E I E I Oh dear… McDonaldization of the e-coursebook?
Articles from TOETOE Technology for Open English Toying with Open E- resources (ˈtɔɪtɔɪ)E I E I Oh dear… McDonaldization of the e-coursebook?2012-02-03 11:02:15 adminFor every E it follows that there is an I, at least that’s how it would appear withApple’s latest and much debated ‘free’ app hitting the mainstream and educationalmarkets, iBooks Author. The only instance I can think of in the reverse is I, Claudius,first penned by Robert Graves, which now with an e-reader can be read as an e-I,Claudius.When considering throwbacks to the analogue age, what exactly is it about e-booksthat make us (not forgetting publishers and hardware vendors) feel so at home withthis type of packaging for content? Are e-books, and their close cousins the e-coursebooks, the great hand-holders as we make the transition from the semi-digitalworld of print media production toward a webbed bundle of digital content includingdynamic RSS feeds, all of which can in effect be converted and customized into ane-book format? There is a very lively and timely open education seminar andcollaborative e-book writing event going on right now within SCoPE (hosted byBCcampus in Canada), discussing the very nature of e-books. Writing an e-bookabout e-books for fun and no profit: February 1-14, 2012 is definitely worth checkingout.Similarly, within the ELT community, Scott Thornbury’s latest A-Z of ELT entry on e-coursebooks has created a lot of post-blogpost activity about the ‘need’ forcoursebooks, digital or otherwise, in language teaching and learning. He offers an
alternative 8-point ELT scenario for tapping into and toying with a mash-up ofavailable technologies, both open and proprietary. Youtube is an endless resourceprovided you don’t live in a country or work in an institution where it is blocked, andthis is where Apple’s iTunesU as an educational content channel wins the day again.To provide just one example of this success, The Open University in the UK hasexperienced 34 million downloads of their educational content on iTunesU sinceJune 2008, much of which is open content released under creative commonslicences.I take Scott’s point that Tom Cobb’s Lextutor is an invaluable resource if you knowhow to use it and are willing to invest the time, as he suggests, to make the most ofit in your learning and teaching. However, more in the way of training and thedevelopment of pedagogic wrappers for helping teachers and learners exploit corpustools and resources effectively would not go amiss. I’ll be talking more along theselines in future posts.Needless to say, this discussion on e-resources in the A-Z of ELT blog along withDavid Deubelbeiss’ call via EFL 2.0 Teacher Talk to disrupt ELT with moreopenness is what has inspired me to kick-start this blog – thanks, guys. Pedagogic wrappersChinese spring roll wrappers, BurmaImage via flickr creative commonsWe have become too dependent on coursebooks and off-the-shelf dedicatedresources for ELT. I’ve spent the better part of the last 10 years trying todeprogramme myself away from the ELT textbook consumer culture that I wasformally trained into by Cambridge ESOL pre- and in-service teacher trainingcourses. Yes, we could SARS – Select, Adapt, Reject, Supplement – (Graves,2003) sections of a coursebook, as we were trained to do, but the coursebook stillremains the crux of the lesson.Anna Comas-Quinn of the LORO project (Languages Open Resources Online)talks of typical language teachers as being those who will beg, borrow and stealanything to teach a language point effectively. We’ve always done this to make ourclasses more interesting – taking a clip from a video here, chopping up a research
article there – as we try to engage our students in authentic communication in thetarget language. So, in many ways we’ve always been at odds with the coursebook.But how often does our pedagogy, embedded in useful resources which we havepainstakingly designed, remain locked in the secret garden that is our classroom?Or within the password-protected virtual learning environment of our institutions?Our language teaching community would benefit greatly from the sharing of theseresources and pedagogic wrappers in the form of lesson plans and tips for teaching.But what are the barriers to sharing when we’ve never been trained in intellectualproperty rights and the use of third party materials? If we had been trained inharvesting and harnessing open technologies and resources, then perhaps wewould build resources from a different starting point, making it easier for us to share.We might even end up promoting ourselves and our institutions by releasing ouropen educational resources (OER) into the wild, a different business model worthexploring.Image via flickr creative commonsBy tapping into informal open education practitioner communities like those whohosted the recent Open Content Licensing for Educators 2012 (OCL4Ed,sponsored by Ako Aotearoa – New Zealand’s National Centre for Tertiary TeachingExcellence), attended online by 1067 people from 87 countries with 15,961 uniquevisits to the WikiEducator site, we can start to grow our skills and understanding inthis important area of materials development and dissemination for free. TheOCL4Ed materials were developed openly and collaboratively by dedicatedvolunteers from the OER Foundation, WikiEducator, the OpenCoursewareConsortium (OCWC) and Creative Commons with funding support from UNESCO.If you’d like to learn more about creative commons, check out this video here.Nobody does it better…?
‘Bond’ image via flickrcreative commonsApple and Amazon are disrupting publishing and their pockets run very deep.Educational resources developers, many of whom are teachers, have alwaysengaged in contracts with traditional publishers to pay for the costs of publishing inone form or another. With the launch of iBooks Author, Apple have their eyes on theK-12 market and this comes with its problems as is discussed here in the ScholarlyKitchen, a vibrant blog on educational publishing. David Crotty argues againstApple’s rush for rich media, stating that he’s perfectly happy to read an e-bookwithout the bells and whistles of animations and embedded scenes from movies etcto pump up the text and the e-reader experience, as has been the case with therelease of the popular and digitally-enhanced Alice for the iPad e-book published byAtomic Antelope. He may not be so interested in the hype around adding movieclips and animations to text but language teachers are interested in drawing theirstudents’ attention to differences in features of spoken and written discourse, and e-books offer us the potential to combine resources in this way.Apple has pushed beyond the open ePUB format standards for e-books which don’tnecessarily support such a high level of rich media, and have come up with theirown ibooks file format instead. In many ways this push for richer media standards isadmirable. But their EULA (End User Licence Agreement) doesn’t leave educationalresources developers, many of whom are teachers, for both open and proprietaryresources, much room to move by locking us down with a file format for use only oniPads and for iBook sales only through the iBooks Store.By tuning into the OER community and by playing with and learning about differenttechnologies and licensing standards, we may not always come up with e-resources that are as flashy as the high-end iBooks prepared by animation artists(although there are some animation artists floating about the OER world who wouldlove to help!). We can, however, between us come up with pedagogically relevant e-resources that can be shared and re-used.
References:‘Pedagogic wrappers’ – term coined by Tom Browne, SCORE fellow with theOpen University.Graves, K, 2003. “Coursebooks.” In D. Nunan (Ed.) PracticalEnglishLanguage Teaching. New York: McGraw-Hill.The E I E I Oh dear… McDonaldization of the e-coursebook? by Alannah Fitzgerald,unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative CommonsAttribution 3.0 Unported License. Terms and conditions beyond the scope of thislicense may be available at www.alannahfitzgerald.org.