We had a great meeting with the Teachers in March. They reported that their students are loving the textbooks and many students from other classes are envying the textbooks. We’ve also finalized our cost analysis and are putting the finishing touches on a paper to publish about it so that everyone can benefit from what we’ve learned. Finally, David Wiley has put together a very cool calculator that estimates the cost of switching to open textbooks. Anyone can get online and try it out at http://opencontent.org/calculator/.
We asked our teachers if they find themselves doing anything differently because they are using open textbooks and they shared several good examples. One of our teachers said that having the textbooks the students can write in saves him a lot of time since they don’t have to go back and forth between the textbook and a worksheet and he doesn’t have to spend extra time preparing worksheets. One teacher said that she doesn’t have to have her tables scrubbed like she used to because the kids don’t doodle on the tables anymore, now they doodle in their textbooks (and the kids love that it is okay because the textbook belongs to them). Several of our teachers agreed that they present content in a different way because now the students can follow along in the textbook and it makes content presentation much easier. They also mentioned that when a student misses class, it is so much easier to get the student caught up–the teacher simply tells them which chapters they missed. Since the teachers didn’t use traditional textbooks as regularly as they do the open textbooks, the students weren’t able to follow along in their textbooks and a few chapters in the textbook wouldn’t help the student catch up with what they missed in class. One teacher mentioned that his students are learning much more from the science labs than they used to because the book now matches what they are doing in their lab.
When discussing how their students use the books, one teacher said that initially she thought that she would have to remind the students to highlight their books frequently but she has found that they grab the highlighters and mark up the books all on their own.
In the final analysis the costs proved more difficult to calculate than we originally thought. The reason is that we gave the teachers several choices and we used two different printers. But we were able to analyze them and discover that with the experience we’ve gained (which printers to work with and which ways to print it) people can potentially save money by using open source textbooks. But what we’re most excited about is the potential educational benefit. And we’ll have more information coming on that in the next few months.
For now, we’re going to be getting our results published and we have the calculator up for folks to play around with.