The Textbook Wars, Begun They Have

In the NYT Sam Freedman looks at one tech battle, but it’s USAT’s Greg Toppo who has the goods on what people have been murmuring about:

….a Florida textbook adoption committee approved Free-Reading, a remediation program for primary-school children that’s believed to be the first free, open-source reading program for K-12 public schools. It’s awaiting approval by Eric Smith, the state’s incoming education commissioner, who could approve it by mid-December.

A lot of money at stake here. Wireless Generation has its nose under the tent…but expect the empire to strike back.

8 Replies to “The Textbook Wars, Begun They Have”

  1. It should be:

    “Begun the Textbook Wars Have”

    (That would parallel Yoda’s actual quotation:

    “The shroud of the Dark Side has fallen. Begun the Clone Wars have.”)

  2. In my opinion, there are better ways to improve students’ education. Technology appears to be more enticing because it is more exciting than just a plain textbook. I mean, technology offers sound, colorful images, videos and many interactive websites which students are able to navigate without any major difficulties. Textbooks…let’s see… you have to sit down and stare at words that many times, are meaningless. Students easily become distracted and don’t become motivated due to the fact that textbooks are not as “friendly” as it should be. But of course, you have to consider the budget in order for a class to be filled with computers and all the high tech gadgets. Well, why not treat the computer as a common tool, like textbooks? Like that, students can learn on textbooks and make more applications on the computer?

  3. From my own child’s experience the on-line textbook was a problem, from the ability to log on to the actual finding of the pages to read…her school choose to go back to the textbook the next year.

  4. Beyond the struggle for control between textbook publishers and open-source proponents is the need to provide tools that speak to the particular learning needs of kids, especially those with special needs. The advent of NIMAS, a technical standard for producing books in any format — from text, to voice, to video and beyond – offers enticing new ways to use the same educational content to address a multitude of needs. The National Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI), funded by the US Department of Education, is holding conference next week in DC to look at how researchers, entrepreneurs and policy-makers can create opportunities to use emerging innovations to develop targeted and relevant learning opportunities for students — especially those with special needs.

  5. is not that sort of online textbook. It is a customizable textbook that teachers can download, print out, contribute to online, but the lessons are all to be taught in a classroom, not delivered by a computer.

  6. is not that sort of online textbook. It is a customizable textbook that teachers can download, print out, contribute to online, but the lessons are all to be taught in a classroom, not delivered by a computer.

  7. It’s great to see the beginnings of Open Content and similar approaches start to be noticed in the K-12 world. Like the USA Today article says, nearly all of the Open Courseware, Open Content, and free textbook projects have been for university level instruction.

    The potential for user-contributed curriculum content is huge, and to be honest, the textbook markets rely on a false premise of the “scarcity of knowledge” as their justification.

    There is no reason that most intellectually engaged, professionally current teachers couldn’t build collaboratively better sets of currilulum resources than the mainstream vendors.

    Using tools that are now available, like the Open Source MediaWiki software that uses…as well as Wikipedia uses, the Bering Strait School District in Alaska has created 7,800 pages of K-12, standards based curriculum. The site is growing rapidly, and includes text content, images, and video. All of it is Creative Commons Licensed (free to use for all non-commercial purposes).

    However, the Wikibooks project, and others have quietly been growing behnd the scenes. Wikibooks has over 27,800 “modules” in various states of completeness.

    The only criticism I have of the approach is that the materials are not really “Open” in the capital sense, even though they use wiki software that is Open Source.

    Yes, the textbook vendors are going to fight this trend. They have much to lose, and little to offer in a Open Content climate.


    BSSD OpenContent Curriculum

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