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Open-Source Early Literacy Materials Gaining Some Attention

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the not-often-you-can-say-children-and-free-in-the-same-sentence dept.

The Internet 73

phooky writes "Although open teaching materials have been available at the university level for a while now, there have been very few materials for younger learners. That's beginning to change now with the advent of Free-Reading, a free, wiki-based resource for early literacy instruction. The availability of free materials could free up millions of dollars from school budgets for more teachers and training. From the USA Today article: 'Last fall, 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. Florida is one of the top five textbook markets in the USA, so its move could lead to the development of other free materials that might someday challenge the dominance of a handful of big educational publishers.'"

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My Highschool did something similar (4, Informative)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21302611)

They compiled a book completely from literature that was out of copyright from the Internet and then took that book and sent it off to be printed and bound for the whole class. This was back in 1998 and the school was Arcadia High School in California.

No Child's Behind Left (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21302889)

We'll soon have a law preventing free learning materials.

McGraw-Hill well be sure of that.

Re:No Child's Behind Left (0, Offtopic)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21302975)

Oh boy. Another AC troll.

Re:No Child's Behind Left (2, Insightful)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21304061)

We'll soon have a law preventing free learning materials.
I initially misinterpreted your comment by jumping to an idea - what if learning materials were not just free as in beer but free as in speech? If it meant that nobody needs a publisher to produce learning materials, then people with expertise everywhere would be able to publish their works with target audiences being children and teenagers, particularly in the field of history I could well see that being made illegal. No government wants its taxpayers to think any more than absolutely necessary.

Re:No Child's Behind Left (1)

charlieman (972526) | more than 6 years ago | (#21304493)

Then History would be rewritten in the country's interest. Then it's 1984!

Re:No Child's Behind Left (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 6 years ago | (#21304793)

If it meant that nobody needs a publisher to produce learning materials, then people with expertise everywhere would be able to publish their works with target audiences being children and teenagers, particularly in the field of history I could well see that being made illegal. No government wants its taxpayers to think any more than absolutely necessary.
You think most taxpayers don't have access to learning materials already? Most taxpayers don't want to think more than absolutely necessary, that's why we have the media to tell us what to think, or at least keep us distracted so we don't care.

Re:No Child's Behind Left (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305271)

This is true. By some estimates, perhaps almost as much as around 50% of the population is below average intelligence. Imagine that!

Re:No Child's Behind Left (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 6 years ago | (#21334449)

I initially misinterpreted your comment by jumping to an idea - what if learning materials were not just free as in beer but free as in speech? If it meant that nobody needs a publisher to produce learning materials, then people with expertise everywhere would be able to publish their works with target audiences being children and teenagers, particularly in the field of history I could well see that being made illegal. No government wants its taxpayers to think any more than absolutely necessary.
What utter nonsense. Do you really think that "the government" is stopping you from publishing history/whatever you want? And how does "the government" stop any taxpayer thinking as much as they want?

Take off your tinfoil hat and enjoy the freedom you have.

It's different if you live in China or Burma, of course, but if you were I don't think you'd be talking about governments and taxpayers.

Re:No Child's Behind Left (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21361597)

Who decides what books are read in your school, what history texts are approved for use in classrooms and so forth? It's usually all regulated by the Education Board or equivalent, for the state or country, with their panel of experts and so forth. Call me a tinfoil all you like, but it is evident in English speaking countries that education standards have fallen by various measures (eg: literacy rates) over years, partly, no doubt, due to poor remuneration of teachers. I argue that the drop in standards has also been due to various ideologically driven changes in education (such as reducing the numerical and conceptual load in physics and mathematics to improve female participation, elimination of tiered schooling systems). In areas of literature and history there has always been a strong influence by education boards on appropriateness of content, usually leaning towards liberal/leftist ideologies and sensitivities to powerful minorities. Education Boards have the problem of being hijacked by interest groups and tending to cow-tow to the political party of the day.

Just consider this for a moment. What if texts were not prescribed as such, but the work left for the schools and teahers themselves to find the appropriate sources for their classes? This kind of deregulation would, I'm sure, result in a very varied education across the board, but it would emphasise the role of a teacher to educate. I reckon it would result in more motivated teachers and more educated students.

