The open source textbook is an open-source experiment

Newly released, the textbook practices what it preaches: It's fluid, patchable and a group effort.

"Free the textbook" is the cry from the open source community.

This can be taken two ways: Free the textbook from the confines of binding or make the textbook free.

OK, a third way, too: All of the above.

As I wrote the other week, teaching open source is not as easy as it might seem. Part of the problem is a lack of educational materials, as well as a lack of teachers who actually, well, teach it. Addressing the former is the new textbook, Practical Open Source Software Exploration, the product of a whole mess of people who care about open source and want to make sure students get a firm foundation in its practices. Greg DeKoenigsberg, a senior community architect for Red Hat and one of the main contributors to the project explained the the idea behind it: " It's a book that works like an open source software project.  In other words: patches welcome." It's available in HTML, as a one-page HTML document and as a PDF.   1. Foreword, by Greg DeKoenigsberg   2. Introduction to Free and Open Source Software, by Greg DeKoenigsberg   3. The Lay of the Land, by Chris Tyler   4. Getting the Code, by Greg DeKoenigsberg and Mel Chua   5. Building the Code, by Greg DeKoenigsberg   6. Debugging the Code, by Greg DeKoenigsberg   7. Fixing the Code, by Jeff Sheltren   8. Explaining the Code: the Art of Documentation, by Karsten Wade   9. Release Early, Release Often, by Greg DeKoenigsberg Appendix A. Instructor Guide

The book's chapters:

So the book's online, it's free and it's a work in progress. It can be updated and changed easily and fluidly. Anyone interested in getting involved is welcome to. It's registered under a Creative Commons license. The main impetus driving the project was a series of questions those on the project began asking of educators:

  1. Do you use open source software in your classes? (Increasingly.)
  2. Are your students interested in open source? (Increasingly.)
  3. Do you or your students participate in open source software? (Rarely.)
  4. Do you teach open source development practices? (Almost never.)

The answer to "Why not?" on the latter two, DeKoenigsberg said, was, "It's hard."testing and in textbooks.Dallas Morning News, in fact, wrote that the Texas state Legislature approved reviewing open source textbooks for use in the K-12 system. Virginia already has approved them and California is considering it:

Such a book comes at an opportune time. More educators nationally are willing to consider open-sourced educational materials in


"This is really a revolution that has been going on for a while," said Brian Bridges, the director of the California Resource Learning Network and one of the state's online text reviewers. Money saved by these free options could go toward the purchase of computers for students who need them, he said.

But, really, what better project for an open-sourced textbook than a textbook about open source?

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