Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 19th Jan 2012 17:41 UTC
Apple Apple's education event just ended, and just as Ars Technica said, Apple announced better support for textbooks, as well as a textbook authoring tool. The textbook authoring tool is heavily inspired by Keynote and Pages, and hence, I already know it's going to be top-notch and very pleasant to use. In addition, the company also repositioned iTunes U as a Blackboard competitor. As great as all these new tools are, several large red flags went up in my mind: I remember what it was like being the only student who didn't use Windows. Update: "Any e-textbook author that wants access to the iPad-toting masses must make his or her work an exclusive to iBooks 2."
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Textbooks should be totally free
by kragil on Thu 19th Jan 2012 18:27 UTC
kragil
Member since:
2006-01-04

The textbook industry is really really obsolete. We should let teachers write wikibooks about the subjects they teach and they should be able to share and improve those. Maybe the government should buy the rights to some textbooks as a starting point, but I think for basic education there are decent ones on the net already.(like this http://oerconsortium.org/discipline-specific/)
Education should be as free as possible and all this expensive/closed textbook nonsense needs to be a thing of the past PERIOD. We really can do better than that.

Reply Score: 3

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

Most education content is provided to teachers. They educate based on pre-packaged programs and documents. It's really only later in education where one starts to hit professors who've written the content that the course is based on and even then it's not every teacher producing for the class.

Worse still is the number of educators who are not teaching in there field of study. Highschool was a huge pile of French Language educated staff teaching music and Music educated staff teaching multi-media and computers. Again, this is a lower level situation where grade/high-school staff are considered generic educators except in the very few topics where specialized knowledge is needed; it's more rare to find a kinistetics grad teaching science instead of gym.

I think it's a noble goal to strive for teachers educated enough in there topic, given time to developer there own course content and paid enough to make teaching a competitive decision when faced with the alternative of a corporate salary. I'd love to see Bob the Chem PHD hired to teach chemistry with adequate resources and a salary comparable to what he'd make in a pharmaceutical lab. Education really should get the kind of resources and importance that seems to be reserved for corporate drones and entertainers. I'm just not sure how one gets to this place from where the state of education is now.

Reply Parent Score: 6

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

My high school was like that. Every teacher had a university degree, several Ph. d.'s too, all in the subjects they taught.

Then again, my high school was kimda posh :/.

Reply Parent Score: 1

kragil Member since:
2006-01-04

In Germany you need a university degree to become a teacher and I am not suggesting that every teacher writes his own books. All math teacher would write on 1,2 or maybe 3 books and most probably wouldn't contribute much, but that is just a numbers game like you don't need everybody to write Wikipedia to for Wikipedia to be useful to everybody.

Reply Parent Score: 4

SeanParsons Member since:
2011-01-11

As an instructor, I completely agree with you about many of the challenges. Because education in my country, the US, is never going to compete financially with industry you are left with either under-educated instructors or occasionally you find someone very altruistic and loves the opportunity to share their knowledge.

I teach at a rather unique post-secondary technical school that doesn't charge tuition regardless of household income. I took a significant pay cut moving from working in pharmacy to teaching pharmacy technicians, but I am fortunate enough to have a spouse that understood my desire to do something different (she also works in pharmacy).

I was somewhat disappointed to find that the school where I teach was a Windows only shop and was very much into using overpriced poorly written textbooks (this describes most textbooks used in technical schools) and this was doubly surprising as we even bought the textbooks for our students.

Fast forward six years: I've written an open source pharmacy mathbook with all the ODT files posted on the web, I maintain a wiki for teaching a lot of items including pharmacy law and regulation, I have limited space in my lab for a plethora of computers but the three workstations in the back I placed an SSD in each that I loaded Debian on and simply use rdesktop for the students to log into their Windows accounts (if IT ever felt the need to do anything with the workstations I would just unplug the SSDs and boot them into Windows), because I wanted more access to the web in my lab I got a grant to buy a few cheap Android tablets, and because I wanted a course management system I installed Moodle on my own server and the entire medical department uses it now.

I still have a long list of things I want to change at my school, but I've made a lot of progress thus far.

Part of the challenge is to get instructors motivated enough to keep chipping away at these problems. Instructors need to be the first line of defense to stay away from vendor lock-in and if vendor lock-in is already present then it is up to us to get rid of it. Students do not have a loud enough voice to make these changes themselves.

By the way, even though it is not directly related to school policy, I even worked with the library to start an open source software library with burned discs and short write-ups explaining each piece of software.

Reply Parent Score: 3

lucas_maximus Member since:
2009-08-18

The textbook industry is really really obsolete. We should let teachers write wikibooks about the subjects they teach and they should be able to share and improve those. Maybe the government should buy the rights to some textbooks as a starting point, but I think for basic education there are decent ones on the net already.(like this http://oerconsortium.org/discipline-specific/)
Education should be as free as possible and all this expensive/closed textbook nonsense needs to be a thing of the past PERIOD. We really can do better than that.


Yeah because governments can be trusted making the correct decisions.

If you have obtained a high level of knowledge on a subject, if you write about it you should be paid. It is no mean feat writing a book, and a good one ..

Why do you hate people getting paid for hard work?

Edited 2012-01-20 20:41 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Oh come on, large part of the textbook business is a farce; knowledge, info, tutoring materials in many fields don't change that much (few physics textbooks I consider as "the greatest" are mostly half a century old or so), revisions (of, too often, quite poor books anyway but still pushed on students) are superficial.

My high school nicely freed itself from the artificial publishing cycles - all books owned by the school, distributed in the first week of the year, to be returned at the end; all for what amounted to 10 GBP yearly, now maybe 20 (but that's fine - great, actually, since it still ends up much cheaper than "individual" approach of the primary schools in the city), for partial replacement of the "stock"; also some materials custom-tailored by the teachers, some of them even conducting lessons according to a individual plan grafted by themselves (and approved by the ministry of education).

I guess you would call it a school which "hates" people who make textbooks...

Edited 2012-01-27 00:18 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2