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Old 10-02-2009, 01:44 PM   #1
kennyc
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Open College Textbook Act of 2009

Just ran across this on Slashdot:


http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:s1714:

http://blog.opensourcenerd.com/open-source-books
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Old 10-02-2009, 01:48 PM   #2
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Nice idea.

Probably going to be VERY bad at implementation, and I quote from your source blog:


Quote:
In short, open source books! Free to students! Free to modify to make better, etc.
Who will "control the content" is my question?

It is said that those who are the victors in any conflict write the history.
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Old 10-02-2009, 01:51 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by N0NJY View Post
Nice idea.

Probably going to be VERY bad at implementation, and I quote from your source blog:




Who will "control the content" is my question?

It is said that those who are the victors in any conflict write the history.
Each university department that adopts a text will control the content.
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Old 10-02-2009, 02:01 PM   #4
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Each university department that adopts a text will control the content.
Thus my point.

One college will control the content in it's own way perhaps differently than another university. In which case some universities will "become more equal than others" in content, context and in information.

Others will be, shall we say, "less equal" in quality of information being presented.

I don't have a problem with "open source" at all, don't get me wrong. But when it comes specifically to basic information, basic training, basic informational skills, everyone should be (for lack of a better phrase) on the same page.

I suppose, in the long run this may incite people to learn more freely, and perhaps more deeply of a subject though. I only question the "politics" of such a decision.
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Old 10-02-2009, 04:46 PM   #5
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Thus my point.

One college will control the content in it's own way perhaps differently than another university. In which case some universities will "become more equal than others" in content, context and in information.
Right now, some universities have better educational resources than others--more skilled and knowledgeable teachers, better lab resources, better library, more counseling/guidance options, more payment options & scholarships, better selection of coursebooks.

Since all universities don't use the same books to teach now, I can't see how this is going to make anything worse. Yes, some colleges will wind up with state-of-the-industry coursebooks, edited by a dozen of the top practitioners in their fields, and others will wind up with something that's a bit better than a Wikipedia listing with reference material attached.

And right now? Some colleges have libraries with tens of thousands of books, and computer search systems to sort them, and a staff of dozens to help students find what they need for their classes, and other colleges have a few thousand books, a physical card catalog, and a single librarian with a couple of shelf-stocking assistants.

Some teachers are talented, and keep students motivated and interested so they learn avidly; other teacher drone through lesson plans they prepared 20 years ago, and students take notes that let them pass the tests but don't remember anything of the class when the next semester rolls around.

I don't expect open-source textbooks to *lower* the standards of education anywhere. Of course, highly technical schools will be best-placed to take advantage of them. But they will give low-income schools a chance to have better working materials than they could afford to pay for alone.
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Old 10-02-2009, 06:48 PM   #6
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Yes... I agree with all you've stated. Having been a college teacher (Electronics/physics fields) I certainly can see this exactly.

I had students that, after a decent information filled lecture on exactly how diodes (for instance) are made and function, invariably would ask me "But, what's the ANSWER?"

When I would respond to "What was the question?" they would say "How does a diode work" - so going through a different explanation, perhaps with less math and even less theory (or more depending on the group or student) I'd try a different approach.

Eventually, after doing this a few times I finally was enlightened on what the student was REALLY asking me. He wanted to know the hard, firm answer (if troubleshooting a device for instance) that he could point to his notes and say "AH HA! I've found it" (the problem).

In other words, they believed there was a sub-set of specific things one can always point to as a problem inside, say a radio receiver or transmitter and that would ALWAYS be the problem.

I had to give them the bad news and tell them that "troubleshooting isn't a set of answers and there's not a distinct set of responses for each, individual component".

I think I lost several students the next day (you know, the ones that really do not wish to THINK things out haha).

At least my classes were FUN and over the years I've met many of my students out in the real world earning a living doing what they were taught.

I suppose that something like this might actually make some colleges better while others continue to get worse. Even so - I think knowledge still needs to be passed on carefully, fully and completely and new ideas examined for clarity and facts... we will see.
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Old 10-02-2009, 07:14 PM   #7
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This act should really be called "The Government Publishing Company Act of 2009."
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Old 10-02-2009, 07:19 PM   #8
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Quote:
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Thus my point.

One college will control the content in it's own way perhaps differently than another university. In which case some universities will "become more equal than others" in content, context and in information.