Re:No Child's Behind Left (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 6 years ago | (#21308507)

absolutely.

After all, the publishers make boat-loads of money getting schools to buy "new" math and reading every few years when elementary education hasn't changed much in a hundred years for those subjects. It also provides a way to put the correct "philosophy" in to the book as it becomes politically appropriate... believe me, the deciding factor for most book purchases is the politics a book with ideas to "radical" or not "politically correct" will get axed no matter how good it's educational value.

Book Companies will fight tooth-and-nail and politics will be the tool. The best english literature is now on many schools banned lists because it discusses slavery or race or extreme poverty. Most of it happens to be out of copyright and free... good luck getting your local school to teach what books they forced us to read even 20 years ago.

Why do editors keep saying MIT has it online? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21306723)

Why do Slashdot article submitters keep repeating MIT's claim that they have teaching materials online? Has anyone actually gone and looked? All it is, is a reading list for some classes. No lectures or class notes.

This is not the way to get an MIT degree. It is not "teaching materials". It is a reading list.

Re:My Highschool did something similar (1)

kc2keo (694222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307101)

I see this as something positive. Should this eventually be successful in schools all over schools will be able to spend their money on other things like repairing and maintaining the school buildings. The school I went to was in dire need of repairs and very old. The schools had trouble paying for new school book materials. Took forever to get newer computers. Anyway I think the bottom line is that free online school materials are a plus not a minus.

Right now I attend a community college taking 2 classes as a part time student. The books for the classes are very expensive. I paid close to $300 for them. If you get them at the college bookstore they take advantage of you and price them higher than they are really worth. Good thing I use amazon.com and other online sources for getting my text books. Getting a bit offtopic here... I believe those books should be much cheaper or just have the students not purchase the books and use some online resource for learning...

on that subject (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21324019)

I think that textbooks should be online and allow you to subscribe to them while taking the class. Of course they would still sell the hard copy but since 90% of the people taking the class will never look at the book again and most likely sell it back and with books becoming out of date within 6 months then this model makes a lot of sense.

Re:on that subject (1)

kc2keo (694222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21325211)

I agree. Except that if you do buy a hardcopy don't buy it from the schools store because from experience I see that they rip you off on prices...

Wow! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21302615)

A story posted to /. gains attention. Whodathunkit? ;-)

Start a wiki! (1, Redundant)

narcc (412956) | more than 6 years ago | (#21302639)

An excellent start! Someone with time should start some kind of wiki for projects like this...

Re:Start a wiki! (2, Funny)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21302657)

They already have one. In fact it is linked [free-reading.net] in the main article summary.

Re:Start a wiki! (3, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21302671)

An excellent start! Someone with time should start some kind of wiki for projects like this...
Indeed [wikibooks.org] .

The downloadable flash-cards (3, Funny)

aegl (1041528) | more than 6 years ago | (#21302645)

are in ".doc" format files generated with Microsoft Wrod. Not so open source.

Convert Them and Repost (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21302771)

What's nice is that they can be converted to ODF, etc. The problem with MP3 is that its lossy so you really can't liberate it by converting it to Ogg Vorbis without losing some quality, you'd need to convert it from the original wav etc.

If you share anything do it in ODF, it will help it spread.

Re:The downloadable flash-cards (2, Informative)

weighn (578357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21303047)

are in ".doc" format files generated with Microsoft Wrod. Not so open source.
not sure where you're looking, but these letter-cards [free-reading.net] are in PDF.
If there is stuff in Word format there, I guess someone is welcome to contribute by converting them to PDF.

Re:The downloadable flash-cards (2, Interesting)

MrCopilot (871878) | more than 6 years ago | (#21303065)

Hmm tried to fix it for you.

Upload warning

".odt" is not a recommended image file format. Bummer.

Re:The downloadable flash-cards (1)

MrCopilot (871878) | more than 6 years ago | (#21303099)

Oddly enough pdf is OK. Anti ODT?

Re:The downloadable flash-cards (-1, Troll)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 6 years ago | (#21303309)

There are free tools to view and print.

