As I prepared for another school year, one of my friends made the joking comment ‘why don’t you just write your own textbook?’ They saw me creating and pulling stories and practice exercises that I had created and never once saw me reference the actual textbook.
My 6th graders commented that we had only used the textbooks twice all year when they turned them in at the end of the year. Once was for the maps and the other was a cultural challenge. So I think this proves that I have created my own ‘book’ to match the Spanish curriculum and the learning needs of the middle school students.
There has been interest in creating digital textbooks recently, especially in cash strapped locations like California. There are also companies trying to develop open source textbooks for the college level. One of these companies is Flat World Knowledge. The challenge will be getting college professors to choose an open source textbook over the traditional paper textbook, especially since many professors have written the traditional paper textbook and make a profit when students are forced to buy it. Why would they be willing to give up the monopoly on students books? It would be nice to think that they would think of the greater good at an institution of higher learning. But I am a pessimist. I still cringe when I have to pay for textbooks for graduate classes. They are so expensive and often painful to read. Another pet peeve is expecting students to buy the newest addition for minuscule changes that make the book almost triple in price. If universities utilized open source textbook, the information could be updated as it was attained. A new accepted theory would not have to wait until the next printing to be introduced to the world.
Another potential challenge with creating a true wikibook is the fact that anyone can write or edit the book. While there will be value in having students contribute to their own textbook and allowing them to contribute towards future classes learning … I really do not want random people adding sections. I trust my students when I have them in the classroom. However, if I was developing something to use year after year, I would be worried about previous students, who knew about the wikibook, making changes. For them, there would be no fear of consequences.