Textbook redesign

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Free, all-electronic textbooks using software that comes standard on every XO will have major impacts in several domains:

  • Education itself, obviously
  • Who writes textbooks (including students)
  • Publishing
  • Public discourse on economics, politics, human rights, environmental sustainability, and much more.

For example, when textbook acquisition is no longer a major part of education financing, the near-monopoly now held by Texas and California textbook standards over US publishers would be broken, so that other states could have a say in what their children use.

Core software in Sugar could include

Activities

  • Terminal
  • Browse
  • Chat
  • Write
  • Measure

Other capabilties

  • NumPy and SciPy for simulations, analysis, and data visualization
  • Text-to-speech engine for literacy
  • MIDI music
  • Gnash
  • PDF reader

With this, video can replace photographs, and simulations can replace static graphs. We see some of this in notebook files for commercial products such as Mathematica and Matlab, and project in Etoys.

There are a few earlier precedents. When IBM funded a test of APL as a language for arithmetic in elementary schools, Ken Iverson, creator of APL, wrote a textbook later published by APL Press. STSC (now Manugistics) gave APL Press to Edward Mokurai Cherlin when he was leading the I-APL project to create free math software for schools. Every math formula in this and other such textbooks was written in APL, for direct execution at a terminal. Now we can have a version of the book in which every formula is a live link to a suitable math engine. Mokurai plans to GPL the I-APL code, and CC-license these textbooks.

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