Would linux no longer be open source if you found out linus was using Word to edit his code?

It's free. Quit your fucking whining, you ungrateful little bitch.

Re:The downloadable flash-cards (1)

spedrosa (44674) | more than 6 years ago | (#21304263)

There are free tools to view and print.

Would linux no longer be open source if you found out linus was using Word to edit his code?

It's free. Quit your fucking whining, you ungrateful little bitch.
Idiotic comparison. If you needed Word just to compose the document, then it would be valid. As it is, you need Word to compose and view said document. A better one: suppose Linus used Microsoft's Visual Studio to compile, and required the VS runtimes to run. Would it still be free?

And no, the "free" tools don't cut it. As far as I know, the official viewers are for one platform only, and that's Windows.

Re:The downloadable flash-cards (1)

Gloy (1151691) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306715)

And no, the "free" tools don't cut it. As far as I know, the official viewers are for one platform only, and that's Windows.
Word for the Mac doesn't count, then?

Starfall (4, Interesting)

Alaren (682568) | more than 6 years ago | (#21302647)

This looks like some pretty interesting "teacher material" stuff. I applaud their efforts.

However, the internet has blessed us with more than just free wikis for teachers. I heartily recommend the free learn to read program at StarFall [starfall.com] for children as young as 2, maybe younger.

My son is just over 2 1/2 and the other day he surprised us by reading from his sister's flashcards--sounding out words he didn't know, thus demonstrating more than mere memorization. My 4-year-old reads Dr. Seuss books smoothly and adeptly. I can only take minimal credit for encouraging their efforts and donating some genes. They don't play concertos or paint masterpieces, but my children are definitely ahead of most of their peers, and I thank StarFall for helping give them a leg up on the competition.

Re:Starfall (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21302703)

Mah son washes me with a rag on ah stick.

Re:Starfall (3, Funny)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 6 years ago | (#21303119)

My son loves starfall. However, at the end of the stories - he continually rates them "not so good." He seems to like how they respond.

Funny - I don't remember being able to use a touchpad when I was five.

Wait - they didn't have touchpads on PC's when I was five.

Wait - they didn't have PC's when I was five...

Re:Starfall (2, Insightful)

mh1997 (1065630) | more than 6 years ago | (#21303143)

Good for you! I seriously applaud anyone that takes the time to teach their children. Although not open source, we had a similar situation with our then 3 year old with hooked on phonics. It worked for her. She is in the first grade and reading at a 4th grade level.

Parental involvement is the key and I hope that you continue with your efforts.

Re:Starfall (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21303475)

My 19 month old is in the habit of using a stick to transcribe slabs of Homer's Iliad onto the surface of his sandpit. I'm a bit worried about his development though as he keeps on getting the 'a' backwards in Iliad.

Seriously though my 19 month old just enjoys being outside and experiencing the world. My task is to not inhibit his sense of discovery by trying to shoehorn him into my completely corrupted view of what constitutes success and education in this world. The priority isn't to teach him to read but to teach him to love books along with the rest of life. There's plenty of time for formal education in his future. Once he goes to school he can learn his ABCs but not how fantastic it feels to roll in the mud.

Good Points, But You Missed Mine (1)

Alaren (682568) | more than 6 years ago | (#21304929)

You know, this really is worth responding to--you should register a nick (if you haven't) and post so those who ignore anonymous cowards can see what you have to say. It's important that people not confuse encouraging their children to learn with demanding that their children "learn."

One of the reasons I love StarFall so much is that my children do not work at it. For them, it is play. The site is well crafted, so well crafter that it scarcely resembles formal education, they do it at their own pace. There is no shoehorning or measuring their success; indeed, their "sense of discovery" is the only thing that drives them. When they want to go outside, they do. When they want to play StarFall or NickJr.com or Smash Brothers or tag, they do.

We have structured bedtime and mealtimes and things just to keep a minimal sense of order in life, but if you read my original post carefully, you will note that I mentioned my surprise that my 2 1/2 year old can read simple (3-5 letter) words. This is not something we pushed on him; rather, we made a wide variety of play activities available and his mind and his agency did the rest, in fact much faster than we ever imagined possible. It turns out that children learn fast, and what's more, they love it. Experiencing the world, believe it or not, means a good deal more than just playing in the mud.

