Thursday, January 24, 2008

Open Source Textbooks

I was reading through some of my listserv messages today and I came across this post commenting on the "Open Textbook" movement.

"Imagine textbooks adapted to many learning styles and translated into myriad languages. (Today, language barriers prevent many immigrant parents from helping their children with their homework because the texts are only in English.) Imagine textbooks that are continually updated and corrected by a legion of contributors. (Today, Pluto remains in the list of planets in the nation's science textbooks, and who knows how long it will take for it to be removed.)" (
Bringing open resources to textbooks and teaching.)

This made me think about the changing nature of "print" media in today's world. I was just reading an article by Illich (The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind.) for one of my classes. One of his points is that the permanent nature of print "fixes" ideas, songs, thinking in such a way as to freeze them in a moment in time. Some classical philosophers objected to writing because they saw it as a curse not a blessing. (This is ironic of course because it is thanks to writing that any of their ideas survive to the present day...but I digress.) What is interesting about the Open Textbook model is that "print" is no longer print in the same way. A published work can be adapted, modified, edited, clarified ad infinitum. Pluto is no longer a planet? Make the edit, and move on.