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Open Textbooks Win Over Publishers In CA

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the now-put-them-in-a-wiki dept.

Education 216

Unequivocal writes "Recently California's Governor announced a free digital textbook competition. The results of that competition were announced today. Many traditional publishers submitted textbooks in this digital textbook competition in CA as well as open publishers. An upstart nonprofit organization named CK-12 contributed a number of textbooks (all free and open source material). 'Of the 16 free digital textbooks for high school math and science reviewed, ten meet at least 90 percent of California's standards. Four meet 100 percent of standards.' Three of those recognized as 100% aligned to California standards were from CK-12 and one from H. Jerome Keisler. None of the publisher's submissions were so recognized. CK-12 has a very small staff, so this is a great proof of the power of open textbooks and open educational resources."

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Common Sense (5, Insightful)

dintech (998802) | more than 5 years ago | (#29053729)

Thankfully common sense has prevailed. This is one monopoly that the world should be glad to see the back of.

Re:Common Sense (3, Insightful)

TaggartAleslayer (840739) | more than 5 years ago | (#29053787)

No kidding. What's the difference between the 10th edition you could use last year and the 11th edition you have to use this year? About $100 and a few rearranged chapters.

Re:Common Sense (4, Funny)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 5 years ago | (#29053873)

No way, there are so many changes to Roman History all the time it definitely takes a full time publishing staff to keep up.

Re:Common Sense (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29054107)

Don't you see how un-American this is? Your socialist "open" information is destroying yet another wholesome American industry. I bet we can blame Obama.

Re:Common Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29054345)

Except capitalists can recognize the difference between a product worth selling and profiteering.

The only reason this continued this long is that it works for everyone in the system exception the one's paying for the books. In college, that's the students. Before college, it's the government, and I think it's pretty fair to say it's not exactly an example of efficiency or fiscal responsibility.

Re:Common Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29055495)

With a book titled "People's Physics Book" this is downright Communist!

Re:Common Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29054461)

No way, there are so many changes to Roman History all the time it definitely takes a full time publishing staff to keep up.

If you noticed, it said "math and science textbooks".

Re:Common Sense (4, Funny)

Abreu (173023) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054775)

If you noticed, it said "math and science textbooks"

"No way, there are so many changes to Basic Algebra all the time it definitely takes a full time publishing staff to keep up!"

Better now?

Re:Common Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29054837)

Yes, because elementary calculus, geometry and algebra have changed so much over the last 150 years.

Re:Common Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29054517)

Let me tell you how you sound saying that:

"No way, there are so many changes to the laws of physics all the time it definitely takes a full time publishing staff to keep up."

What actually happened in ancient Rome may not change, but our knowledge and understanding of what happened DOES change - all the time.

Re:Common Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29054773)

let me rephrase it again as

No way, there are so many changes to the laws of physics teached at high school all the time it definitely takes a full time publishing staff to keep up.

I think that newtonian phisics are pretty much the same from the 1700, and even maxwell equations are getting old by now

Re:Common Sense (4, Funny)

sacdelta (135513) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054839)

No way, there are so many changes to the laws of physics teached at high school all the time it definitely takes a full time publishing staff to keep up.

Teached?

You must have used the free English textbook.

Re:Common Sense (5, Interesting)

Mithrandir86 (884190) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054727)

Actually, the understanding of historical concepts and trends evolves quite a bit. That is why open textbooks could be such a boon - it will allow teachers to exploit new research, rather than parroting an antediluvian consensus that have been since been altered considerably.

No one, for example, takes Gibbon's argument on the Fall of the Roman Empire seriously anymore; similarly, no one takes the argument that Islamic cultures economically failed (in comparison with Europe) because of anti-capitalist religious precepts seriously either. Yet both were a part of serious teaching a few decades ago (the age of some textbooks).

I remember one textbook I had as a child argued that the reason that Lowland Scots prospered in comparison with Highland Scots was due the Protestant work ethic bestowed upon them through Prebyterianism - in comparison, the Highlanders succumbed to their lethargic Catholic proclivities. Hilarious in hindsight, but slightly disturbing as real teaching.

Re:Common Sense (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29054211)

Occasionally there are legitimate updates to a book. My teacher friend and his co-workers turned down a textbook that had the wrong city labelled as our state capital. Not sure if they ever fixed it, but it's something that peer review could help.

Re:Common Sense (4, Interesting)

VoyagerRadio (669156) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054277)

I usually buy my textbooks used through Amazon or Half.com or eBay but recently moved out of state and found the textbooks listed on my distance education course confusing -- it appeared to be some kind of bundle of books but didn't list the individual editions. So I opted to order the bundle directly through my college's textbook store and have them mail it out to me. First, they sent me a noticed stating that because they were out of used copies of one of the textbooks in the bundle, they would have to send me a "new" copy and charge the additional cost for it. This bundle of books came out to nearly $150 -- and it turned out the "new" textbook was the 2007 edition of a book that already had a 2010 edition available. I really felt burned -- not only had they shipped me a 2007 version of a book that had had 2008, 2009, and 2010 edition available, but they charged me full price for the book -- and I've discovered that the book is often available (used) on Amazon for less than ONE DOLLAR (plus shipping; search for "Discovering Computers", the Shelly Cashman series). The textbook industry and their relationships with colleges are due to die a slow (well, okay, make it quick) painful death. I'm all for making open and/or digital textbooks acceptable for the classroom.

