The main emphasis of this panel was to discuss the future of textbooks, and how online and digital technologies can resolve many of the problems that students and schools face in providing this information. The panelists were Melissa Hagemann from the Open Society Institute, Richard Baraniuk of Rice University, Samuel Klein from the One Laptop per Child program that was started by Nicholas Negroponte, and Erik Moeller of the Wikimedia Foundation. When you consider that in some cases the cost of textbooks exceeds the cost of tuition or that in some schools students are forced to share textbooks, you know something is out of whack. Not to mention the difficulty in providing current and updated information in this dynamically changing environment. The panelist discussed the ways that publishing needs to embrace the changes that are currently happening in the music industry regarding digital distribution. Publishers know they have to change, but that change is very slow. Publishers need to channel their expertise and specialization into this area. Klein likened it to the fact that developers can download Linux for free, but many clients choose to pay $99 for Red Hat to get the service and support. That is the suggested model for publishers.
Integration with tools was another important concept. Using the proper technologies, like XML to create "lego block" styles of development and apply a level of customization are trends for the future. Print on demand of books was also discussed.
Another thing that I thought was particularly interesting was the brief discussion on the direction of open access journals. I saw a John Willinsky in October at the Association of Internet Researchers discuss this topic, and I think it is the appropriate direction for the most efficient dissemination of knowledge.
Baraniuk provided a list of considerations:
- Roles - should be mixed, not rigid
- Blurring of lines between teacher and student
- Context - personalization and customization of learning.