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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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.

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jabbotts Member since:

Thank you. You sound like one of the teachers really involved in educating rather than getting through the work day. I suspect your students recognize the difference and remember as they continue on.

(One of the better teachers I remember had a great policy for us computer nerds; "if you break it, you fix it and if you do manage to break into it, let me know how you did that will you?" (an agreement that worked for everyone considering one of us helped admin the Novell server)

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