So your point is well taken--and I would disapprove of any parent whose involvement with their children's education was coercive or took place at the expense of the child's choice (to the extent that children are able to choose). But if you are not providing your child with the opportunity to choose reading over mud-pies, then it is you doing the shoehorning. I just make sure that my children have the chance to engage their minds and their imaginations in as many ways as possible. They naturally gravitate to that which interests them most. Sometimes it's mudpies. But often its the excitement of math, reading, and science.

Re:Starfall (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21303869)

Your four-year-old has competition? Really? How sad.

Re:Starfall (0, Redundant)

Instine (963303) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305265)

Thankyou very much for pointing this resource out to me :)

I'll be fixing my daughter's PC this morning, just to crank this site up. It seems to be excellent!

Re:Starfall (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 6 years ago | (#21322379)

Thanks for the link. It was entirely unexpected, and my daughter (just turned 4) really likes it. It really helps her want to learn as well (not just the starfall website, but also other homework).

it's about time (3, Insightful)

Bota (968795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21302675)

Kudos. this is great. I went to a small rural school where a lot of the teachers used a somewhat open sourced tact when creating yearly curriculums. that way all the differing classes could have some sort of continuity. and by using/re-using each other's work they took quite a load off of an overburdened group of people. now with this taking over perhaps the wiki style implementation will allow for a larger group of educators to have something of a similar system. the time and monetary savings could be put to some great projects that there was never time or finances for.

Yay (2, Interesting)

RNelson (567188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21302711)

Florida is one of the top five textbook markets in the USA, so its move could lead to the development of other free materials that might someday challenge the dominance of a handful of big educational publishers.

While I'm not in Florida, I am both a college student and a fan of free learning materials. Having to pay for text books every semester (even if I buy the international editions) hurts. I agree with #21302639 [slashdot.org] ; there should be a place somewhere (dmoz, "List of..." article on Wikipedia, a completely separate wiki) to list, maybe even host, all of these resources. Everything from learning to read through higher level, just an all-encompassing (as near as can be attained, of course) collection of these materials.

Re:Yay (2, Interesting)

servognome (738846) | more than 6 years ago | (#21304817)

Having to pay for text books every semester (even if I buy the international editions) hurts.
In college free learning materials won't change anything. I had Mat. Sci. classes that used photocopied course notes for $15, and a kinetics class that had a useless textbook which cost $2/page (100page book for $200).
Ultimately it's up to your professor who often wrote the book, collaborated with the author, or gets a kickback from the publisher.

Re:Yay (1)

Grimbleton (1034446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305097)

In my microeconomics class this semester, we were required to buy the textbook, at roughly $70 (I can't remember, it was back in August, and I try to forget..) and when we got to class... we were informed that we also had to register at MyEconLab.com for the coursework. Another $50 or so. I guess that was our first lesson in economics... My university uses WebCT. Which has the same functionality as CourseCompass (who run MyEconLab, MyMathLab, etc.) and is PAID FOR BY EVERY STUDENT, EVERY SEMESTER, about $100 per semester. Yet nobody utilizes it because they "don't like it" But we get no option to not pay for it.

Literacy Council (4, Interesting)

Ambiguous Coward (205751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21302713)

While we're on the topic, I MUST supply the obligatory plug:

Please, please, PLEASE consider volunteering with the Literacy Council. You have enjoyed being able to read for (likely) some time now, and many people lack this ability. LC is a wonderful group. They will pair you with a student that meets your specifications. Young, old, male, female, disability, ESL, you name it. You can truly help people here, and it's such an easy thing to do.

My wife volunteers and is currently assisting an ESL mother-of-two learn to read english. I am in the process of learning to teach younger children. You do not need any prior experience, and LC will provide you with help and instruction to get you and your student started. Location is not an issue. Whether your in downtown San Francisco, or Fairbanks, Alaska, you can help.

Again, PLEASE consider volunteering. You could literally change someone's life.