Re:Common Sense (1)

jtdennis (77869) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054597)

They probably define "new" as never been sold and bought back, not as fresh off the presses.

Re:Common Sense (1)

cawpin (875453) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055061)

Well, yes, that's usually what new means.

Re:Common Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29055761)

While that is the "new" which is the opposite of "used", I think we can all agree that giving someone a 4-year old edition of a book and calling it "new" is dishonest and unscrupulous.

Re:Common Sense (5, Insightful)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054475)

You say that now, but wait for the Open Intelligent Design course materials come out.

Re:Common Sense (-1, Troll)

PRMan (959735) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055177)

Yes, instead we should censor repeatable experiments done with the scientific method that poke holes in the theories of Evolution and the Big Bang. Because that's Scienceâ.

Re:Common Sense (2, Insightful)

Atzanteol (99067) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055351)

Individual experiments pointing to issues with well-supported theories are *not* theories in and of themselves nor are they support for any other theory.

Intelligent Design has *zero* positive evidence.

Re:Common Sense (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055523)

How can you censor something that doesn't even exist? Wouldn't you need to have "repeatable experiments done with the scientific method" before you can suppress them?

=Smidge=

Re:Common Sense (5, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055329)

You say that now, but wait for the Open Intelligent Design course materials come out.

It's actually kind of funny, but my experience as the author of some free physics textbooks as been almost exactly the opposite of the situation you have in mind. My books are written for use at the college level, but I have quite a few high school users as well, and the vast majority of these high schools are religious high schools, mostly Catholic schools. The reason is simply that state education bureaucracies make it impossible in most cases for public schools to adopt open-source books, so the ones who can adopt them are mostly private schools, and a lot of private schools are religious. I have one book that's written for the type of course that biology majors usually take, and I've taken tons of opportunities to work in mentions of evolution, e.g., in the chapter that discusses refraction I start off with the evolution of the eye. Doesn't seem to have bothered thes folks a bit. Of course the Catholic Church doesn't have any issues with evolution anyway.

There have been plenty of fairly successful attempts, on the other hand, to get ID into schools through the traditional setup of public school bureaucracies, state legislatures, and textbook publishers. A lot of publishers water down the discussion of evolution in their K-12 texts in an effort to make them more salable in places like Texas.

Re:Common Sense (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055785)

Wouldn't Intelligent Design course materials have to existed from the beginning of the Earth and not have changed over the six thousand years of its existence (with any previous editions that are found being obvious fakes placed by Satan to confuse and deceive)?

WooHoo my first first (-1, Troll)

JoJo's883 (642422) | more than 5 years ago | (#29053737)

Makes my day complete

Re:WooHoo my first first (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29053793)

Makes my day complete

your first fail.

Re:WooHoo my first first (0, Offtopic)

JoJo's883 (642422) | more than 5 years ago | (#29053865)

Rats..foiled again by clicking too slow

Re:WooHoo my first first (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29054311)

Makes my day complete

your first fail.

Not necessarily. Said it was their first post and their day was complete. Didn't say anything about it being the first post of the thread.

Assumption Fail.

Re:WooHoo my first first (0, Troll)

JoJo's883 (642422) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054011)

Ok I'll bite..Since when does a random first post blurb become a Troll mod?

Re:WooHoo my first first (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29054273)

a) First posts have been modded down for as long as I can remember, and I started reading in 1998. I personally prefer the "redundant" mod for the irony. But "troll" hurts the karma.

b) You didn't get a first post, you got (at best) second post, so quit your fucking whining.

Re:WooHoo my first first (4, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054121)

I actually posted before you from my kindle, but amazon deleted it.

Re:WooHoo my first first (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29054903)

"WooHoo"? Watch your language! We Sims fans know what that word means.

Let's hope this goes well... (3, Insightful)

TaggartAleslayer (840739) | more than 5 years ago | (#29053745)

After having just spent a little over $600 on text books, I am quite interested to see how this plays out.

Re:Let's hope this goes well... (2, Insightful)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 5 years ago | (#29053973)

According to TFA this study was done for high school textbooks only, perhaps they will go on to supply books to other grade levels but penetrating the cash cow that is university publishing is no easy task.

Re:Let's hope this goes well... (1)

TaggartAleslayer (840739) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054071)

Yeah, I am just close to the scam that is college textbook assery right now and hoping this idea catches on like wildfire.

Re:Let's hope this goes well... (2, Interesting)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054323)

Isn't that the truth. And the best scam of all is the professor that requires his own book(s) for class, and changes which ones he uses each year so there is no buy-back at the end of the semester. That's right, Miner, I still think you are a prick 40 years on.

Re:Let's hope this goes well... (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054829)

Unless state legislature makes it mandatory that state schools (colleges) use CK12's materials. Which I'm fairly certain they can do since they're the ones who dictate how much cash said colleges get.

