Online textbook project is an educational experience

Virginia’s physics Flexbook project is a cooperative effort among the non-profit CK-12 Foundation and Virginia’s secretaries of technology and education and Education Department, with the actual writing being done by a volunteer team of educators. Project lead and retired NASA engineer Jim Batterson has outlined a number of goals for the pilot:

  • Produce additional, up-to-date content for the state’s physics curriculum.
  • Make that content easily available at no cost to all of the state’s physics teachers.
  • Provide feedback to CK-12 on its open-source Flexbook platform.
  • Provide concrete examples of needed improvements to the 2010 panel reviewing Virginia’s physics Standards of Learning.
  • Get an idea of the possible value of the e-book format in replacing traditional printed science textbooks.
  • Decide whether to continue the physics project with further releases and versions of the online Flexbook.
  • Decide whether to expand the project to other subjects.

As the writing portion of the project neared completion, there already had been some lessons learned, Batterson said.

“One of the issues we ran into was intellectual property,” he said. Most of the material that teachers develop for their own use in their classrooms falls under the fair use exception of copyright laws. “Teachers have never really worried about copyright too much.”

But in preparing a textbook that will be published online, copyright becomes a concern. The authors have to either use material that is in the public domain or has been published under the Creative Commons license, or obtain permission from the copyright holder before using it in the new Flexbook.

“That’s taking a bit of time,” and could slow down the completion of some of the chapters, he said. The CK-12 Foundation is helping to secure needed copyright permissions.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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