Sunday, August 08, 2010

Loftis, J. Robert: "Breaking the Back of Perverse Incentives: Ending High Textbook Prices for Good with Free Online Textbooks"

I gave a talk at the AAPT arguing three connected theses:
  1. Textbook prices are an injustice
  2. Philosophy teachers have a professional duty to create and use free online textbooks
  3. This duty is best fulfilled using what I call the Open Office model
. The Open Office model simply means that you try to replicate functionality of the existing closed access product without innovating a lot. This contrasts with the Linux model, which tries to displace an expensive product by creating something that works better, but is unfamiliar and difficult for most users. Most existing free textbooks, I think, are written on the Linux model.

At the conference, a lot of people were talking up concept mapping software, xmind in particular. So the night before the talk I decided to give xmind a whirl by making a concept map for my talk. this is what I came up with. I think I made the whole thing too big. It is hard to figure out what the print area of these diagrams are.

This is the handout, which lists free textbooks and course materials databases along with little descriptions and recommendations.


Emily said...

What a coincidence. I'm teaching a 270-student intro course this fall without requiring a textbook. Instead there is a recommended textbook and they will have lecture notes and outlines from me. Required reading is free or low cost (2 trade paperbacks). I have no idea if it will work or not. I've had one mid-career professor tell me he's done the same... and one nearly retired professor tell me she thinks it's a horrible idea bound to fail.
I never hewed very close to the textbook anyway and based exams on lecture notes, so I thought this alternate format was worth trying.
The concept also reminds me of the calculus and lab "manuals" we had at SJC.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

I think the free textbook has to be more than bound lecture notes. The textbooks I am working with are genuine textbooks, with exercises and chapter reviews and sidebars and all the stuff that helps ease novice students into the material.

Of course it I am just teaching philosophy at the intro level. Things might be different in history and certainly are different in higher level courses.