Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Textbook writing sprint with K12 teachers in South Africa

Although I have much more to share about this sprint and what we learned, I wanted to let people know about an exciting first outing of OERPUB's textbook editor.

Table of contents, and book section from the sprint
Screenshot of the editor (books stored in github)
In August, Siyavula, OERPUB, and St. Johns College K-12 college preparatory school collaborated on a textbook sprint to develop custom textbooks for Physics and Chemistry to serve in 11th and 12th grades. Six teachers, three in physics and three in chemistry, participated. We started with source books from Siyavula and OpenStaxCollege. The teachers also brought their own source materials. We use the brand new (pre-alpha) version of the textbook editor, based on the github-book editor started by Phil Schatz of Connexions. We started with all the source books preloaded, and with a skeleton book loaded with curriculum guidelines.

Teachers used the editor to edit from scratch and to copy modules (chapters and sections) from the source books, and to copy smaller parts like images or worked examples from the source books. We had the developer team present to fix bugs as they were encountered and to design features as needs arose. A fair number of issues were found (low load times and problems with collaborative editing of the table of contents), which we are addressing now. Despite that, the group made significant progress on chapters in the books and more importantly were convinced that we have finally hit upon the right solution for authoring and remixing textbooks. The team is now putting better bug fixes in place and the authors will return to work on the books soon. They plan to use the Physics textbook in January. Siyavula will create PDF's for the books using a variation on their standard PDF generation.


  1. I think the editor is impressive, and the idea of saving content to a git repository is a neat one.

    I hope the team continues to keep the editor compatible with the SWORD API and, e.g., Connexions. My concern is that when content is in git repositories, it is neither easily found (searches [local and search engines], recommendations, lenses, update RSS, etc.) nor easily automagically remixed. I think it's important to keep the focus on having the editor create and update documents in well-known repositories as its main goal.

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