Open textbooks to the rescue

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Mark Horner is a Fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation. The model of the Foundation is unusual: we identify interesting change agents, like Mark, who are articulating powerful ideas that seem like the offer a hint of the future, and we fund them to work on those for a year. We also offer them an investment multiplier: if they put their personal money into a project, we multiply that by 10x or more, up to a maximum amount. In short, find good people, back them when they put skin in the game.

Mark’s specialty is open content for education: figuring out how to produce textbooks collaboratively. He’s done amazing work in the past, independently, leading an initiative to produce free high school science textbooks, and has lead the acquisition of a full set of textbooks in SA and their publication under an open content licence by the Foundation. Today, he’s been presented with a really awesome opportunity: provide open content to all of SA, with full backing from the department of education.

That’s a huge step forward, putting open content much more at the center of mainstream thinking. In part, this is precipitated by a crisis, the strike action that is affecting many public services like education in South Africa. But it’s nevertheless a valuable opportunity to show how open content can change the dynamic of the rigid world of education.

He needs help, though, to make sure the current drafts of the Maths and Science textbooks are free of typos:

I really need some extremely urgent help, I’ve been approached by national government to try to help make free educational resources available to support education during the current crisis! We have an opportunity to distribute free educational resources to all schools that cover:

  • Grade R – 9 for ALL learning areas in English and Afrikaans
  • Grade 10 – 12 Mathematics
  • Grade 10 – 12 Physical Science

All that is required is another edit of the Free High School Science Texts before they will release them to all the schools in South Africa. We have ONE WEEK to complete this process and desperately need volunteers who have post-graduate degrees in Maths, Physics, Chemistry or related fields that can help out.

So, if you’re inclined, he has details on how to help. For the moment, looks like participation requires being present in Cape Town, but perhaps he has a solution for that too.