Re:Let's hope this goes well... (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055355)

According to TFA this study was done for high school textbooks only, perhaps they will go on to supply books to other grade levels but penetrating the cash cow that is university publishing is no easy task.

It doesn't require government action at the college level, because college instructors make their own textbook decisions. There are already hundreds of high-quality free and open-source college textbooks -- see my sig. The biggest issue is that a lot of instructors just don't know these books exist, because there aren't sales people knocking on the doors of their offices trying to sell them.

Also great proof of the power... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29053751)

...of insolvency.

Makes that free stuff all the better.

To bad it's in California. (-1, Troll)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 5 years ago | (#29053757)

No text book is going to help the students as long as the people teaching there are are giving money to politicians to make sure the state goes down in flames and is sold to Mexico.

Yesssss!!!! (1)

mxh83 (1607017) | more than 5 years ago | (#29053789)

Open source textbooks!!!!!1

Computers to read the textbooks (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29053807)

I assume all the students have computers to read the textbooks? I guess a laptop for each student is cheaper than the cumulative cost of the textbooks depending on how long they keep the same textbook around

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (5, Insightful)

TaggartAleslayer (840739) | more than 5 years ago | (#29053887)

I bought my netbook this year for less than the cost of two textbooks. I would go so far as to say the college book store could still make a decent living by offering rental and sale netbooks pre-loaded with proper course materials for much, much cheaper than what students pay on books right now.

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (1)

RemoWilliams84 (1348761) | more than 5 years ago | (#29053943)

The only problem with this is that you can drop a textbook, pick it up and it is still fine.

Try dropping a netbook on the floor. I'm not sure I would want to be in the rental business.

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (2, Informative)

TaggartAleslayer (840739) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054009)

Easier to wreck a netbook, yes. But, with the cost of books alone for this year, I could buy two per semester and still have change left over.

I got my EEE PC for under $200 and am enrolled full time working toward a BSBA. That's what my observations are based off of, as a reference.

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054973)

I got my EEE PC for under $200 and am enrolled full time working toward a BSBA. That's what my observations are based off of, as a reference.

O_O Which one was that?

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29055341)

if you get it used, the 700 or maybe 900 series if you're lucky

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054623)

Try dropping a netbook on the floor.

The OLPC XO-1, which opened the low-cost segment of the subnotebook market, was designed to be rugged. Why have other computer makers failed at this?

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#29053949)

"Open Source" needn't mean(though it certainly can) "read on a computer". Obviously, digital distribution is convenient because copying is essentially free; but for locations where digital use is inconvenient or impossible, it isn't rocket surgery to send a digital document to the printer's and have copies made.

Since, with an OSS document(or one that you own the rights to) you can have anybody you want print it, you can put out the printing for competitive bid, and should be able to get it done for not too much above cost(and printing is actually pretty cheap, compared to textbook costs).

The issue of open vs. proprietary, for textbooks, is pretty much orthogonal to the issue of digital vs. printed.

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054045)

I think the proper term to use in this case is "Public Domain". Open Source refers specifically to software, and the source code that comprises it. While Public Domain is any Copyrightable work that has been released by the copyright holder to be able to be reproduced by anyone.

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054193)

"Open source" takes on a figurative meaning when it comes to things that aren't software(though given the difference between print-ready formats and the input files that created them a source vs. binary style distinction can be said to exist with texts as well); but it is still a well formed concept in that context.

"Public domain" means not under copyright. "Open source" typically implies "Under copyright; but available subject either to essentially no terms, or subject to the requirement that you extend the rights given to you to any people you give the work to". Those are sometimes equivalent in effect (public domain vs. new BSD doesn't make a big difference in many contexts); but that doesn't make them equivalent in general.

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054553)

So if there are special restrictions, and they want to retain copyright, then give it a Creative Commons [creativecommons.org] license. But definitely don't call it open source. Open source specifically applies to software.

"Open source" means editable and Free (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054679)

So if there are special restrictions, and they want to retain copyright, then give it a Creative Commons [creativecommons.org] license.

Creative Commons BY and BY-SA are not the only licenses for Free textbooks. Nor are they even the only licenses for editable Free textbooks.

But definitely don't call it open source. Open source specifically applies to software.

The GNU General Public License defines "source code" as the form of a work designed for editing. The GNU Free Documentation License defines "transparent" in a similar way. So "open source", said of a work other than a computer program, means that the work is both Free and available in an editable form.

Re. Open Source = software (1)

cheros (223479) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055563)

Isn't knowledge human software?

Sorry to confuse matters :-)

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (5, Informative)

cparker15 (779546) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054431)

The books are not in the public domain--they are available under permissive copyright licenses. For example, CK-12 Calculus [ck12.org] (PDF) is licensed under CC BY-SA (page 2 of the PDF). This is the only book I checked, but I expect most (if not all) are licensed similarly.

If the books were public domain, they could be redistributed as proprietary works under another's name. Instead, these books are essentially GPL'd (again, assuming they're all licensed similarly).

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (1)

Chelloveck (14643) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054693)

If the books were public domain, they could be redistributed as proprietary works under another's name. Instead, these books are essentially GPL'd (again, assuming they're all licensed similarly).

