Author: david

Intro to Philosophy Welcomes Two New Editors!

The Introduction to Philosophy series blazes along, and represents a great example of what can happen when a community comes together around open textbook creation. To join the momentum, get involved as an author or reviewer, or join the project to add your expertise as a copyeditor or proofer, to help with formatting and design, or just to stay informed!

What started as a conversation between series editor Christina Hendricks and Rebus founder Hugh McGuire first turned into an idea for a single textbook. That idea expanded into a more robust range of subject areas, and from there into a full gamut of introductory textbooks that now cover nine major areas of philosophy. By the beginning of next year, three titles will be approaching their release dates, meaning that they will be available for adoption and use for courses starting in the 2019 academic year!

Melbourne, Australia, a view from above

A very gratifying piece of news is that, having welcomed two new collaborators, we now have a dedicated editor for each of the nine textbooks. Valery Vinogradovs is our new Aesthetics editor and replaces Scott Clifton, who had to step away from the project after making many valuable contributions to the project. Valery has started looking over the chapters written to date, and will shortly craft a revised chapter outline, which we will then use to seek out additional authors.

Valery’s background includes a PhD from LaTrobe University, and his areas of specialization cover Kant’s aesthetics, moral psychology, and the philosophy of education. He has a particular interest in the work of Nietzsche, Montaigne, Aristotle, and Plato, and currently teaches in Australia at the Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy.

Our new editor for the Philosophy of Science textbook is Eran Asoulin. Eran’s first contact with the project was as an author, havingcontributed a chapter to Philosophy of Mind (edited by Heather Salazar). That sparked an interest in becoming more deeply involved with the project, which has now led to his appointment as one of our nine editors. Having just started in his role  this past week, Eran is coming up to speed on the status of the book, while learning more about our processes and resources.

Sydney, Australia, a view from above

Eran is an accomplished author and teacher, with scholarly work spanning linguistics, philosophy, and cognitive science. His focus is the study of language and mind. In 2012, he earned his PhD from the University of New South Wales in Australia, and he currently lives and works in Sydney.

Count on hearing from Valery and Eran as their books take shape. Congratulations to both of them, and to the entire team as a whole, for their dedication and accomplishments—both past and yet to come!

The series will continue to roll along, and there will be new calls for participation, both in the form of writing as well as the all-important phases of editing and peer review. We’ll keep you informed, but you can always join the project now and sign up to the Forum to stay current.

And, as we mentioned, look out for the release of Philosophy of Mind, Ethics, and Logic early in the coming year!

 

Sydney photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash
Melbourne photo by louis amal on Unsplash

Surprise, surprise! What we learned while writing The Rebus Guide

As anyone who has contributed to the creation of open educational resources can tell you, there are often many surprises along the way! Here we share those that came up for us in the making of The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far), but we also want to hear back from you. What surprises you about making OT? Whether they are grim or good, let us know on the Rebus Forum.

Having worked with so many remarkable open textbook project leaders and contributors over the past two years, we thought we knew the lay of the land. But as we wrote and reflected, we learned even more about our own processes, resources, and infrastructure. Over time, the Guide will continue to evolve, and we will keep working to make it easier and more sustainable for you to build books and community.

A stitch in time saves nine
It’s an old saying, but still relevant in the digital age. Over and over, we were reminded how important it is to put plenty of time into project scoping, establishing content tracking templates, and building up the initial leadership team. Even if it seems like a lot of labor at the beginning, make sure these pieces are really clearly planned up front, because they make your work much easier in the long run. While it can be challenging to plan a textbook, determine its structure, and prepare to write content before you know what that content will actually be, it is nonetheless crucial.

Small sparks can grow into burning interest
Surprisingly, we found that individuals who were initially outside the core team could eventually get very engaged in a project. For example, reviewers who were ‘only’ asked to critique a given chapter often developed an abiding interest in the book as a whole. Given encouragement, volunteers may became much more involved over time, making contributions (both big and little) beyond their original commitment. In the Guide’s section on engagement, we talk about how to make this happen, and in turn grow community connections and support for the book after release.

Keep rigorous but stay loose
Innovation is always characterized by change, and collectively driven publishing is a pretty innovative process! While it’s important to reach objectives and keep your team focused, it’s just as necessary to stay responsive to change. Adapt, revise, and improvise. It’s okay to change course, even if you’ve put a lot of time into the upfront planning. Remember: every project is different, so even though the Guide puts forward a model for creating open textbooks, you’ll always be modifying and renewing that model.

People are your key resource
Again, this might seem obvious when talking about collaborative publishing. And despite our commitment to providing great online tools, we recognize that human beings are the best ‘software’ out there. It can sometimes seem like an insurmountable task to recruit contributors, but if you spread the word widely, like-minded people frequently come out of the woodwork, keen and raring to go. You still need to remember, however, that once they’ve signed on, the interpersonal work needs to keep happening. Managing volunteers involves a lot of emotional and mental support, but there are tools and tips aplenty to help you navigate your way through.

