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Funding for open source text books, lesson materials, etc

Current textbooks are expensive, and not really great. Creating free textbooks that schools could modify for their own purposes would raise the bar.


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(latest 20 votes)


  1. Comment
    Adam M. Smith

    I'd like to propose a minor spin on this idea:

    Instead of aiming to create whole textbooks, aim for somewhere halfway between a textbook and wikipedia. The idea is that every teacher will want to take his/her class along some trajectory through a topic, and an open-source textbook places just as much restriction on this as a traditional one.

    I'm interested in medium scale chunks of content from which a teaching can assemble their own textbook from compatible units. These units need not be too carefully designed to work with one another, an active community of interested teachers could create and share their own "playlists" of open-source units that they know to hang together.

  2. Comment
    Svetlana Medusa

    @ Adam M Smith below:

    The content repository idea has been active for a while, but I'm not sure it's working (see Curriki, Merlot et al). The big issue is discoverability of content and variable quality in components; it becomes so hard to find what you want that it's easier to do it yourself.

    I had to think about this when I began work on my own open source syllabus project,, and what I decided to create was this:

    - a set of materials designed according to a specific body of controlled-trial educational research (cognitive load theory) to establish a level of quality (ie go to the Math Primer and you know exactly what you'll get)

    - a defined syllabus/to-do list so users can see what has been created and what hasn't

    - the ability to contribute as a creator (although the level of commitment needs to be quite high)

    - the freedom to remix, edit and repurpose content

    - the option to pack up all the materials you want and send them to print on demand and get a set of workbooks for the cost of printing and delivery

    What makes it all work is the predictable level of quality of materials and their discoverability, but these same things make the barrier to entry for contributors high which means progress on the content is slow.

    @ Peter Row:

    Certainly ability to access funding might be helpful, but it isn't critical. And the process of competing for funding might take all the fun out working on these sort of projects.

  3. Comment

    Carrying heavy loads of books to and from classes is ruining our children's posture. Disabled students especially have a difficult time.

  4. Comment

    California state has a similar project.

  5. Comment

    It is not a question of "if" we will do this but "when." We have instructors who are creating textbooks, creating and sharing their own learning materials because the students can't afford the textbooks. The current commercial textbook market is a great contributor to the "mortgage crisis" of education.

  6. Comment

    Open source textbooks are great, and the effort could use plenty of encouragement.

    But why should the federal government *fund* such efforts?

  7. Comment
    Rene Sugar

    We are seeing more open courseware for university students but there needs to be more developed for K-12 students.

    To improve the education of K-12 students, with the help of teachers, we could organize an open courseware development project with teachers providing the curriculum and software developers providing the software (e.g. learning games).

    There is already an effort by Wikibooks to create free textbooks that could be expanded:

    If K-12 teachers across the country got involved, a lot of progress could be made.

    The software used by Wikipedia is available for free:

    Within the next couple years, for reading text books and other uses, there will be more tablet PC products like Apple's iPad and HP's TouchSmart tm2 notebook.


  8. Comment

    Check out Initial content is standards aligned STEM books seven of which have been approved by the Calif. free digital textbook initiative. More to come...

  9. Comment

    I agree with comments about open source textbooks and their need in K-12 education. Several posts mentioned important repositories, particularly CK-12, a private foundation that creates and posts open source K-12 textbooks as well as supplemental materials like teachers' guides.

    What is also needed is a means to review these texts to validate that they indeed teach the content standards for each state. Moving to a common core of standards should make these reviews more valuable for all states.

    The California learning Resource Network has been reviewing free and open source textbooks for the Governor's Free Digital Textbook Initiative in California. Complete reviews are available at our site.

  10. Comment

    This would help break the stranglehold that the Texas Board of Education has on textbook content.

  11. Comment
    Rue C Koegel

    i think it's important not only to create a wiki-like repository of 'open' materials for teachers to use, but also to allow the material to be formed not only into printed books on demand--by teacher and the student, but also to be downloaded in many eBook formats.

    there are many students now with eBook readers that would much rather not carry those huge textbooks around from class to class.

    i'm so positive about this that i don't think a single textbook should be developed today that's not also available in at least one digital format.

  12. Comment

    We could do the same as Portugal and not force the students to purchase books yet let them make and distribute xerox copies of them. I have two children attending two different universities in Portugal and this is the accepted practice by the university and students. Apparently, the idea of copyright laws do not apply overseas even though many of these books are published in the US.