So, I guess that anything created as a result of knowledge gained from these books must also be licensed under the GPL. Brilliant! In another generation everything will be open-source!

(Yes, I know the difference between the GPL and the CC licenses. It's a joke. Lighten up.)

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055731)

"If the books were public domain, they could be redistributed as proprietary works under another's name."

Books are not software. I'm not sure if it's actually illegal or not for you to take, say, Hamlet and distribute it with your name on it, but try it and see what happens.

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (1)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054473)

Open source can have meaning in the matter of textbooks though it's not clear from what I've read so far that actual open source is what they're doing. If you have a chart, for instance, an open source textbook will make available the underlying table of figures used to create that chart. A public domain textbook probably won't. A public domain textbook might be scanned from the original paper or might just be paper but an open source textbook will include the source files needed to build the author intended rendering of the book and will allow for superior use by the disabled for instance. I'm not entirely sure how you'd have an open source printed textbook. It would seem to be somewhat useless.

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29054911)

I assume all the students have computers to read the textbooks?

These are public school students we're talking about. You don't expect them to be able to read the textbooks, do you?

Best. Book. Evar. (4, Interesting)

Sylver Dragon (445237) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055081)

The best "textbook" I ever had in college was in my Multi-variable Calculus class. The instructor had reviewed the available options and came to the conclusion that they were all overpriced junk. So, he (hand) wrote up all of the notes for the semester, with charts, graphs, and everything else. He even had a few sample problems for each lesson. He then bundled the whole thing up and had the bookstore copy it and sell if for $5, basically to cover reproduction costs. The entire thing was loose-leaf paper pre-punched for a standard three ring binder. In the end, that entire book was about $7.

The thing is, without the massive costs which go into textbooks, they can be cheap. And, even better, if my book gets lost, damaged, or stolen who cares? It's five bucks. I also have the option to mark up my book in any way I want, and I am not worried about the resale value at the end of the class (which will be about a tenth of the books original cost to me, unless the school changes editions and the bookstore staff just laughs at me).

For K-12 schools, this will be even better. Instead of handing a kid a $50 book, which he is going to destroy; you give him a $5 reproduction, and require him to put it in his own $2 three ring binder. When he loses it, you just give him another copy. He can even write in the book, and keep it at the end of the year. If your students have computers, you can even go so far as to give them digital copies.

The only thing which needs to be checked is the quality and accuracy of the information. But, the State (at least California) is already doing that. And, like many Open Source projects, you can have the advantage of lots of people looking at it before hand. There just isn't a downside to having Open Source books, unless you are a textbook publisher, in which case they suck. But, as far as I care, they can join the buggy whip manufacturers on the sidelines of history.

Re:Computers to read the textbooks (2, Informative)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055489)

I assume all the students have computers to read the textbooks? I guess a laptop for each student is cheaper than the cumulative cost of the textbooks depending on how long they keep the same textbook around

This was a huge topic of discussion at the symposium where the results were announced. I've blogged about it here [theassayer.org] , but I'll quote the relevant part of what I wrote: "Nobody seemed sure about the implications of the settlement in the Williams case, which requires equal access to books for all students. Will poor students be locked out because they don't have computers? Schwarzenegger's proposed solution is to print out books as needed, but Murugan Pal from CK-12 pointed out that current state law allows a school to use textbook funds to pay $80 for a book from a commercial publisher, but forbids it to pay $10 to print out a copy of a free book at Kinko's."

There was a heavy presence from the computer hardware industry, too. They love the idea of walking into a California public school and selling one netbook per student.

I'm fine with open-source textbooks... (3, Insightful)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 5 years ago | (#29053969)

But I hope we don't resort to wiki textbooks which anyone can edit.

Re:I'm fine with open-source textbooks... (1, Redundant)

phrenq (38736) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054043)

Those are the best kind! (Haven't you ever searched through a stack of used textbooks searching for the one with good notes and highlighting?)

Re:I'm fine with open-source textbooks... (5, Funny)

FictionPimp (712802) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054185)

I always used to go though my textbooks before I turned them in and highlighted useless phrases and wrote totally incorrect notes in them.

But I am an asshole after all.

Re:I'm fine with open-source textbooks... (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054665)

Given most of the notes I've come across, this practice must be pretty common.

Wikibooks (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054713)

But I hope we don't resort to wiki textbooks which anyone can edit.

What do you have against Wikibooks [wikibooks.org] , especially if you use the revision as of a given date that the instructor has approved?

Re:Wikibooks (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055763)

No instructor in his right mind would "approve" a wiki textbook. He'd have to read through the whole thing with a fine toothed comb. That's WHY textbooks come from big companies - because if there's a mistake you can reasonably blame the company. Try explaining that you decided to give your students as an authoritative reference some PDF you found on the Internet allegedly written by a hundred random, anonymous strangers.

Re:I'm fine with open-source textbooks... (1)

TaggartAleslayer (840739) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054717)

PHYSICS 101:
"Goatse Penisburg invented America in 1962 while high on chicken wings." - Thomas Edison 1843

Re:I'm fine with open-source textbooks... (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055407)

But I hope we don't resort to wiki textbooks which anyone can edit.