Literacy Council
http://www.literacycouncil.org/ [literacycouncil.org]

Disclaimer: I am not a Literacy Council representative in any way, I just think you should offer your time and expertise to those who lack the latter.

-G

Re:Literacy Council (1)

Ambiguous Coward (205751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21302735)

P.S. Yeah, off-topic, but relevant and IMPORTANT. :)

-G

ok further offtopic (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307171)

The grammar nazi's will love this one

http://www.freerice.com/ [freerice.com]

Anyone can increase their vocabulary here, at the same time helping to feed some of the worlds poorest people.
so far it's snowballing quite nicely

makes a change from freecell.

it's about time. (2, Interesting)

themusicteacher (1132675) | more than 6 years ago | (#21302845)

I would love more free/open source teaching materials. I have never met a music textbook I like; they are so often ridiculous, bloated pieces of garbage and it's ridiculous the amount of money that the states spend on them when they aren't even any good.

Next thing they can get rid of (or at least cut back on) is the hideously expensive standardized testing program.

I work for a large textbook company & its a sc (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21302905)

I've worked for one of the leading textbook publishers for four years and I know firsthand just what a scam it is for our educational system. What sort of value do those $120 books really give to students? Not a hell of a lot. The books are the SAME from edition to edition in most cases.

Most books are on two or three year revision cycles - THIS IS GUARANTEED INCOME. Every three years time to buy another book. Wake up, its a scam to bleed our education system dry. You want to make use of a used book? Fuck you, buddy. You know how we prevent that? We make websites that you HAVE to purchase a code to get into. Professors use the sites to distribute homework and take tests and if you don't subscribe, then you are SOL. The result is everyone needs to buy the damn book every damn semester.

These publishers will do anything and everything to keep the turnover high and used book market dead.

Colleges and university really need to make their intranets more effective and make the textbook publishers work with them. Refuse to pay more than $30 for books and we'll have a much more affordable education system!!

Book 'em Dano! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21303669)

Well the thing that comes to mind every time a post and story appear on this subject is; why did it take so long? The internet is over a decade old and this scam is how old? How about the results? Will it be a hundred Dick and Jane books on how to program climbing a hill? And ten on the sociology of nerds? With a lone book on a subject that needs reading but no one has an itch to write?

"Refuse to pay more than $30 for books and we'll have a much more affordable education system!!"

Except for the fact that books really are a small part of the overall student budget. I paid more in tuition and lab fees than I ever did for books.

Re:I work for a large textbook company & its a (2, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 6 years ago | (#21303725)

The problem is that the educational system is an even bigger scam. Tuition has gone up even faster than textbooks. I worked for two separate college bookstores. At one of them one of the professors wrote a book that he used for his class. The publisher discontinued the publication and gave him the remaining copies. He provided them to the bookstore every year for the price that the publisher had. He then checked that each student had a copy of the book, if you didn't have a copy of the book, you didn't pass. Oh yeah, the bookstore wasn't allowed to sell used copies. I have two or three other similar stories.
Open Source teaching materials is a great thing, but colleges and universities will try and find a way to get money out of it.

Re:I work for a large textbook company & its a (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21304423)

Oh, the scam gets better, in my state they got a law passed that only the approved textbooks can be used. Okay, fine, quality control right? Except that the only people that can approve the books is the state legislature. Who is in session a whopping 1 month out of the year, and way way out of the ability of most teachers to contact.

Re:I work for a large textbook company & its a (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21305999)

One and all, you really need to check out world leaders, such as MIT :-)

Over 1,700 university levels courses in many fields, free of charge! :-)
OpenCourseWare:

http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index.htm [mit.edu]

Re:I work for a large textbook company & its a (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307417)

Professors use the sites to distribute homework and take tests and if you don't subscribe, then you are SOL. The result is everyone needs to buy the damn book every damn semester.

