. Once again, a small idea has flourished into a worldwide network of positive and influential change.
To learn more about possible charities you can get involved with or to learn more about the Chegg for Good program, click here: http://www.chegg.com/cheggforgood/