Others will be, shall we say, "less equal" in quality of information being presented.

I don't have a problem with "open source" at all, don't get me wrong. But when it comes specifically to basic information, basic training, basic informational skills, everyone should be (for lack of a better phrase) on the same page.

I suppose, in the long run this may incite people to learn more freely, and perhaps more deeply of a subject though. I only question the "politics" of such a decision.
I think when you say "everybody should be...on the same page" you mean that everyone should have the same opportunities for excellence, truth and knowledge. But it sounds to me a bit authoritarian. And it can be used that way.

Of course, if it's really open source, anyone who improves it must share it. So the best editions will bubble to the top, and anyone can use the resulting texts. No hoarding and hiding it behind "copyright" and lawsuits.

Right now, two states (Texas and California), dominate which textbooks are used in the US, because of their size and the number of books they purchase. Texas is a crazy place where they try to insert religion and conservative movement ideology into the texts.

The rest of the country is therefore limited (not completely, but greatly) in what is available to it. Publishers are largely corporations, so you know that doing the right thing is irrelevant -- they just want the money. Having truly open source textbooks might mitigate this. (And it also might mitigate the horrible, monopolistic pricing practices in universities.)

m a r
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Old 10-02-2009, 07:26 PM   #9
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better than wikipedia?

I have to say I don't necassarily buy that some of the text books used in college are any better than wikipedia. How do you really know who wrote them and how accurate their information is? Sure in theory they should be knowledgable but in reality? Who knows.

I would hope that the information is good in text books, but at times I find that hard to believe when they publishing companies are pushing new editions out as fast as they can.

I believe it has to have 60% new material to be a new edition? Have things changed that much in the last few years that a revision of 60% of the information is really needed?


Amy
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Old 10-02-2009, 07:32 PM   #10
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Seems like a couple of you are putting too much stake in the role of a text book in education.

Being a professor, I can tell you most textbooks suck. The quality of the education in the course depends much more on the professor than on what book they use.
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Old 10-02-2009, 07:33 PM   #11
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I believe it has to have 60% new material to be a new edition? Have things changed that much in the last few years that a revision of 60% of the information is really needed?


Amy
I can't imagine there's anywhere near that kind of requirement based on my experience with new editions that seem to often hardly add anything substantively new. Many are just updated current events examples etc. Much less often do you get new chapters added etc.
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Old 10-02-2009, 07:47 PM   #12
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Right now, two states (Texas and California), dominate which textbooks are used in the US, because of their size and the number of books they purchase. Texas is a crazy place where they try to insert religion and conservative movement ideology into the texts.


m a r
California is also a crazy place where they try and insert evolution into all the text including math and all other subjects. They also try and insert social programs into their text, for example the images in the books must include wheelchair and other clearly disabled people. I guess you might say have a liberal movement ideology in the text.

Perhaps it balances out, if you move from state to state.
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Old 10-02-2009, 08:33 PM   #13
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Evolution is real. Use of it as metaphor, or in discussion of science is pertinent.

All sorts of people live in this country, not just white southerners who can walk.

Polite people keep their religious beliefs to themselves, not make an effort to indoctrinate other people's children. Belief without proof is irrational -- all actions that come from it are therefore also irrational.

Decent societies help their members. Not leave them to suffer.

Facts and truth have a noticeably liberal bias.

I will not "balance" untruth and counter-factual beliefs with what is evidentially true.

m a r

ps: take a closer look at California, and what decades of conservative intransigence in government has done. It's not particularly liberal.
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Old 10-02-2009, 09:41 PM   #14
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We clearly lie on different sides of the fence. I do live in California and it is very liberal in my view. Particularly, SF and LA.
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Old 10-03-2009, 08:09 PM   #15
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I'll second that. I live in California *because* it's overwhelmingly liberal, at least in the SF Bay Area.

I like that I can work for an international corporation, and not only do I not get pestered about wearing makeup or hose, nobody even notices I don't wear them. And I like that having green hair gets complimented by clients, rather than making me ineligible to meet them.

And if people don't think those fall under "liberal," I like that people who think same-sex couples shouldn't be able to get married, are ashamed to say so aloud in public. I like that bigotry is despised here.

(I grant that it gets a little weird around the edges, and that's not to everyone's taste.)
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