Monday, August 27, 2007

Free textbooks - different philosophies

Josh Gay came to the OLPC office to hang out tonight and we butted heads (in a frustrating but ultimately good way - disagreement makes you think) on what "free textbooks" meant, should be created, or look like. Didn't really realize why until I re-read the development philosophy on his site,

Josh's philosophy

Many of the existing education projects out there are primarily
focused on developing software and standards with the hope that educators and volunteers will propogate their web sites with educational and teaching materials once a framework has been built.

This project takes the philosophy that software and standards should be based upon the data that is collected and the problems you are trying to solve. We place priority in technology projects that make it easy for contributors to contribute and organize the data.

My philosophy

Many of the existing education projects out there are primarily focused on developing content and tools for making content with the hope that educators and volunteers propagate their web site frameworks with educational and teaching materials, other teachers and students will actually use and learn from them.

This project takes the philosophy that the ultimate goal of any education project should be based upon creating a great learning experience at a specific moment for a specific learner or group of learners. Rather than contributing something to a general pool "for the good of humanity" or so it will be useful to some vague hypothetical set of future students, we place priority in creating the resources that an active group of learners needs to get to the next step they want to be at, now.

In a nutshell

Josh and I want to design for different user groups. Josh wants to serve content contributors and creators by giving them a reason to contribute, an easy way to do so, good ways to get started, small task-chunks they can take on if they don't want to sink their life into something - because students can't learn from resources nobody's made. I want to serve students by giving them blue foam interfaces to build their own airplane as they fly it, throwing down guidance and resources one step ahead of them, or by their own direct request - because folks are more motivated to create immediately relevant resources when students are going to be learning from them 5 minutes after they create them.

It's partially a chicken-and-egg problem - but it'll be interesting to see what happens, as I'm sure this topic of conversation will spring up quite often.

Now... where did I put my ECS textbook? I wonder if I can get one or more of the ECS NINJAs this year to test it out as a resource for their class - it'll make me write new chapters to stay ahead of the first-years, since I was only able to really finish one chapter I'm marginally proud of (everything else I'm scrapping). (If you are reading this, plan on being an ECS NINJA, and are interested, give me a ping.)

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1 comment:

nikki said...

If I am at any point hired to be an ECS ninja I would be more than happy to try integrating your book.