Image via WikipediaI can't recommend enough George Seimens and Peter Tittenberger's "Handbook of Emerging Technologies." I had been working on (and co-teaching) a "Student Success 2.0" class that has a wiki associated with the syllabus that links to tools. Seimens and Tittenberger will save me a lot of time in the future with keeping this up to date, especially their tools page. As an instructional designer, I need resources like these to help faculty solve problems and keep their courses interactive. I have one faculty member who just calls now and again and says "what really cool tools are out that that I don't know about?" (She is any instructional designer's dream teacher!) I will be directing a lot of people to this book. But here is the real point, it would be ridiculous to try to make this a print textbook. The tools change too rapidly for a print edition with the minimum two-year turn around time to make any sense. Also, for maximum usefulness, there has to be live links to the internet and these have to be kept up. I was thinking about this after reading a review in the New York Times about Leher's book on how we make decisions. It is essentially a popular look at the neuroscience behind decision making. His book discusses research that involve fMRI and I thought "wouldn't it be cool if this book could link to the research that is on the web?" And many books do, some have webpages associated with the book that serves as an online bibliography. But lets take all this further - the bulk of the relevant research in nearly every discipline is at least being managed on the web. When all of the information was in print, it makes sense to design textbooks that way - but since so much of it is accessible on the web now, why not create textbooks that utilize the media? There are cognitive science textbooks on the web and I think there are enough resources out there and combined with RSS feeds, one can imagine a textbook that essentially updates itself. And this could work for the humanities too. I was in an online workshop that was moderated by Steve Hargadon called "Remixing Shakespeare" that presented ways to get students involved in Shakespeare using new media tools. This workshop was presented by PBS Teachers and Classroom 2.0 and featured people from the Folger Library and of particular interest to me Amy Ulen, an English teacher at Tumwater High School in Tumwater, WA. who is the founder of Shakespeare High. There were enough resources in this one workshop for someone to turn around and create a living, dynamic "textbook" of interactive texts, tools for recording, videos of plays, and an online community dedicated to the subject matter. It didn't cost anyone a dime. Why wouldn't you want that?
I want to make sure that when we are discussing OER textbooks that we are not just talking about doing this because of the financial crisis. This is an opportunity to not only solve a problem, but to redefine textbooks in such a way that they include up to the minute research, instant corrections and updates, and community.