After attending the Distinguished Teacher Forum in Raleigh, the dismal news that our state's educational budget is some where between a rock and a hard spot, I have tried to spend time thinking about the issue. I have read several articles and talked to our administrators and everyone seems to have thrown up their hands. In a recent discussion with Steve Dembo, I told him about how much I had been using Moodle http://moodle.org , to try to meet the needs of my students. I mentioned that my students were creating a Moodle course glossary of terms we use as a learning tool in their online community. He recommended that I try including podcasts or MP3 files of the definitions for non-readers. I have been trying to get my mind around what strategies, and skills students would have to master before this would work.
Then while reading my Bloglines RSS feeds this morning, I noticed that South Africa has begun a WikiBook The textbooks on this site are all released under an open content license that means that they are free forever. No one can keep you from using these materials, modifying them or distributing them. Also, the license guarantees that any works that are derived from these materials will be similarly free to modify and distribute, forever.
Could this save our state millions of dollars each year-- probably not, but it has tremendous potential. Teachers love this four-letter word: FREE. Four years ago, I began participating a project known as EarthView. Teachers from across North Carolina participated in field trips in the summers to visit and study environmental and geologic issues. The sessions were lead by authorities in those issues. We interviewed Feldspar mine executives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, visited granite mines and lakes and swamps in the Piedmont, and dug sand trenched to study layers of sand on the Outer Banks. Teachers learned about how to create project-based learning activities. This information would have been a great idea for a WikiBook project. The participants could have contributed their activities. New teachers never have enough help meeting the demands of learners.
This needs to be written into a National Science Foundation grant. Hope someone steals this idea. Hum, maybe I need to get of my lazy tail and do it.
If you have ever had to inventory hundreds of mold covered five-year-old textbooks, you will love this new WikiBooks project from South Africa. The time is right. Tight budgets, high stake testing, retaining teachers is critical factor, NCLB requirements for highly qualified teachers in every classroom are looming.
Check this out.