This was discussed quite a bit at the symposium this week where the results of the California initiative were released. Quite a few of the books come from wikis (e.g., ck-12.org), but none of these wikis allow editing by just anyone who comes along. You have to convince them you're an expert before they'll give you an account.

Richard Feynman on selecting California textbooks (5, Informative)

mounthood (993037) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054017)

Funny story by Richard Feynman about selecting textbooks in California. Makes you hope for the future.

In 1964 the eminent physicist Richard Feynman served on the State of California's Curriculum Commission and saw how the Commission chose math textbooks for use in California's public schools. In his acerbic memoir of that experience, titled "Judging Books by Their Covers," Feynman analyzed the Commission's idiotic method of evaluating books, and he described some of the tactics employed by schoolbook salesmen who wanted the Commission to adopt their shoddy products.

http://www.textbookleague.org/103feyn.htm [textbookleague.org]

Re:Richard Feynman on selecting California textboo (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054157)

That's a great story. Thanks for that.

Re:Richard Feynman on selecting California textboo (5, Informative)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054369)

For those who don't want to read the excerpt, here's the best (and most telling) bit: Of all those on the committee, only Feynman (I believe) actually read any of the books. Two books, followups to another textbook that had been submitted, had not even been finished, yet many of the committee panel gave them some of the highest ratings.

I wish I was as cool as Richard Feynman.

Re:Richard Feynman on selecting California textboo (5, Interesting)

six11 (579) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054397)

I was checking the comments to see if anybody had mentioned that yet, as I was going to say the same thing myself.

I *highly* recommend that link, as well as the book from whence it came, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman. In fact I think that book should be required reading for any self-respecting nerd.

Re:Richard Feynman on selecting California textboo (1)

Richard.Tao (1150683) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054497)


I read that.
Part of the hilarity was one of the highest ranked books by the panel contained only blank pages (the publishers hadn't finished it yet so they just submitted the cover).
Everyone gave it high notes except Feynman --he was the only one who actually read it.

Re:Richard Feynman on selecting California textboo (1)

tabrisnet (722816) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055477)

By any account, no one read it, including Feynman. He couldn't read a book w/ no pages, could he? Or is this a new kind of Chuck Norris joke?

aweome news (3, Interesting)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054243)

The text book industry is such a ridiculous racket it sickens me. Hopefully this becomes a standard thing across the world that colleges eventually adopt. Honestly, the only times I did open a textbook in high school and college was to do the problems out of the book. The Internet resources were more than enough to service my educational needs, in many cases it was actually far better than the crap in the textbooks.

Re:aweome news (3, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054441)

The text book industry is such a ridiculous racket it sickens me. Hopefully this becomes a standard thing across the world that colleges eventually adopt. Honestly, the only times I did open a textbook in high school and college was to do the problems out of the book. The Internet resources were more than enough to service my educational needs, in many cases it was actually far better than the crap in the textbooks.

The problem is that the education industry is a ridiculous racket. The textbook industry is merely a subset of the education industry. One mistake many people make is that since most schools are non-profit and/or government run, they think that they are not driven to make money. I used to work for two separate college bookstore companies (not at the same time). Everybody always thinks that the for profit companies charge more for textbooks than the college run bookstores. That is not true, most college run bookstores charge a higher markup than the contractual markup that the for profit companies have (the for profit companies have a contract with the college or university that--among other things--sets the amount of markup the bookstore charges for textbooks over the publisher's price).

Re:aweome news (2, Funny)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054735)

The problem is that the education industry is a ridiculous racket. The textbook industry is merely a subset of the education industry.

I couldn't agree more

Everybody always thinks that the for profit companies charge more for textbooks than the college run bookstores. That is not true, most college run bookstores charge a higher markup than the contractual markup that the for profit companies have (the for profit companies have a contract with the college or university that--among other things--sets the amount of markup the bookstore charges for textbooks over the publisher's price).

Agreed as well. In fact while I was in school and when I managed to get my parents to buy my textbooks, they wouldn't even bother with the local bookstores (including the university ones). Instead they would scour the Internet for them and usually find them for 1/3 of the price. The downside to this, however, is I'd come in with some pretty janky-ass looking books that weren't even allowed to be sold to people in my region, complete with 'NOT FOR SALE IN NORTH AMERICA' disclaimers printed all over the covers. Boy was that a conversation starter for my fellow classmates.

Instructor Materials and Supplements? (5, Interesting)

moehoward (668736) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054259)

Instructor materials and supplements were not included. So, this is basically a setup/joke.

Traditional textbooks are purchased because of the ancillary material that comes with them. This includes, support, Web sites for both students and instructors, assessment software, assessment preparation material, copious student assignments and solutions, automatic grading software, prepared lecture material, etc.

