Quick Notes: Defining Textbook Structure and Elements

Yesterday I joined an Office Hours session run by the Rebus Community, which was a presentation by  Dave Ernst, (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and  Executive Director of the Open Textbook Network). He spoke about  Defining Textbook Structure and Elements, essentially summarizing a chapter on developing text book structure from guide by the Open Textbook Network for teachers who are creating open textbooks. That resource, and the Rebus community look like they are well worth a look if you are not already familiar with them. Here are my notes mixed with my own reflection & comment.

Notes

What makes a textbook different from a monogram?

Books are divided into various slices: some or all of the following may be present: Book ⟹ Unit ⟹ Chapter ⟹ Section ⟹ Sub-section. I see parallels between this and the sort of divisions envisaged by schema which define course structures (e.g. OER Schema).

In a text book that Dave wishes to encapsulate the idea that curriculum (content) is separate from instruction (teaching the content). A textbook is content that is structured in such a way that facilitates instruction. This builds on lessons in instructional design learnt in creating online courses.

Structural elements have been defined (i.e. Openers, Closers, and ‘Integrated Pedagogic Devices’) into which any part of the book hierarchy can be split. The Opener of a book corresponds to the Front Matter, the Closer to the Back Matter the rest is in the Body. But Units, Chapters Sections can also have these structural elements. There were various examples of what might be part of each of these elements: the Opener may include an introduction, learning objectives, focus questions; the integrated pedagogic devices in the main content may be call outs or info boxes, case studies, illustrations; the Closer may have a summary, further reading and review questions (there were many other examples). Repeat to emphasize: these elements are relevant to any level of division of a book.

Dave two factors regarding the content of a book: scope (what is to be covered) and sequence (the order to cover it in). For any topic, teachers will differ in opinion as to what the optimum scope and sequence are–holy wars have been fought over sequence in particular. There was an interesting comment about teachers wanting to re-purpose an open textbook to have the same content in a different order–this is what Open is for.

Agreeing the structure of  a book (do you want units? do you want subsections?), the structural elements for each part, and the scope and sequence for each part, will give you the outline of the book and the elements to assist students in understanding what is covered. I know how well this can work from having taken part in a booksprint with colleagues.

I found a lot of interest in the parallels between instructional design of online courses and textbooks, and in the discussion about how the technology of printing affected the designs of textbooks (see also Euclid in colour and technology for learning).

Many thanks to Dave Ernst, Rebus and all on the call.

 

[Edited 13 Sept 2018 @ 15:30 to correct an accidental misattribution of the OTN guide for teachers who are creating open textbooks.]

Using the WordPress REST API to post a book from WikiSource to PressBooks with python

I am using Pressbooks to build an online edition of Southey and Coleridge’s Omniana. I transcribed the text for Volume I on wikisource. This post is about how I got that text into pressbooks; copy and paste didn’t appeal, so I thought I would try using the WordPress REST API. You could probably write a PHP plugin that would do this, but I find python a bit easier for exploratory work, so I used that.

Getting the data from Wikisource is reasonably trivial. On wikisource I have transcluded the page transcriptions into a single HTML file of the whole book. This file is relatively easy to parse into the individual articles for posting to Pressbooks, especially as I added <hr /> tags before each article (even the first) and added stop at the end.

In the longer term I want to start indexing the PressBook Omniana using wikidata for linked data. This will let me look at the semantic graph of what Southey and Coleridge were interested in. Continue reading

Cycle route planning for Garmin eTrex Vista on Ubuntu 18.04

Obviously, this is a summer holidays post, not work related. One of my long-term popular posts on this blog is about Using Garmin eTrex Vista HCx with Ubuntu 14.04LTS & QLandkarte GT. That post has the info about how my eTrex is set up to connect to Ubuntu and to use OpenCycleMap, which still works for me. This post is just about the route planning, which has moved on. In short I use Google Maps in cycle mode plot the route, mapsToGPX.com to download a GPX of that route, gps babel to simplify and transfer the GPX file to the eTrex, and QMapShack to view and manage the various GPX files on Ubuntu. For navigation en route I follow a planned track on eTrex and/or on my phone using OSMAnd.

Continue reading

#CMALT Certified Member of the Association for Learning Technology

On Monday afternoon a notification popped up for an email

Congratulations on achieving Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology

I was very happy. I was also busy on something, so didn’t immediately open the email. When I did go to open it, the email had vanished. It took me long enough to find where it have got to for me to begin to doubt my sanity; but no, it was real, I really had #CMALT.

