Writing digital textbooks intended for free use by educators may not be as easy as it seems.
A group of Michigan social studies teachers, as part of the Michigan Open Book Project, spent a year developing e-textbooks for four subjects: high school economics, sixth-grade world geography, fourth-grade U.S. regions, and fifth-grade American history. Funded by a $600,000 state education grant, the project’s aim is to create books any Michigan school system can download at no charge.
However, the first four books were released in August to heavy criticism. “Some textbook experts and educators around the state are so disturbed by factual inaccuracies, poor grammar, overgeneralizations, clumsy word choices, and cultural insensitivity, they are recommending teachers not use them in their classrooms,” reported The Detroit News.
One curriculum reviewer said all four books “need significant editing and revision, if not complete rewriting.”
David A. Johnson, director of the Open Book Project, said the teachers selected to write the books were encouraged to create the kind of resource they would want to deploy in their own classrooms. He noted that since the books are solely online, errors can be revised within 48 hours. A tab on the download site includes a fill-in form for submitting errors and the process for evaluating submissions.
The Open Book Project intends to produce more e-books over the next two years. In development during the current school year are books for third-grade Michigan history, seventh-grade ancient world history, eighth- and ninth-grade American history, and high school civics. Planned for development in the 2016-17 academic year are books for K-2 and high school world history.