Beyond Textbooks

Educators have begun the great migration toward digital communities and content. We're dismantling our traditional notions of what a textbook is and how it might be used, and we've started to use online tools and cultures. We're making progress toward more connected and curated educational opportunities. But there is one more horizon to cross: that of the web developer. So far, the vast majority of open educational resources exist within ecosystems built by people other than the users. Educators have tended to adopt existing web services rather than build their own, because web development has — so far — been beyond the skill set of most educators. We use software tools but we do not build them. One consequence of this methodology is that open educational resources developed within closed or inaccessible software ecosystems are only partially open. The content of such ecosystems will always be constrained by the context in which they have been developed. Although we might seek community ownership and development of our materials, such development will always be limited by the hurdles we encounter in actually hacking on our own code.

The skill of web development is inextricably tied to the future of education. If we are to take full responsibility for our educational communities, we'll also need to learn how to build and develop our own educational ecosystems. We need to learn how to integrate the online services constructed by others with our own unique needs and communities. In other words, we need to learn how to code. (It's not that hard to do.)

In this workshop on May 29, at the Open Textbook Summit, we will examine a number of increasingly straightforward methods for educators to dive in — but not drown — in the complex world of web development. We'll discuss the latest development frameworks (such as Django and Node.js), new and simpler content development strategies (such as Gitbook, Jekyll, and Sphinx), and progressive web design trends (such as Bootstrap).

Our overall goals will be to deepen our understanding of the technologies that support the development and use of open textbooks and open web applications, and to explore what comes next in the evolution of open educational ecosystems. No previous geekery is expected or required.

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