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Evaluating Calif.'s Open-Source Textbook Plan

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About a month ago, we mentioned a new initiative that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger set forth to explore free, open-source digital textbooks. This AP article gives a few more details about why the state is pursuing the plan and how it's being received.

Using open-source textbooks statewide is an extremely ambitious plan, say most educators, and has never been attempted in this country at such a large scale. But with the state facing a $24 billion deficit, it seems that Gov. Schwarzenegger is hoping to pinch pennies in whatever ways he can.

This is a clear example of the way that this recession and the budget cuts that have resulted from it are forcing leaders to look at new and innovative ways of delivering education. But even supporters of open-source textbooks have their doubts about whether this is a viable plan. From the article:

The online material would supplement textbooks that teachers already use, meaning California will continue buying traditional books.
Also, California's K-12 standards for core subjects are among the most rigorous and complex in the nation, meaning that much of the material online may not measure up.

In addition, the ratio of students to computers in California is about 4 to 1, which is obviously not ideal for this initiative. Both critics and supporters of this plan say that the state will need to invest more money in technology infrastructure and professional development if it is going to work.

And so, as it seems to be with most endeavors in education, saving money really shouldn't be the primary motivation for pursuing the use of digital, open-source textbooks, experts say. Supporters of open-source textbooks are commending Gov. Schwarzenegger for exploring and evaluating these resources, but I do hope that the students in California aren't short-changed in the adoption of an ambitious open-source textbook initiative simply because of financial desperation. Ultimately, educators' first duty is to educate students, and it's essential that those students are provided with the resources they need to succeed academically.

3 Comments

Use the "books" as supplements to current books until the old books wear out -- all savings.

The content is out there. See hippocampus.org or SASCurriculumPathways.com.

The trick is assessment. This will take a little work. Many, many questions need to be available to use texts - this is a far bigger problem when all of the answers will also be online!

If a standard front end is sought, then the program will become a problem itself. Probably, the demand that every standard be covered in a certain way will slow everything down.

Many teachers are doing this now. The best place to start would be with products like New Zealand's BioZone which has a system that is updated in hard cover and software.

This week's Friday Chat from TeachPaperless.com : On the Future of Textbooks

Given recent developments in California and Virgina, we'll be discussing the pros and cons related to the digital text debate.

Go to:
http://www.todaysmeet.com/teachpaperless

...to take part in the conversation.

1PM EST, Friday June 12, 2009.

I think Schwarzenegger should uphold the rule of law and govern by the rules set forth by the United States Constitution as he swore he would with his oath of office.

Back in the sixties the government came into the schools and brainwashed us with the idea we needed to control the population because it was rising so fast. They said the roads would become crowded and we would run out of things like water.

They unleashed abortions, birth control pills, and other forms of Family Planning.

To allow the country to be over run with the criminals in businesses illegal labor while the criminals in the government aid and abet the invasion is a travesty against mankind.

They have seen to it our children were killed to control the population at the same time allowing the world to export their population problems here.

What about our sacrifices, many made against our will?????

P.S. We still haven't recovered from the last time the criminals in business were allowed to bring in their slaves.

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