[BLUG] California approves OS textbooks
kgleason at gmail.com
Wed Aug 19 11:36:19 EDT 2009
Steven raises an interesting point here though. Having been a teacher in a junior high for a brief period of time, and having spent the better part of my life in a classroom; I have to acknowledge that keeping the students on task is one of the most difficult part of the average teachers job. Now imagine a classroom where all of the students have netbooks or Kindle-like devices. How is the teacher to know that a particular student is reading the same text as the rest of the class, and not the latest installment of Harry Twilight, or whatever the latest and greatest thing might be.
Don't get me wrong, I think that this is all good stuff, but it does raise particular issues for teachers that are probably not as technologically proficient as their students. One that maybe could be solved via technology as well .... some sort of e-book reader and a proximity system that restricts what can be opened.
I have a son that is already looking to Junior High 2 years from now. I would love to know that he has access to the best possible stuff. I need to read this entire thread again when I am not at work being interrupted by IMs, phone calls, and rap music (ok that is my fault) so that I can figure what I can do as a parent and as a geek to help out ....
From: "Steven Black" <blacks at indiana.edu>
To: "Bloomington LINUX Users Group" <blug at cs.indiana.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 10:09:44 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Re: [BLUG] California approves OS textbooks
On Wed, Aug 19, 2009 at 08:17:39AM -0400, Simón Ruiz wrote:
> One secondary school textbook is rarely cheaper than $100. Now, how
> many do our public schools purchase per kid over their K-12 time?
The article mentioned that.
Thinking about my own experiences, it was really rare that I would come
across a text book more than 5 years old except for a few exceptions.
Most seemed about 3 years or newer, but then I remember a lot of
cases where I was the first user of a book, so that may not have been
realistic. (I frequently was in reasonably affluent suburbs, though,
so that may have been right.)
> If you're like me, though, and prefer reading on an un-backlit
> substrate, eInk e-book readers have come down past the $300 mark for
> something with a screen comparable to the Kindle 2. But while reading
> long-form text out of a netbook might not be fun, how many
> textbook-related assignments involve long enough sustained reading to
> cross that threshold of pain?
I've read full books on computers before. (In particular, I pretty much
read the entire Subversion book online, in addition to the entire GNU
Make info document.) For some people the backlight is less of an issue.
It reminds me of Star Trek, where paper books were all antiques, though
antiques that some people preferred to reading the same material
electronically. Paper books won't disappear, regardless of how small a
population actually favors them.
There's another side of it, too. When eBooks are acceptable for
textbooks, it is easy to leverage the same infrastructure for some of
the literature assignments, too. How many of the great English classics
that are regularly and routinely assigned year after year are actually
available via Project Gutenberg? How many middle school book reports
could be taken care of via a Project Gutenberg book?
Shoot, I only read any Edgar Rice Burrows once I was I was in high school
-- I'd heard about him in Robert A. Heinlein's novel _The Number of
the Beast_. All the Edgar Rice Burrows books are available via Project
Gutenberg. (This, of course, means that I could've been reading these in
class instead of my textbook and folks would have been none the wiser.
As it was folks sometimes noticed was reading a work of fiction.)
> And how heavy is your average secondary student's backpack nowadays?
> Neither a netbook, nor an e-book reader, weigh nearly as much as a
> *single* textbook.
This has regularly been an issue. Back when I was in Jr. Highschool there
was cause of concern as they were worried that the heavy backpacks, when
not worn properly, were contributing to long-term back problems in some
Of course, for taking notes shorthand is still the best. However,
they've not taught it in the classroom in the US since the 1970's when
Gregg Shorthand shot itself in the foot by putting out a revision that
stopped being fast for the sake of being "easier". (And really, 100 WPM
is fast for a typist. Shorthand speeds can reach 200+ WPM.)
> Printing out F/OS textbooks is, to me, one of the least interesting
> possibilities for them.
Printing out *entire* textbooks is totally the least interesting.
Allowing an instructor to take a textbook and split it in to
easy-to-handle packets, however, is something that could well allow
F/OS teaching material to seep in to earlier grades. (And this could be
anything from "my class is really advanced for their grade, we're using
the whole book in easy to swallow packets", to "my class got ahead of
their current book, we're going to use material from this book for the
last month of the school year."
In a semi-related note, the use of electronic distribution also allows
the perversion of science in an easy-to-maintain manner. "We use an
electronic science book. Here's the URL." And, well, *that* science book
is totally missing the chapter on evolution.
> What I think is going to be the exciting thing to watch is the things
> a large, creative teacher population could do with the four freedoms
> applied to the material they're working from and with.
Yeah, it could well be interesting.
I just wish they would cut out most of the standardized testing. It has
a negative impact on the amount that kids learn.
> And how, if we work on it now, maybe by the time we finally make that
> $100 laptop available to every child on the planet we'll have some
> great, comprehensive, time-tested F/OS educational material ready for
I've more immediate concerns. I've a baby, and I want her to have access
to decent cost-effective educational materials regardless of the school
she happens to be in.
Not to mention, if her peers are better educated it will make a better
world for her to live in. Educated fools are no less foolish, and there
will always be some fools. However, better education for all means that
folks at least have a choice in the matter.
Steven Black <blacks at indiana.edu> / KeyID: 8596FA8E
Fingerprint: 108C 089C EFA4 832C BF07 78C2 DE71 5433 8596 FA8E
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