Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I hadn't noticed Scott's posts (1, 2) last year proposing government funded "online multimedia textbooks," partly because narrowly defined, "online multimedia textbooks" are not actually something I'm interested in. But I am interested in promoting the idea of government funded curricula, and perhaps that is more or less the same thing.

Scott doesn't mention licensing, however, which by now we should recognize is a crucial facet of this kind of work. Scott says "free," but the overall context of his proposal suggests "free" as in cost of access, rather than "freely studied, applied, copied and/or modified." It is a crucial distinction. I don't actually have that much faith in the federal government's ability to contract out for great curricula that would work for schools across the country. I do, however, think that they will be able to get sufficiently close to create a good vision and a scaffold for further open source development by local, state, regional, federal government, foundations, universities, corporations, international collaborators and the prototypical enthusiast in his basement, if the licensing and development infrastructure are sufficient.


Gnuosphere said...

I agree. The government could kick-start some useful things. And allowing commercialization so long as the work stays free would be key too.

Scott McLeod said...

Thanks for the link, Tom. If you look through the comments of that old post, there's some skepticism about whether government could do this adequately, but I think it's worth trying. If we could figure out how to do this, it would free up a TON of money that schools now spend on bland, lifeless textbooks.

Tom Hoffman said...

Yes, but licensing!

Gnuosphere said...

"Yes, but licensing!"

That's my exact reaction when people tell me of all the money schools would save by using FOSS. In fact, to make a switch to FOSS often requires a short-term expenditure greater than what is currently spent on proprietary licensing fees.