Aug 30 2010

Quick Review: Three Open-Source Textbooks

In an attempt to journal my findings and research that I perform for my MS degree, I thought I’d supplement “required” writings with just a few thoughts about some of the resources that I come across over time. Thus is born the first of my “Quick Reviews.” My reviews will literally be quick–just a couple sentences that will help remind me what my initial thoughts on the site/technology were. I don’t intend to do a full review of any of them (unless it’s assigned!). So with that introduction made, on to my first Quick Review!

Today, we’re looking at three sites that provide what are being called “Open Source Curriculum.” David Warlick, in his book Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008), suggested two of these sites (p. 11), and the third was one that I have used for many years.

  1. – This site currently has lots of different curricula, in the forms of lesson plans, activities, “books,” full courses, etc. It is possible to search and filter, but it is very slow and the site is rather difficult to navigate. It allows members to review the curriculum, adding in somewhat of a social networking angle.  Final Thoughts: Overall hard to use, but probably because I wasn’t looking for anything specific. Lots of regular folk contributing material.
  2. – Ingenious idea for a business. This lets authors create and upload textbooks that teachers can then edit, manipulate/reorganize, and distribute. It provides media options such as downloadable (view on your computer), audio podcast files, or even a standard print version (likely print-on-demand). I’m not quite sure how any author gets paid for his work if it gets re-edited by others, but since the site charges for the books to download, I’m sure they see some kind of royalties. The site is very visually appealing and it is relatively easy to find books, though the selection right now is rather limited due to the site being somewhat new.
  3. – WikiBooks is an off-shoot of its better-known sibling, Wikipedia. Instead of individual articles, like its megalithic counterpart, WikiBooks features hyperlink “textbooks” complete with chapters, exercises, etc. It is editable by registered users, and therefore is subject to the same validity concerns as Wikipedia. However, due to the fact that it is not as well-known, it’s possible that WikiBooks will avoid some of the more insidious Internet trolls who only exist to create havoc.

Summary: is for practicing elementary & middle school teachers; is for authors and teachers who want more control over the exact material that gets pushed to the students; is more for self-learning and perhaps even homeschooling situations.

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