You didn't say, but I'm assuming you're talking about the college level (TFA was about elementary school), and when you refer to the online homework thing, I assume you're referring to math and science courses. There are tons of free online homework systems out there. I wrote this one [lightandmatter.com] , which is open-source, and free for students to use. The web page for my system has links to a bunch of other open-source ones, and also to a free-as-in-beer one at UT that appears to be extremely popular. Of course professors, like everyone else in the world, are lazy. If the only homework checker they ever hear about is something proprietary like WebAssign, and if the content is all set up for them in WebAssign, then they'll probably go the path of least resistance. And once the prof has his workflow all set up with WebAssign, he's going to be reluctant to switch to something free like the UT system.

any copyleft teaching aid books in PDF? (2, Interesting)

weighn (578357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21302999)

so I go to free-reading.net, click on a book and it offers me the choices:
  • AddALL
  • PriceSCAN
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Amazon.com
did I miss seeing the PDF link?

minus 3, TRoll) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21303055)

Is thE worst Off [goat.cx]

MOTHA FUCKAA!!!!!!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21303131)

i am a troll hahaha!!!!!!

FUCKERS!!!!!

Re:MOTHA FUCKAA!!!!!!!! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21305149)

was that really necessary?

Open-Source Textbooks (4, Insightful)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 6 years ago | (#21303187)

I've wondered about the potential for something like this- could you make "open source" textbooks?

The project linked seems to go a different way. My vision was such:

You would have a central company, not a charity, but not for-profit. It would do the things that textbook companies regularly do (or I hope they do), hire experts to write the text books, editors to check everything, a small publishing house, etc.

The difference is that it's all put online. It can be peer-reviewed by thousands, if not millions, and used by anyone. In order to make the company non-reliant on donations, it would be released under a custom license, one that allows reproduction of x pages at a time and unlimited but unedited online disbursal, while the company still sells the textbooks at cost.

The idea is that you would get a textbook that can be referenced by anyone, checked by anyone, and teachers can download updates and corrections without having to buy a whole new damn book. I don't know how well it would work in the long run, but I'd say it's a sight better than the current set up for text books in school.

Re:Open-Source Textbooks (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 6 years ago | (#21304863)

The idea is that you would get a textbook that can be referenced by anyone, checked by anyone, and teachers can download updates and corrections without having to buy a whole new damn book. I don't know how well it would work in the long run, but I'd say it's a sight better than the current set up for text books in school..
This could actually be detrimental, the potential signal-to-noise could result in a large amount of resources to try and maintain the textbook. Somebody submits a correction, it would require an internal peer review to deterimine if that correction is correct, not to mention resources getting trapped on contentious points in an area of study.

Personally, I would leverage universities to create textbooks for public schools. Have people give back to the education system - Require PhD candidates to contribute to an open textbook to graduate, and a professor to serve as editor to gain tenure.

Re:Open-Source Textbooks (1)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306885)

What if the submitted corrections were done in a Digg kind of style? They're there and can be voted up/down; the obviously bad ones will be taken care of pretty quickly, lowering the noise.

Of course, it introduces a new problem: Education by popularity, which goes back to your point on contentious material.

I can dig your PhD idea.

Re:Open-Source Textbooks (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307451)

I don't think you need to make up a hypothetical, complicated, national system for writing free textbooks. Lots of free textbooks already exist; see my sig for a catalog with hundreds of examples. Here [lightandmatter.com] is a series of articles I've written about free books, with an emphasis on free textbooks.

The issue of peer review and quality control is a paper tiger, at least at the college level. College professors decide what books to adopt for their courses, and they do it by looking at the book and making a judgment about its quality.

Apple (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21303221)

I'd much rather use Apple's Early Literacy Materials. They are better written, and have the right amount of cool stuff compared to the crappy open sores equivalents. Think Different. Think Better. Think Apple.

Holy Shit - I want to be a Superintendent (4, Interesting)

fat_mike (71855) | more than 6 years ago | (#21303333)

No wonder they are looking for "free" alternatives, his starting salary is $197,000 with another $100,000 in benefits and other incentives.

Half the teachers at my high school in Missouri are on food stamps.

Re:Holy Shit - I want to be a Superintendent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21306015)

SKINNER...!

Lies My Teacher Told Me (2, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21303469)

They should do this with history, too. History text books are terrible. Lies My Teacher Told Me [amazon.com] makes a pretty good read.

