[TOS] Teaching materials, or textbook?

Chris Tyler chris at tylers.info
Tue May 12 13:17:51 UTC 2009

On Mon, 2009-05-11 at 13:21 -0400, Greg Dekoenigsberg wrote:
> After reading Ross Gardler's thoughtful response to the list about the 
> utility of the Teaching Materials project, and after reading Tridge's post 
> about creating an Awesome Open Source Textbook, I've spent a lot of time 
> thinking.
> The basic conclusion I've come to, and I'd like to hear everyone's 
> thoughts:
> A list of resources about teaching open source development is good.
> A textbook about teaching open source development is better.
> Given limited resources, I'd rather focus on the latter.

I'm of two minds on this! (I've written two books for O'Reilly that have
been well received and are used as texts, but I don't teach from a text

For me and my teaching style, individual teaching resources are much
more useful than a text, because I tend to mix and match resources and
to adjust the mix as a course evolves (and man, there are few courses
that evolve as quickly and steadily as those on Open Source). In fact, I
tend to treat a textbook as a mixable resource too, and intermix pieces
(readings, exercies) from the text with other resources rather than have
the students work through the text linearly.

I also feel that the guidance of someone already deeply involved in a
particular community will trump any text almost every time, and I
wouldn't want a prof who is detached from the community trying to teach
community-based open source from a text.

That said, a great textbook can be very helpful both to the prof and to
the student, and good tool in the right hands. Double good if the text
itself is easily remixable because of its format and licensing.

> So first, everyone agrees on a structure.
> Second, various people agree to take a chapter.
> Third, various people agree to write a chapter.
> Fourth, we ask professors to review it.
> Fifth, we edit it.
> Sixth, we publish it online under a creative commons license.
> Seventh, we take it to O'Reilly and use the proceeds to fund the further 
> development of TOS.  :)

We should probably talk to O'Reilly early, because they can provide good
editorial support; getting their input into the format and structure
will be important.

However, the book industry is still way down (iirc they let people go
for the first time a few months back), and they've said that they've
found their CC-licensed projects to have a lower return than their other
efforts, so I expect that this will be a hard sell.

> The question: who's willing to contribute?

Count me in!


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