I have never seen open textbooks work in a subject area that requires frequent updates, such as fundamental computer concepts, or modern application software (office suites...). I do think, however, open can be somewhat successful solid subjects, such as calculus. Note that I bring up these subject area because a LOT of books are sold in these area. But, even in something like a math course, open textbooks run into the "staleness" issue. That is, students do the assignments or tests and then the solutions are passed on to the next year's students. Publishers do quite a bit of work to change problems. Do not underestimate the amount of work and editing/QA involved in such an effort.

If you think students are lazy these days, you should see the instructors. They demand new end-of-chapter problems, new quizzes, new tests. And they want it all automatically graded electronically. This can't be delivered by open textbooks.

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (3, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054487)

Fundamental computer concepts don't change that often. That's why they are fundamental. Search algorithms haven't changed in 30 years. The languages we write them in has, but most of the stuff in computer science could be taught in pseudo-code, and the assignments could be done in any language. I would have preferred buying a bunch of cheaper open source books plus 5 or 6 programming-language-of-the-day books as a opposed to buying 30 books which weren't open source and didn't really cover anything that has changed in the past 10 years.

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (1)

who knows my name (1247824) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054501)

If you think students are lazy these days, you should see the instructors..

Maybe that is the real problem...

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054505)

No, but this can be done by most of the major learning management systems, both proprietary (Angel, Blackboard, etc) and open (Sakai, Moodle).

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (1)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054519)

K-12 education is generally not subject to a lot of updates and thus would be a better field, I think than college texts. But we don't pay for those textbooks directly, the costs are buried in our property tax bill in the US (where 1/3 of the whole bill often goes to primary/secondary education, the largest single chunk). That doesn't mean that we aren't paying, every year, for the textbook mafia's current stranglehold.

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (1)

SirWhoopass (108232) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054523)

Why would "fundamental computer concepts" need to be updated frequently? Is there new and exciting work being done in the field of logical operators and binary arithmetic?

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (5, Insightful)

paulsnx2 (453081) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054563)

"But, even in something like a math course, open textbooks run into the "staleness" issue. That is, students do the assignments or tests and then the solutions are passed on to the next year's students. Publishers do quite a bit of work to change problems. Do not underestimate the amount of work and editing/QA involved in such an effort."

This is now an absurd claim, at this point. WolframAlpha returns you the answer to any problem by just typing it in.

Take for example one I just made up as I was typing this:

Limit as x -> 0 of (sqrt(sin (x-5)) + tan((y- pi/2)^2)) / x(y-2)^2

And bingo, it gives the answer, as well as gives the series expansion:

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=Limit+as+x+-%3E+0+of+(sqrt(sin+(x-5))+%2B+tan((y-+pi%2F2) [wolframalpha.com] ^2))+%2F+x(y-2)^2

Besides, an Open Textbook can be modified, updated, support the development of new resources, homework sets, etc. by the teachers themselves. So they can leverage the MASSIVE amount of prep work they all do anyway. But with a closed book system, these teachers all have to reinvent the wheel for themselves, as they cannot share their efforts based on a copyrighted book.

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (1)

alwaysbored89 (1617663) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054739)

I don't think even half my textbooks come with the software/tests you say they do. I've gotten 3 CDs in my 6 semesters at college and the professors- if not, the department heads- write their own tests. Yes, we get homework problems from the book, but half the problems are odd numbers anyway which gives us the answers. The point of the homework, as many of the professors understand, is so we get the practice and experience doing the problems and not so we can turn in the right answers. If we want to copy off our friend or find the solutions on the internet and not do it ourselves, that's our own fault and will probably hurt us in the end. When I was in highschool, which is what this article was talking about, I never got a CD/software/interactive material with a textbook. Once, we had brand new textbooks that did happen to come with CDs, but we handed the CD back to the teacher the same day we got the textbooks. It was just about having the textbook, not any materials/supplements

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054759)

I think you really hit the nail on the head. The overhead that would be required to keep such a system fresh would be unreasonable in most arenas. K-12 would be an absolute nightmare to train/support; college would be nearly as bad. All things said, I don't see an open-source system getting rid of the same collusion that exists in today's education systems. Same rules at play, merely different delivory methods. And yes, educators are just as lazy as students...especially once some level of job security is present.

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (1)

pmontra (738736) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054767)

Instructor materials and supplements were not included. So, this is basically a setup/joke.
Traditional textbooks are purchased because of the ancillary material that comes with them. This includes, support, Web sites for both students and instructors, assessment software, assessment preparation material, copious student assignments and solutions, automatic grading software, prepared lecture material, etc.

(emphasys is mine)

This is exactly my point. I downloaded CK12's trigonometry book and I've been extremely surprised by the small number of assignments (they call them Review Questions). One can't get good at something by solving so little problems so having a companion problems book should be mandatory. On the other side I don't see why the trigonometry problems I solved 25 years ago at high school should not be ok for today's students. Trigonometry didn't change at all and if one's got the attitude of copying the solutions s/he'll always find somebody to copy from.

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (2, Interesting)

ggurley (958535) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054845)

"I have never seen open textbooks work in a subject area that requires frequent updates, such as fundamental computer concepts, or modern application software (office suites...)."

