This past weekend, we hosted a roundtable discussion exploring the future of textbooks.
While our focus at Hyperlink is on live, interactive learning experiences, the content that supports these experiences — lesson plans, readings, worksheets, assignments, artifacts and more — is also important, and ripe with all sorts of possibilities for further experimentation.
Already, we're seeing a number of course creators exploring interesting ways to create and share learning materials, from 'micro-textbooks' to dual-publishing workflows for web + print output to iteratively developed texts for specific courses.
We wanted to explore questions like:
- How can textbooks connect to social learning experiences?
- How can textbooks respond to the needs of individual learners?
- How can learners contribute to / manipulate / diverge from a textbook?
- How can learning materials adapt across workflows, branches and forks
- How can we create stronger shared contexts for reading and writing?
Here are our notes from the session — we covered quite a lot in an hour! — plus a collection of links and projects for further perusal.
Show and tell:
- Lester talked about his data science research and how he's trying to identify digital textbook content to run NLP models on
- Colin showed us the conlang textbook he's writing with LaTeX and PDF, touching on linguistics-specific workflow challenges
- Frode gave an overview of his work with augmented text tools, including affordances for inline references, and "visual-meta" for metadata + structural data
- Max showed an awesome list he made of "e-texts", as well as introduced us to the "ScholarPhi" project for interactive display of math equations
Interesting topics we touched on:
- The "open educational resources" movement; open source textbooks
- Publishing as an evolving process, and possibilities for "phases" e.g. transitioning from an open and fluid text to a more solid bounded artifact
- Authority; the "finished" nature of textbooks… What happens to books over time? What books are canonical, and how do such definitions change?
- How textbooks can be made or conceived of as more interactive, e.g. prompting and incorporating student artifacts as examples in various contexts
- How we define a "textbook" in the first place; what distinguishes a textbook from other books, wikis, or other texts and resources used for learning?
- How textbooks might fit into our antilibraries
- The changing nature of the syllabus, from shared context to multi-directional or group-annotated source
- Environments for sharing structured data, from LaTeX to JSON to the clipboard
- Andy Matuschak's work; "mnemonic media" and "timeful texts"; experiments with Michael Nielsen
- Interactive online or app-based textbooks like Mathigon and Open Music Theory
- Free, open online textbooks e.g. OpenStax
- This very intriguing hyperreadings essay + platform
- Open source academic publishing platforms e.g. Manifold, Pressbooks, PubPub
- Networked versions of classic books e.g. Roam Library
- Various other web-published books, as in books that are websites Arena collection
- Frode's Augmented Text Tools and Visual-Meta
- ScholarPhi, aiming to augment technical papers with contextual meanings of terms and symbols
- Max's great collection of e-texts
- Kathleen Fitzpatrick's Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, one of the first open textbooks, open for comments and annotations before an eventual printed edition
- The IndieWeb "book" page, with some more great references
- The Chinese Text Project, an open-access digital library for pre-modern Chinese texts
- Syllabit, a mobile-friendly platform for creating and sharing a syllabus
- Publishing workflows with peer review / social annotation, e.g. Annotation by Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia, using PubPub; see also Hypothes.is
- Telescopic Text, a tool for creating expanding texts (nice example: Writing)
- Templating for Lawyers blog post by Kyle Mitchell
- Arbital, a blogging / wiki platform with some interesting features
- Examples of mungers for text transformation: Unmung; Bible Munger; Pandoc
- Craig Mod's Post Artifact Books and Publishing
- Remi Kalir's Annotate Your Syllabus 3.0 blog post (and two previous ones!)
Let's continue the conversation. We've opened a discussion on the Hyperlink forum — we'd love to see any follow up questions, additional examples, proposals, open problems, or other ideas.
- How can facilitators and learners play with these ideas on Hyperlink?
- How best can we help support that?
We look forward to exploring these topics further!