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Books Education The Almighty Buck

University of Minnesota Launches Review Project For Open Textbooks 133

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the textbook-lobby-looking-nervous dept.
New submitter Durinia writes "Minnesota Public Radio is running a story about the University of Minnesota's Open Textbooks project. The goal of the project is to solicit reviews of college-level open source textbooks and collect those that pass muster onto their website. The project will focus first on high-volume introductory classes such as those for Math and Biology, because as David Ernst, director of the project, states in the interview: 'You know the world doesn't need another $150 Algebra One book. Algebra One hasn't changed for centuries, probably.'" Requirements for inclusion include: Open licensing (Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike), complete content (no glorified collections of lecture notes), applicability outside of the author's institution, and print availability.
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University of Minnesota Launches Review Project For Open Textbooks

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  • Well, good. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @05:10AM (#39780049) Homepage Journal

    I was talking with a history professor (rljensen) the other day, and he said that free textbook ebooks would never catch on because, quote, "They're all terrible. And if they weren't terrible, they'd be selling them."

    Hopefully sites like this will not only prove him wrong, but bring education, world-wide, to the next level.

  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @05:24AM (#39780095) Homepage Journal
    It's an absolutely silly statement. Teaching methodology has changed enormously just in the last fifty years. I've had the luxury of comparing 19th century textbooks to present ones—it's not something you'd want to be stuck with; they're more like reference texts with a few questions (or even a separate question book) if you're lucky. The didactic power has, quite simply, vastly improved.
  • by bfandreas (603438) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @06:08AM (#39780169)
    Even more interestingly the Greek were comparatively lousy at math. Good at geometry, tho. The Romans had a similar problem. Their number system did stink.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @06:42AM (#39780235)

    Calculus Made Easy by Silvanus Phillips Thompson was probably the best of my early calculus books, it is off copyright due to its age, and is on amazon for less than $10 and can be found for free online. $150 a quarter just was not a reasonable expense for the other books.

  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @07:07AM (#39780303) Homepage Journal
    Classics and Math. I've also looked at 60s-70s Biochemistry and compared it with current stuff, and while the content is different, the difference is also huge in teaching style.
  • by arth1 (260657) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @07:23AM (#39780339) Homepage Journal

    It's an absolutely silly statement. Teaching methodology has changed enormously just in the last fifty years. I've had the luxury of comparing 19th century textbooks to present onesâ"it's not something you'd want to be stuck with; they're more like reference texts with a few questions (or even a separate question book) if you're lucky. The didactic power has, quite simply, vastly improved.

    That is indeed the kind of book I'd like to be stuck with. The signal to noise ratio is way higher, and it's the job of the teacher to teach. Today's teachers are much like typical mid-level management armed with Powerpoint in that they read a pre-digested presentation for a captive audience, without doing much teaching.

    If "didactic power [...] has vastly improved", you'd think that kids today would know maths "vastly" better than old people. Really, now.
    That's not what I see - I see tests that have been dumbed down to fit a smaller curriculum, and kids have been dumbed down with them.

    It's time for the pendulum to swing back; that we start to demand something from our teachers and children. Like being able to absorb book knowledge even when not presented according to the latest pedagogic fad or directly targeting upcoming tests. Enabling the kids to do so is the teachers' job.

  • Re:Well, good. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hadlock (143607) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @09:22AM (#39780985) Homepage Journal

    There's historical works, and then there are works meant to be studied and absorbed by students of this century. Yes, you and I would have no trouble at all with an Algebra book written in 1975, laugh at some of the rather dated soviet russia cartoons explaining parabolic arcs, and probably pass the state standardized test as a result, but how well can you comprehend the Harvard 1899 Entrance Exam [nytimes.com] at a glance?
     
    It takes considerable skill and effort to write a text for the appropriate age group, make it engaging, easy to read, yet cover all the material required without losing the 50th percentile students who are struggling to pass so they can stay on the football team (or insert stereotype here).
     
    Tools that modern students can relate to aren't simply slapped together in an afternoon, and require a serious editorial staff.

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