Government and education are focusing on innovation and change. One such innovation is the open textbook movement. Recently, California’s governor began an intitative to put an open textbook in the hands of every student in California. Even the major curricular associations are getting into the act.
Through wikis and blogs we can build open repositories of information that could be used as online textbooks. Online textbooks would allow for more up to date resources than the typical five year cycle of textbook review.
Also, open textbooks could fully engage a more diverse group of authors. Often textbooks aren’t the domain of our best and brightest scholars. Also, the rising class of public intellectuals could participate. Finally, textbooks authors can be from more diverse backgrounds and have more encompassing world views.
What are the barriers?
Economic - textbook publishing is a multi-million dollar industry and we are in a recession. Moving completely away from closed source textbooks may not be prudent.
Political - There are many political agendas that factor into textbooks. People fight over themes, over the pictures that are included, and literally over every word.
Educational -The people involved in the open textbook movement are well meaning but their comfort level with open source tools and technology is in direct contrast to the vast majority of educators who literally worry over the whether to block wikipedia (let alone allow it as a resource). Education is an organizational enterprise and wikis are a disruptive force to organizational enterprises.
Solution - Get away from the idea of one textbook for every state or for the nation. Allow the cornicopia of conflicting forces to converge in the marketplace and let students and teachers benefit from best of breed online textbooks that allow for a degree of openness. Leverage new technologies such a wiki’s and content management systems to make textbooks dynamic rather than static sources. Finally, we need to consider investing in resources to physically leverage electronic textbooks by implementing one-to-one laptop programs. Often access to technology is the greatest barrier to its implementation and physical access is certainly a barrier to electronic textbooks.