Hopefully this will change. I've contributed a lot of my learning materials for OpenOffice.org to the Documentation Project [openoffice.org] (documentation.openoffice.org/conceptualguide) under an open license, including an eBook version of my paperback title [amazon.com] (ISBN 978-0-9778991-6-6), Moodle Course Package complete with quizzes, exams, test bank, exercises, etc. and supplementary materials. With the limited financial and human resources I have to work with, I would say that it has been successful in providing schools the materials they need to consider alternative, open source applications for instructional use.

Best regards,

Gabriel Gurley

Contributor, OpenOffice.org Documentation and Education Projects

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (1)

dcollins (135727) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055045)

"But, even in something like a math course, open textbooks run into the "staleness" issue. That is, students do the assignments or tests and then the solutions are passed on to the next year's students. Publishers do quite a bit of work to change problems. Do not underestimate the amount of work and editing/QA involved in such an effort... If you think students are lazy these days, you should see the instructors. They demand new end-of-chapter problems, new quizzes, new tests. And they want it all automatically graded electronically. This can't be delivered by open textbooks."

While the first part of your post has some merit, as a college math instructor, this latter part is a somewhat silly critique. Personally, I use Pearson Education's TestGen application heavily. It has test bank question templates, and with one-click it can randomize all the numbers in a specific question. I do this in general on all the tests/quizzes every semester. There's no reason that an open-source application couldn't do the same for math/science tests. I don't care if the book homework answers are available -- in fact, I require my students to check their work against answers in the back before submission for immediate feedback.

Re: "If you think students are lazy these days, you should see the instructors." A defense: Consider that the trend is to replace tenured faculty with part-time adjunct help at much reduced wages. Prior to my current position, in another state, I was making about $20/hour teaching college (counting just in-class time and a similar amount of prep/grading/paperwork time outside; the first semester I was actually working x5 longer to get up to speed). Any additional time spent only reduces my hourly rate, and there's no guarantee for an adjunct that they'll get re-hired for any work (prep time, lecture notes, lab and assignment design) to be reusable in the future. There's court case precedent that adjuncts have no right to overtime pay.

Granted that, for my fellow adjunct's sake, if they're going to be dropped into new classes on the fly with no overtime and no job security, I certainly encourage as much resource/supplement help as possible so they're not totally being abused by the job. They're not lazy, they're scurrying between multiple schools trying to make enough money to live on, and their time is already completely consumed. But in general I don't see that the books or resources need to be updated as frequently as they are (esp. for math, since you called it out in particular); that part is a publisher's racket.

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (2, Informative)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055153)

Instructor materials and supplements were not included. So, this is basically a setup/joke.

Your statement is literally true, but very misleading. The state didn't ask anyone to submit ancillary materials, so even if the ancillary materials exist, you're not going to see them listed on the clrn.org site. As a specific example, I submitted my physics textbook, and my ancillary materials are available here [lightandmatter.com] . They include a test bank, solutions to homework problems, and an instructor's manual.

This includes, support, Web sites for both students and instructors, assessment software, assessment preparation material, copious student assignments and solutions, automatic grading software, prepared lecture material, etc.

My book includes a web site, assessment software, lots of homework problems and solutions, and automatic grading software.

But, even in something like a math course, open textbooks run into the "staleness" issue. That is, students do the assignments or tests and then the solutions are passed on to the next year's students. Publishers do quite a bit of work to change problems. Do not underestimate the amount of work and editing/QA involved in such an effort.

In my own field, physics, your description is completely inaccurate in critical ways. Big commercial books like Halliday and Resnick come out in new editions every few years. The new editions typically have zero changes to the presentation of the material, and very few new homework problems. What they actually tend to do is renumber the homework problems so that it becomes a huge hassle to use the old edition side by side with the new one. This is simply to kill off the market for used books.

I'd also be interested in seeing your evidence for your statement that 'open textbooks run into the "staleness" issue.' Open textbooks are actually easier to change, because they're typically not produced and distributed via conventional printing. They're either distributed purely via the web or, in some cases, via print on demand services like lulu. In fact, one of the governor's big talking points in favor of free and open-source textbooks has been that they can be updated more rapidly, unlike antiquated [mercurynews.com] paper books from traditional publishers. In fact, one of the issues discussed extensively at the symposium this week was the fear that open-source textbooks would change too quickly. The K-12 bureacracy is heavily oriented toward top-down control over textbook selection, and they actually want to impose a two-year freeze on digital texts once they're approved, so that the books won't change after having been blessed as conforming to state standards.

And they want it all automatically graded electronically. This can't be delivered by open textbooks.

Huh? This "can't" be delivered by open textbooks? This is particularly off base. In fact, automatic electronic grading was pioneered by open-source folks at universities. One of the first systems used for math and physics was LON-CAPA, which is open-source software that was first developed about 20 years ago at MSU, and is still being actively developed and supported. Here [lightandmatter.com] is a list of some open-source software for this type of thing. What's changed within the last few years is that the publishers have started offering these things as services that students have to pay for, and promoting them heavily in publications like The Physics Teacher. So if all you've been exposed to is sales reps' pitches, I can see how you'd be under the impression that it only exists in proprietary form, but that's completely inaccurate.