This post is mostly to say thank you to the people who helped me. Especially Lorna Campbell, who buddied me in the writing process, Steve Bentley (@sdb) and Susan Greig (@SusanMGreig) who helped me with feedback when my first submission fell short, to the assessors, whoever you are, who also provided useful feedback and encouragement. To all the certified members who provided their portfolios online for inspiration and guidance, and to the other CMALT applicants who shared their progress, and to my friends and everyone in the learning technology community whose ideas I continually mine and whose comments continue to shape my thinking: thank you. Continue reading

Progress report for Educational and Occupational Credentials in schema.org

[This is cross-posted from the Educational and Occupational Credentials in schema.org W3C community group, if you interested please direct your comments there.]

Over the past few months we have been working systematically through the 30-or-so outline use cases for describing Educational and Occupational Credentials in schema.org, suggesting how they can be met with existing schema.org terms, or failing that working on proposals for new terms to add. Here I want to summarize the progress against these use cases, inviting review of our solutions and closure of any outstanding issues. Continue reading

#OER18 Open to all

I spent the last couple of days in Bristol, a city I know well: I went to University there (undergrad, PhD and post doc in physics and materials science), my wife’s parents live there. I’ll be honest, meeting my friends from the OER community in a city of which I am very fond was part of what attracted me to this conference. The theme of the conference, “open to all,” with discussions about OER in the context of colonialism, was less attractive to me. Look at the rest of this blog, you’ll see I am much more comfortable talking about technical specifications, APIs and infrastructure to support the creation and dissemination of OER. Continue reading

PressBooks and ePub as an OER format.

PressBooks does a reasonable job of importing ePub, so that ePub can be used as a portable format for open text books. But, of course, there are limits.

I have been really impressed with PressBooks, the extension to WordPress for authoring eBooks. Like WordPress it is available as a hosted service from PressBooks.com and to host yourself from PressBooks.org. I have been using the latter for a few months. It looks like a great way of authoring, hosting, using, and distributing open books. Reports like this from Steel Wagstaff about Publishing Open Textbooks at UW-Madison really show the possibilities for education that open up if you do that. There you can read what work Steel and others have been doing around PressBooks for authoring open textbooks, with interaction (using hypothe.is, and h5p), connections to their VLE (LTI), and responsible learning analytics (xAPI).

PressBooks also supports replication of content from one PressBook install to another, which is great, but what is even greater is support of import from other content creation systems. We’re not wanting monoculture here.

Open text books are, of course, a type of Open Educational Resource, and so when thinking about PressBooks as a platform for open text books you’re also thinking about PressBooks and OER. So what aspects of text-books-as-OER does PressBooks support? What aspects should it support?

Continue reading

Using wikidata for linked data WordPress indexes

A while back I wrote about getting data from wikidata into a WordPress custom taxonomy. Shortly thereafter Alex Stinson said some nice things about it:


and as a result that post got a little attention.

Well, I have now a working prototype plugin which is somewhat more general purpose than my first attempt. Continue reading

Not quite certifiable

After a slight delay, last week I received the result of my CMALT (Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology) submission.  While most of it was fine, the area which I had thought weakest, Core area 3: The wider context, was rated as inadequate. It has been lovely to see so many people celebrating gaining their CMALT over the last few months; and many of them have said how useful they found it to have access to examples of successful portfolios, which has also been my experience, but in the hope that it is also useful to see examples that fall short, and also in the hope that some of you might be able to provide feedback on improving it, I thought I would share here my unsuccessful portfolio. Continue reading

Quick update on W3C Community Group on Educational and Occupational Credentials

The work with the W3C Community Group on educational and occupational credentials in schema.org is going well. There was a Credential Engine working group call last week where I summarised progress so far. The group has 24 members. We have around 30 outline use cases, and have some idea of the relative importance of these. The use cases fall under four categories: search, refinements of searches, secondary searches (having found a credential, want find some other thing associated with it), and non-search use cases. From each use case we have derived one or two requirements for describing credentials in schema.org. We made a good start at working through these requirements.

I think the higher-level issues for the group are as follows. First, How do model the aspect of educational and occupational credentials? Where does it fit in to the  schema.org hierarchy, and how does it relate to other work around verifying a claim to hold a credential? Second, the relationship between a vocabulary like schema.org which aims for a wide uptake by many disconnected providers of data, not limited to a specialist domain or a partnership who are working closely together and can build a single tightly defined understanding of what they are describing. Thirdly, and somewhat related to the previous point, what balance do we strike between pragmatism and semantic purity.  We need to be pragmatic in order to build something that is acceptable to the rest of the schema.org community: not adding too many terms, not being too complex (one of the key factors in schema.org’s success has been  the tendency to favour approaches which make it easier to provide data).