Your audience is everywhere!
The readers of the initial textbook release are not your only audience. Those who eventually adapt the book, and take it to its next iteration, are part of the ecosystem too. Keeping adapters in mind is just as important as thinking about adopters and readers. This makes the planning and production processes a little different from conventional publishing—and somewhat more difficult—but that is also what makes open textbook publishing exciting and rewarding.

So these are a few of our happy surprises along the way. What has not been surprising in this experience is how much we learn and grow through collaboration with the OER community. None of these unexpected lessons would have come to light had we not had so many people share their voices and experiences. Thank you!

 

photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Media, Society, Culture and You — The Backstory on Our New Release

Media, Society, Culture and You by Mark Poepsel (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) is a highly approachable text that introduces a wide range of mass communications concepts, including their complex histories and compelling contemporary realities. What’s more, the backstory of this project is just as intriguing—an example of how making open textbooks can help change the way we produce and share knowledge.

Kyoto street view by Camille Villanueva on Unsplash

Mark’s work on this textbook began as part of a broader OER project initiated at SIU Edwardsville, one that challenged community members to explore the value of offering open texts in classrooms. Having decided that he wanted to create a more in-depth tool for examining such themes as the network society, the digital economy, and media entrepreneurship, Mark initiated the project with the help of instructional designers at his institution. In time, both the analysis of his subject and his reasons for creating an open textbook in the first place became more profound.

“I probably did a deeper dive than other professors in the original project,” says Mark. “I stayed with this text, and continued iterating it because I think our students are burdened enough with the costs of higher education.” A preliminary version of the book was created using Apple’s iBooks platform, which Mark found fun to use, but lacking in support for the academic editing process. Eventually he transferred the project over to Rebus’s Pressbooks instance, the Rebus Press, which he found simple-to-use, open to customization, and less limiting than iBooks Author.

“It was eye-opening to work with Rebus Community. People were ready and willing to edit one or more chapters of my 45,000-word text. The book is only about 150 pages, but with the help of project managers, peer reviewers, and a copy editor, we made it a solid 10 chapters that focus on precisely what I want to share with students. In other words, Rebus Community supports a level of academic freedom not widely seen.”

To his department’s credit, the textbook featured in Mark’s tenure application, pointing to growing recognition for the academic legitimacy of open publishing. The work has also led to other positive impacts in his professional career. He has been invited to write for other open textbook platforms (ones that even pay a stipend!), and has given three conference presentations about the process of OER development.

Perhaps most importantly, however, Media, Society, Culture and You represents a start for new pedagogical outputs, new ways of writing and teaching, and new ways to keep academic work fresh. Mark has called the book a “stub,” meaning that it serves to prompt more work. He intends eventually to double the extent of the text, adding more content and historical perspectives to each section, as well as quizzes and discussion questions at the end of every chapter. In time, an online teaching manual may also be created by the community of educators who use the book.

For Mark himself, the experience has also been a kind of stub: “This effort in some ways guides my future plans. I want to stay on the edge of pedagogy and research into participatory and entrepreneurial journalism. Establishing this text as a pedagogical option for a community of scholars will go a long way toward my efforts to contribute to a community of practice. Working on this has created to a positive feedback loop between my research and my pedagogical work.”

Now that the textbook has been released, it is open for use, including adoption and adaptation. Already, it is engaging both faculty and students at SIU Edwardsville. Readers there have found it accessible and easy to follow, as well as provocative in just the right way. Mark says that he hopes the book “serves as a shot in the arm for facing the realities of digital disruption” and that it will prompt users of social media and those within the network society to reflect on and recognize their own roles in how political communication and action unrolls. In that way, perhaps, the publication of the book embodies its own theme as a whole!

A special thanks goes to copyeditor Leanne Page, who dedicated a great deal of time to the project, as well as her keen eye for details and an invaluable progress-tracking spreadsheet (making sure the book would be ready before Mark’s tenure dossier was due!)

 

Take a look at the book online, download it in multiple formats, and let us know how it works for you, your students, and your colleagues!

 

photo by Camille Villanueva on Unsplash

Collaborate & Create: Announcing the New Rebus Community Guide!

After two years of collaboration, thirty projects undertaken, and a dozen open textbooks released, we are thrilled to announce the publication of The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far). The book-in-progress is the result of innumerable conversations and exchanges within the Rebus Community, and represents a wide range of collective knowledge and experience. Keep telling us in the forum how we can make it easier and more sustainable for you to build books and community—that’s what we are here for!

Beyond our pleasure in sharing this outcome, however, we are enormously grateful for the many voices, perspectives, and helping hands that have made the Guide a reality. We also want to highlight those two little words in parentheses in the title: there are plenty of new learnings, knowledge, and reflexive revisions to come!

