$200 textbook vs. free: You do the math

Two founders of Sun Microsystems have created nonprofit organizations to bring open-source textbooks to kindergarten through high school classes, reports the New York Times. Scott McNealy, the fiery co-founder and former chief executive of Sun Microsystems, shuns basic math textbooks as bloated monstrosities: their price keeps rising while the core information inside of them stays the same. “Ten plus 10 has been 20 for a long time,” he says. Early this year, database software maker Oracle acquired Sun for $7.4 billion, leaving McNealy without a job. He has since decided to aim his energy and some money at Curriki, an online hub for free textbooks and other course material that he spearheaded six years ago. “We are spending $8 billion to $15 billion per year on textbooks” in the United States, McNealy says. “It seems to me we could put that all online for free.” Over the last few years, groups nationwide have started financing open-source books—but progress with these open-source texts has been slow. In California, a state board is studying whether open texts meet state requirements. The CK-12 Foundation, a nonprofit organization financed by another Sun co-founder, Vinod Khosla, has created several texts that have met the board’s criteria. For its worth, Curriki has made only modest strides, but McNealy has pledged to inject new life into the effort. He wants to borrow from Sun’s software development systems to create an organized framework for collecting educational information…

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Texas curriculum vote stirs conflict

The conservative slant that Texas curriculum may take could influence curriculum in other states.
Observers are conflicted as to what effect the conservative slant that Texas's curriculum might take will have in other states.

Some historians are decrying the proposed changes to Texas’s social studies curriculum for next year, saying many of the changes do not accurately reflect United States history.

But the potential injection of conservative ideals into the social studies, history, and economics lessons that will be taught to millions of Texas students for the next decade might not have as much of an effect on the rest of the country’s curriculum as some opponents fear.

“It’s a bit of an urban myth that the Texas curriculum automatically hops state borders. I think the media accounts have been exaggerated,” said Jay Diskey, executive director of the school division for the Association of American Publishers. “Nearly all states expect or require publishers to align to their state standards.”…Read More

Open courseware gains momentum

Open-source courseware could change the way students learn.
Open courseware could change the way students learn, proponents say.

For years, tech-savvy educators and product developers have pushed for more open educational resources in classrooms as a way not only to engage students through technology, but also to save money in a time of tighter budgets. But does using open courseware really make a difference in spending?

Texas State Representative Scott Hochberg thinks so. He sponsored a bill that provides for the adoption and use of open-source textbooks in the state, beginning Sept. 1, 2010, by creating a digital repository of textbook content that will be managed by the Texas Education Association. This move, he says, will save the state at least $250 million a year.

“We were due to spend about $225 million to replace the grades six through 12 literature books in the state. We can buy the content for under $20 million,” he said. “Someplace between $20 million and $225 million, there’s a cost savings.”…Read More