Today marks the beginning of the second half of the month, and with it, the Ides of March are safely behind us. What else is behind us: the beta launches of several Flexbooks, aka the CK-12 Foundation‘s version of open source textbooks.
The most notable Flexbook is the one we mentioned last fall—notable because of its integral tie to state standards via a partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia. The textbook now has a title, 21st Century Physics FlexBook: A Compilation of Contemporary and Emerging Technologies. According to Government Computer News, the effort was statewide, “a collaborative effort by the state departments of Technology and Education and volunteer educators, engineers and scientists using Web-based tools to quickly up-date educational resources” to “provide students with timely information about nanoscience, dark matter, quarks and leptons.” This only makes sense as Physics (and science in general) is a rapidly changing field that the traditional textbook review process cannot keep up with. Open textbooks, on the other hand, are instantly editable and constantly changing; you could even say that they are perpetually in beta.
What’s ahead of CK-12: the progression of existing Flexbooks and the partnerships they have with other states, where some are working on companion teacher editions.
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We’ve all heard of the textbook. Some of us have read one or two in school. Others of us have stared blankly at pages filled with outdated information. Still, others of us are more resourceful and have used the bulky things to prop up rickety ends of tables. But all of us have had to carry one around at some point, which may or may not be the reason why our shoulders are slightly lower on the right. Well, according to the CK-12 foundation,
“It is that time of year where our nations school children are preparing their back packs ready to head back to start their new academic year. The contents of these bags has definitely evolved over years, considering now the average student’s back pack will contain more tech
nology than NASA had to take Apollo to the moon.
But one thing that has stayed constant is the good old fashioned text book. While it requires no batteries or boot up time, it still is the heaviest and most inflexible item in there.
Take for example, the current academic debate going on in the astromony world regarding the number of planets our solar system has. Is it 9, or is it 8?
“People in the know” decided that we actually have only 8 planets, based on the assumption that Pluto is too small to be a planet. Oh dear. Now we have all these text books that has the wrong information, and to make matters worse, depending on the State, it could take anywhere from 1 year to 6 to get it corrected. So not only are our children carry
ing around these heavy tombs, it turns out, the information inside of them is out of date!
The problem doesn’t end there, the same “people in the know” are being challenged by other “people in the know” and the Pluto debate is far from over.
But thats life. We live in an ever evolving world, where new discoveries are being made, old thinking rechallenged, as we increase our awareness and knowledge of the world and universe we inhabit. How is the humble back pack meant to cope?
The problem with our textbooks is that their granularity is simply too large. It only takes one paragraph to be wrong, for the whole book to have to be reprinted. So imagine when a whole discipline changes, in our Pluto example. They simply can’t take this level of change.
But here we are, asking our new students to carry around these tombs of outdated information in and out of school every day.
There has to be a better way no?”
It turns out there is a better way! The
The CK-12 Foundation‘s solution to the age-old problem of uneven shoulders. The Flexbook is a free and open source textbook platform where one can build and edit collaborative textbooks. This is the textbook of the next generation: “CK-12 allows one to customize and produce content by re-purposing to suit what needs to be taught, using different modules that may suit a learner’s learning style, region, language, or level of skill, while adhering to the local education standards. Flexibility + Textbook = Flexbook.”
All CK-12 content will be licensed CC BY-SA. We have been working with the CK-12 foundation for a while now and look forward to continuing collaboration. In related news, the Commonwealth of Virginia have also announced their partnership with the foundation to build an open physics flexbook for all of Virginia. Here is an excerpt from their press release:
“The Virginia Physics “Flexbook” project is a collaborative effort of the Secretaries of Education and Technology and the Department of Education that seeks to elevate the quality of physics instruction across the Commonwealth. Participating educators will create and compile supplemental materials relating to 21st century physics in an open–source format that can be used to strengthen existing physics content. The Commonwealth is partnering with CK–12 (www.ck12.org) on this initiative as they will provide the free, open–source technology platform to facilitate the publication of the newly developed content as a “Flexbook” — defined simply as an adaptive, web–based set of instructional materials.”
The resulting Virginia Physics Flexbook will also be available under CC BY-SA.
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