The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far)

The book (so far)… and what comes next

In its current form, The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far) is for anyone thinking about starting or joining an open textbook project. It starts at the beginning of the process, with chapters on project scoping and building a team, and then moves on to content creation and editing, getting feedback and reviews, coordinating release and adoptions, and sustaining the book’s community.

Like all Rebus-supported projects, however, the Guide is and will remain an effort that evolves and grows over time. Through conversations, use, new writers’ and editors’ contributions, and ongoing reflection and revision, it will reflect our changing perspectives on how and why we make open textbooks. In this way, it shows where we have collectively gotten so far, while embodying the ethos of openness and the reality that innovation is always characterized by change. As the book is used and the project grows, we look forward to a lively series of discussions on the Rebus Forum, as well as continuing re-imaginings of how our ecosystem makes textbooks.

The project and book were initiated by Zoe and Apurva as a way to comprehensively document our approach to OER publishing. Over the last two years, we have worked in a very hands-on way with more than 30 open textbook projects! That means that there are many practices that we have learned to make more inclusive, and numerous insights to exchange with the broader community of OER users and creators. Capturing them in text, but in a way that can evolve, is our aim with the Guide. Of course, because every project is different, there is no single template for success. In fact, it is within those differences that we see so much potential for making the Guide a living and dynamic resource.

The Guide represents an important moment in the evolution of the Rebus Community, a culmination of two years of great, collaborative work. Moving forward, it will serve as a living repository of collective knowledge, equipping those who want to publish open textbooks with the resources they need. Just as the forum and Projects platform provide the tools that can make the community more self-sustaining, the Guide will help build long-term capacity. In turn, we can dedicate more time to refining and extending this infrastructure, and enabling more project teams, anywhere in the world, to create and share OER.

Walking our own talk

As we started working on this project, we realized what a learning experience it is to walk the talk of creating collaborative, open textbooks. Using our own tools and resources has helped us identify what aspects of the platform and process work well, what hiccups still exist, and what kind of solutions and improvements we need to work on next. It has also made us all the more grateful when project leads, contributors, reviewers, and readers (and everyone else!) tell us what they think has been successful, as well as what issues remain. We’ll keep working to resolve those issues and avoid new ones. With every new voice giving us fresh and different perspectives, the Rebus Community grows in diversity—in time, that leads to a more accessible and responsive platform.

In the meantime, and in the interest of prompting other insights, here are a few of the surprises we bumped into during our work on the Guide:

  • Managing and contributing to open textbook projects takes a lot of time and hard workWhile that might seem obvious, what isn’t so straightforward is remembering to look after your own well-being along the way. Be nice to yourself (and each other): get lots of rest, eat well, and ask for help as often as possible! Along the way, all that energy you’re putting into the project needs to be replenished.
  • The publishing process isn’t always linear—in fact, it rarely is—and that’s a good thing! Sometimes slowing down to deal with the curves in the road is exactly how you learn to see things differently. Our insight is that you don’t have to wait to finish one task in order to move on to another, and you can ‘complete’ a given phase even if all the content isn’t there. Keep things moving on a rolling basis, and stay patient when the rolling gets rocky.
  • We continuously learn that paying attention to accessible design, inclusive language, diverse forms of marketing, and equitable editing is critical. There are implications for additional work down the line, both during production and after release. In the long run, however, this attention is part of what makes open textbook publishing truly openbeyond just the openness of licenses and usage.
  • Nothing about OER is a solo endeavour, and it’s not just authors who “create content.” An open textbook is many things at once—collective processes and outcomes, a learning opportunity, a set of connections within a community. Building a strong team for your project is therefore critical, and thoughtfully nurturing those people will enable them to nurture the project in return. It’s all about the ecosystem, and the stronger and more enjoyable that network is, the stronger and more successful the textbook will be!

In the coming weeks, we’ll be shining a light on different parts of the content, development process, and insights that have gone into and come out of The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far). We hope you’ll be a part of the project and follow its progress. Already there are plenty of discussions to be joined, templates and checklists to be used, chapter outlines to be reviewed, and updates to new content. Plus, lots of current and future reflections on why we believe so strongly in this model of publishing—including where it can lead. You’ll also soon be seeing three draft cover designs for the book, and we’ll be asking you for feedback on which ones are most appealing (and why). Stay tuned!

Like the Rebus Community as a whole, this book is an outcome of the collective generosity of many dedicated and creative people who believe in rebuilding the publishing ecosystem. We are humbled to have been able to work with our project leaders and contributors over these past two years. This is book is for you—for all of us, in fact—and stands as a promise to keep making (and re-making) the tools and resources that allow us all to create open textbooks. We hope you’ll be inspired by what we have collectively made—so far!