Home Jimmy Wales Joins Open Textbook Organization

Jimmy Wales Joins Open Textbook Organization

Wikipedia and Wikia co-founder Jimmy Wales has just joined the advisory board of CK-12 Foundation – a nonprofit organization that provides standards-aligned online textbooks to kindergarten to grade 12 students. One key element of the organization includes offering “FlexBooks” – a product that allows educators and students to create and edit their own open-content teaching materials. Users can add chapters to existing texts or create completely new material using the Flexr tool.

Some key benefits over traditional textbooks include: wider distribution, lower costs, teacher recommendations and customizable texts. The latter is particularly significant as educators can adapt textbooks to ensure they are timely, aligned to state standards and culturally appropriate. Additionally, educators can even adapt texts to set students on independent learning programs with ease. This is especially important for those educators who work with gifted students and students with developmental disabilities.

In addition to Wales, other CK-12 advisory board members include CEO of Sun Microsystems Vinod Khosla, CTO of JotSpot Graham Spencer and founding principal of the High Tech High charter school program, Larry Rosenstock.

CK-12 intends to make use of the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license. Meanwhile, Wales’ other open textbook project, Wikibooks, is licensed as GNU Free Documentation. Both licenses ensure that the book content is free to be copied, redistributed and modified for either commercial or non-commercial use with the only major stipulation being that author’s receive attribution. Wikibooks currently has over 38,602 volunteer edited pages with subject matter in natural sciences, computing, humanities and social sciences. The project already includes books from at least 15 different languages.

According to CK-12, the difference between Wikipedia and CK-12 is that the organization “specifically focuses on K-12 standards-based content centered around the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects vs. serving as an encyclopedia of knowledge…CK-12 offers materials such as lesson objectives, vocabulary, and Q & A – similar to those found in textbooks.” However, the group does not address comparisons with Wikibooks. At this early stage with CK-12, the key difference between Wikibooks and CK-12 appears to be that the latter organization envisions one day supplying printed textbooks via an on-demand press similar to Lulu or Blurb.

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