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (1)

31415926535897 (702314) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055375)

Traditional textbooks are purchased because of the ancillary material that comes with them. This includes, support, Web sites for both students and instructors, assessment software, assessment preparation material, copious student assignments and solutions, automatic grading software, prepared lecture material, etc.

So for what do we pay those people who are supposed to instruct our children? What do you call them again? Oh, that's right, teachers. I thought they were supposed to have some responsibility in the instruction of the students.

If you think students are lazy these days, you should see the instructors. They demand new end-of-chapter problems, new quizzes, new tests. And they want it all automatically graded electronically. This can't be delivered by open textbooks.

Now everything makes sense. I would rather pay $100 for a book and fire the $50,000/year teacher if they're not going to do their job.

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055639)

"But, even in something like a math course, open textbooks run into the "staleness" issue. That is, students do the assignments or tests and then the solutions are passed on to the next year's students."

That's odd, because I remember using high school textbooks that were several years old. It was literally to the point where the teacher would certify the condition of each book using something similar to the check-out card in library books.

Each book was numbered and it was recorded who got what book, and what condition it was in. If you didn't return YOUR book at the end of the year, or it was in noticeably worse condition, you got billed for a new one. (Do I need to mention this was a public school?)

Despite those books being so old, there was never a problem with "handing down" answers to the included problems from one class to the next, mostly because nobody gave a shit about the class coming in behind them.

Though I did run into a few cases where people circled the wrong answers in the books...
=Smidge=

Re:Instructor Materials and Supplements? (1)

Rasta_the_far_Ian (872140) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055715)

If you think students are lazy these days, you should see the instructors. They demand new end-of-chapter problems, new quizzes, new tests. And they want it all automatically graded electronically. This can't be delivered by open textbooks.

This raises an interesting possibility. Why not contract with the book publishers to receive the same materials and then have tutors from India or Russia - each of which have a surplus of highly educated people willing to work for low wages compared to the West - tutor our kids online.


One could even imagine setting up charter schools around this concept. I would expect the kids to end up better educated, since the materials would be the same, but the teachers could be selected from a much bigger, much more qualified applicant pool.

Reference library (4, Interesting)

gninnor (792931) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054507)

I think it would be great that at the time of graduation a person had an entire electronic library of reference material. This could make it possible, if you are in 8th grade and find that you are rusty on some of the information from last year, just run a search.

Re:Reference library (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29054913)

Or you could just refer to your notes taken in classes the previous year...

some notes from an attendee (5, Informative)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054683)

I was at the symposium where the results were announced, and I wrote up some notes about it here [theassayer.org] . It was actually a pretty interesting panel discussion, with open-source types side by side on the platform along with reps from the publishing industry and the computer hardware industry (which is drooling over the opportunity this represents of selling more computers to schools so they can access electronic books).

The slashdot summary is not particularly accurate.

  1. It wasn't a competition. Anyone could submit a book, and it wasn't like one had to lose so another could win. The state simply checked submissions to see whether they covered the topics listed in the standard.
  2. "Many traditional publishers submitted textbooks..." I don't think this is true. I believe that only Pearson submitted anything.

What Pearson submitted was just a consumable biology workbook, so it's not especially surprising that it wasn't judged as developing all the topics on the list.

The story isn't really that the traditional publishers tried and failed, it's that they essentially sat this one out. Pearson did a half-assed token submission, and the other publisher that had a rep at the symposium, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, didn't submit anything at all. They're clearly highly allergic to the "free" part of "Free Digital Textbook Initiative."

Some positive things about open textbooks. (5, Informative)

bezenek (958723) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054729)

(Side note: A quick reminder: These are K-12 textbooks, not college-level texts.)

Here are some positive things to think about, which assumes the books will be available electronically--making them easily printable and available from anywhere. These comments come from someone who grew up in a family of K-12 teachers:

1. Being able to "take a textbook home" without having to carry it will almost certainly lead to more at-home study and better students.

2. People who choose to do home schooling will benefit from this. And, by using the same texts, there is an opportunity for a smooth transition to/from home schooling.

3. Schools with budget problems might see a big win here.

4. The moderate hassle of keeping track of textbooks which are loaned to students each semester/school-year/etc. will be mitigated.

I am sure there are some others.

As for the problem of teaching aids, I believe an on-line repository allowing teachers to contribute aids they have developed for themselves for others to use would quickly fill this void. In my experience, K-12 teachers are almost always willing to contribute their efforts to help fellow teachers.

Todd

'cause math should be low-res pixel graphics... (3, Insightful)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 5 years ago | (#29054873)

and not line up on the baseline --- look at the CK-12 Calculus textbook (http://cafreetextbooks.ck12.org/math/CK12_Calculus.pdf) --- and of course Arial is the perfect choice for running text and it's perfect appropriate to use Computer Modern for equations in text, but Times and Symbol to label graphs....

Would someone please teach these people about typography?

William

Re:'cause math should be low-res pixel graphics... (5, Funny)

Carbaholic (1327737) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055303)

Wow, a person who is truly upset by the typography of a math textbook.

I commend you. You sir, are a nerd's nerd.

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