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Education

Submission + - Brown Signs California Bill for Free Textbooks (latimes.com)

bcrowell writes: California Governor Jerry Brown has signed SB 1052 and 1053, authored by state senator Darrell Steinberg, to create free textbooks for 50 core lower-division college courses.

SB 1052 creates a California Open Education Resources Council, made up of faculty from the UC, Cal State, and community college systems. The council is supposed to pick 50 core courses. They are then to establish a "competitive request-for-proposal process in which faculty members, publishers, and other interested parties would apply for funds to produce, in 2013, 50 high-quality, affordable, digital open source textbooks and related materials, meeting specified requirements." The bill doesn't become operative unless the legislature funds it — a questionable process in California's current political situation. The books could be either newly produced (which seems unlikely, given the 1-year time frame stated) or existing ones that the state would buy or have free access to. Unlike former Gov. Schwarzenegger's failed K-12 free textbook program, this one specifically defines what it means by "open source," rather than using the term as a feel-good phrase; books have to be under a CC-BY (or CC-BY-SA?) license, in XML format. They're supposed to be modularized and conform to state and W3C accessibility guidelines. Faculty would not be required to use the free books.

Education

Submission + - California State Senator Proposes Open-Source Text (ca.gov)

bcrowell writes: Although former Governor Schwarzenegger's free digital textbook initiative for K-12 education was a failure, state senator Darrell Steinberg has a new idea for the state-subsidized publication of college textbooks (details in the PDF links at the bottom). Newspaper editorials seem positive.[1], [2].

It will be interesting to see if this works any better at the college level than it did for K-12, where textbook selection has traditionally been very bureaucratic. This is also different from Schwarzenegger's FDTI because Steinberg proposes spending state money to help create the books. The K-12 version suffered from legal uncertainty about the Williams case, which requires equal access to books for all students — many of whom might not have computers at home. At the symposium where the results of the FDTI's first round were announced, it became apparent that the only businesses interested in participating actively were not the publishers but computer manufacturers like Dell and Apple, who wanted to sell lots of hardware to schools.

Submission + - Preventing networked gizmos in exams? 2

bcrowell writes: I'm a college physics professor. My students all want to use calculators during exams, and some of them whose native language isn't English also want to use electronic dictionaries. I had a Korean student who was upset and dropped the course when I told her she couldn't use her iPod during an exam — she said she used it as a dictionary. It gets tough for me to distinguish networked devices (iPhone? iTouch?) from non-networked ones (calculator? electronic dictionary? iPod?). I give open-notes exams, so it's not memory that's an issue, it's networking. Currently our classrooms have poor wireless receptivity (no wifi, possible cell, depending on your carrier), but as of spring 2011 we will have wifi everywhere. What's the best way to handle this? I'd prefer not to make them all buy the same overpriced graphing calculator. I'm thinking of buying 30 el-cheapo four-function calculators out of my pocket, but I'm afraid that less adaptable students will be unable to handle the switch from the calculator they know to an unfamiliar (but simpler) one.

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