Response to Robin DeRosa’s “My Open Textbook Pedagogy & Practice”

This is an amazing and thought-provoking post. There’s so much here that I just want to put my initial thoughts out; otherwise, I may put it aside and not respond at all.

I’ve done this sort of thing before but never as ambitious a project as a complete text—see http://2008financialcrisis.umwblogs.org and more recently http://WhitherTheEuro.umwblogs.org —so I can speak to how much work and energy on your part is involved. I can also affirm that students who participate engage with the project far more deeply than with most academic assignments.

First, the naysayer: Did you review and/or edit the students’ commentary? That could move it from an excellent student project to a more serious professional resource, albeit at the cost of taking something away from the students, and more of your time. For my financialcrisis project, I ended up spending a huge amount of my summer reviewing, editing and other production work. Do you have a better way?

In my view, there are a couple of takeaways here:

  • Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. One shouldn’t compare an open text like this one to a finished, glossy commercial text. A better comparison is with a first draft manuscript—the one the author submits. The content is pretty much all there, though the finish may not be. But that’s okay.
  • It’s hard to understate the learning experience of the students. This learning experience is so much more profound than what a student normally gets from reading a book, because the process of curation requires students to examine assumptions, consider alternatives and evaluate what they conclude—all things that we at least subconsciously hope students will do when they read, but which realistically very few do—in part because we haven’t taught them to read that way, and in part because it’s hard work and takes a lot of time.

I look forward to reading the next chapter in your exploration of open texts.

PS: As I was thinking about responding to Robin’s post it occurred to me that the way I respond to a blog post is a little different from the way I respond to a colleague’s paper. Perhaps it’s the nature of blog posts, which are less formal than papers. Whatever the reason, I find I respond affectively to blog posts as well as cognitively.  It’s not that a post can make me feel good or bad, but rather my response is coming from a deeper level than when I respond to a formal paper.

 

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1 Response to Response to Robin DeRosa’s “My Open Textbook Pedagogy & Practice”

  1. Robin DeRosa says:

    Howdy! Not much time today, but want to clarify if I can. You ask, “Did you review and/or edit the students’ commentary?” I think you mean, when I pull stuff into the textbook, do I edit the work? Depends. When I publish it under their names (ie- when they get credit for writing a chapter) I left it exactly as they produced it. There is a chapter in the Open Am Lit anthology (an introduction and then selected accompanying primary texts) that I have a LOT of problems with, which I would NEVER have produced in that way. But right now, it’s there just as they students produced it. In future iterations, my goal would have been to express some of my concerns to the new crop of students and talk it through, and then have them make edits based on their responses. It’s disturbing to me to have the problematic work out there in the world in some ways, but my goal is less a perfect textbook and more a living text that exists by and for students to construct.

    I once actually intentionally selected a regular textbook that I think is highly flawed (Stephen Bonnycastle’s “In Search of Authority,” since I know you want to know) as a companion text in a class because I wanted so badly for students to find a way into a critical relationship with a central scaffolding text from the course. So when my own textbooks turn out flawed, it actually enhances the power of the open license going forward, and truly encourages that “critical thinking” thing we like to toss around so blithely.

    In the new book I am working on, I will probably edit more and take advantage of the CCBY license that most of my students publish under. In that way, they will be fully credited for their original versions, but I am also at liberty to alter the work if I need to. I will probably have to do this not so much to “correct” or “improve” their thinking, but because I will be excerpting work that was not originally structured for the textbook.

    I also comment a LOT on student posts as they post them on their ePorts (using final comments, public Hypothesis comments, and Hypothesis comments in a group we call “grammarcheck” where I can help them identify mechanical errors), so many students edit and revise their own published work multiple times, which is another reason it can help to migrate it into a textbook later down the line, rather than right away.

    Ok, just a few ramblings to start the week! Thanks for keeping the conversation going, my friend!

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