Re:Lies My Teacher Told Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21305019)

I agree history textbooks are terrible. I haven't read the book but from the editorial synopsis I would disagree with the idea proposed for the ideal text:
In Loewen's ideal text, events and people illuminating the multicultural holy trinity of race, gender, and social class would predominate over the fixation on heroes and acts of government.
In high school rather than just using the US history textbook we also surveyed the published papers of other historians. As such we were exposed to a variety of historical interpretations, for example Charles Beard [wikipedia.org] focused on the social class struggle, which provided a different perspective on the reasons for historical events. There are also interpretations that go beyond the mentioned "holy trinity," such as Turner's thesis on the importance of the western frontier.

Rather than history having one central text, its more important for students to be exposed to a variety of discussions and interpretations, given history is more a complex web rather than a straight forward cause-effect relationship. Just look at a modern example, there can be dozens of reasons why 9-11 occured, a single text book could not capture all the possibile contexts for the event.

RTFM! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21303567)

"'Florida is one of the top five textbook markets in the USA, so its move could lead to the development of other free materials that might someday challenge the dominance of a handful of big educational publishers.'"

The one time a particular open-source response would be appropriate.

Free == Open Source (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21303611)

Is it just a quirk of Slashdot that TFA spoke of "Free" educational material, but by the time the story made it here it was "Open Source?" Does it really matter if it is open source or built with 19 kinds of proprietary technology, as long as it is free? Free educational software is still "news for nerds, stuff that counts" even without the open source mantra.

Re:Free == Open Source (1)

ArcticFlood (863255) | more than 6 years ago | (#21304123)

Maybe it's because Open Source is mentioned in their FAQ [free-reading.net] (though in a somewhat confusing manner -- are they claiming to be Open Source or not?)

Re:Free == Open Source (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21304447)

I think they're claiming to be inspired by open source, but not actually open source because of the quality control methods they use. (Which implies they really have no idea how open source dev is done). However, the creative commons attribution share alike license is pretty much boilerplate open source for non software copyrights.

Homeschoolers need this (2, Interesting)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 6 years ago | (#21304119)

My three kids (9, 7 and 7) are being home-schooled by my wife, a former teacher. Our biggest problem is finding decent textbooks, especially science. Apparently, most home schoolers believe in intelligent design, and the science books reflect this. So we gather stuff from Wikipedia and other sources and she writes here own tests. I've been thinking about releasing everything under a Creative Commons license, but they could use some cleaning up so I've also thought about putting them on Sourceforge or something. Does anyone know of anything similar? Anyone have any ideas or suggestions? Thanks.

Re:Homeschoolers need this (1)

matthewboh (927604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306641)

Just a quick google didn't find anything. My company is willing to host a wiki for educational materials - just let me know. Visit http://www.imparisystems.com/ [imparisystems.com] and click on the contact tab and send a note or I'll watch this posting. Thanks.

Re:Homeschoolers need this (1)

matthewboh (927604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306757)

Nevermind - found the post about http://www.wikibooks..org/ [wikibooks..org]

Re:Homeschoolers need this (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307275)

I don't know if they have hit critical mass(i.e., the books are useful), but Wikibooks seems pretty close to what you are looking for:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page [wikibooks.org]

Homeschoolers need this=fragmentation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21307999)

"Our biggest problem is finding decent textbooks, especially science. Apparently, most home schoolers believe in intelligent design, and the science books reflect this."

I find this comment ironic and humorous* in light of the fact that most homeschooling started with failures in the school system, especially the bias towards evolution and hostility towards religion. Maybe there will be as much fragmentation in the homeschooling market as there is one-sidedness in the schools. Where everyone's "One True Way" is pushed and defensiveness abounds if their position isn't supported by others.

*The reaction noted resembles nothing so much as the reaction of women who wanted in into all-male clubs that were originally created to get away from them in the first place.

The need for Open Source in Education (1)

pluke (801200) | more than 6 years ago | (#21308305)

For me I really don't get the dominance of propriety commercial software/solutions in education. You have a hundred odd countries all with government controlled education systems paying the same companies again and again for tired old ideas. Why can't they come together and create joint resources? There are a few areas working on this, i.e. wikibooks and the openeducationdisc. Maybe the OLPC will help to bring resources together?
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