Friday, April 22, 2011

The First Steps to an Educated World

By: Ana Kabakova

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” -Carl Sagan

Many Open Education Resource (OER) initiatives work with Africa because of its economic, political, and health struggles across the continent. Many in the OER community have pledged to provide the needed resources to help guide Africa into the twenty-first century. However, sending any amount of money, textbooks, or laptops to the continent is an ineffective act without a very important group of key players: teachers.

Organizations in developed economies must recognize that the first priority should be to educate teachers across Africa. If there are no motivated and learned teachers driven to spread knowledge, then all the effort of organizations geared to resources goes to waste, and all of the individuals seeking guidance and mentorship are left uneducated.

Luckily, organizations see the critical need for educated teachers, and establish programs like OER Africa's Teacher Education program in order to provide resources for the professional development of teachers. This wealth of information spans from how to set up an effective curriculum, the professional challenges and choices of being a teacher, and the potentials of using media to help learners link abstract concepts and develop critical thinking.

Other organizations, like UNESCO promote international seminars such as the VIII International Seminar that will take place in Barcelona, Spain on October 6-7, 2011, addressing Teacher Training: Reconsidering the Teacher Roles. In these forums, teachers can come together to compare experiences and exchange ideas of which methods work best in the classroom environment for a variety of countries and cultures.

Teachers serve as an important link between students in need of education and the OER organizations, like the Global Text Project that put forth effort to provide textbooks and other learning materials that accessible to all. Only when we reach the goal of a universe full of skilled and knowledgeable teachers, can begin creating an educated world population, from scratch.




Ana Kabakova is a sophomore at the University of Georgia. She is working towards an double major in English and Russian and is on staff with the university newspaper, The Red and Black.

Friday, April 15, 2011

LibriVox: How volunteer-based collaboration is broadening accessibility of the public domain

By: Ana Kabakova

The essential idea of the public domain is that anybody can access its materials. However, the wealth of text in the public domain remains inaccessible to the blind, dyslexic, and learning impaired. Despite the fact that many works in the public domain can be obtained freely on the Internet, there is a conflict of rights between the consumers and publishers concerning whether text-to-speech software infringes on e-book publishers' rights. Some free public domain e-books do not allow for text-to-speech access. The blind, dyslexic, and learning impaired need better options for accessibility.

Faced with this problem, Hugh McGuire founded LibriVox, a volunteer-driven project with the goal of recording audio versions of all the book available in the United States public domain. LibriVox uses the human voice to record books in the public domain and distributes the recording freely removing any obstacles regarding publisher rights or the need for costly software.

How does it work? The project is coordinated online through a web forum, run by volunteers. Anyone can volunteer, so long as they can record their assigned reading into mp3 format. The texts are obtained from Project Gutenberg and are hosted by the Internet Archive for free. This kind of open education resource minded action mirrors Global Text Project's own internship initiative, allowing undergraduate English students the opportunity to grow as editors while providing the world with free, Creative Commons licensed textbooks.

With over 4,000 works in 31 languages, there is a vast variety of recording available for people with a myriad of needs, from the blind, dyslexic, or learning impaired, to those wanting to broaden their literary horizons. With a spirit of “acoustical liberation of books in the public domain”, LibriVox is a critical organization for making the public domain truly accessible for all.

More info on public domain:

Public domain information

A substantial part of the public domain consists of written works, ranging from religious literature to Shakespeare to Chekhov. These texts can be distributed freely through the Internet, though some publishers still dress them up and sell them as “classics editions”.


The Soundproof Book


Project Guenberg

Internet Archive

Ana Kabakova is a sophomore at the University of Georgia. She is working towards an double major in English and Russian and is on staff with the university newspaper, the Red and Black.

Friday, April 1, 2011

English Delight: The OER Dessert for Readers

By: Rebecca Arnall

What OER resources are available for those wishing to pursue language and higher studies in English? Whether you want to acquire the rudiments of English or embark upon a full-fledged education, the English portion of many OER libraries is sparse. Finding the English course you are interested in can prove a veritable treasure hunt. I have included my findings for the best resources in regard to the different nuances of an English education.

First and foremost, Project Gutenberg. For those unaware as to the glory of this gem, Project Gutenberg is an organization that provides free e-books to the public. They service almost every type of e-reader, or you can just download the books. Gutenberg’s books, all in public domain in the US, include classic authors such as Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, James Joyce, Mark Twain, and, of course, Shakespeare. If you simply want to READ good literature, there is no better resource.

However, if not ready to start reading literature but want to learn more about the English language, the resource better suited for you is Connexions. They offer English as a first additional language for grades 1- 9. They also offer the learning collections on English Language, Linguistics and Literature. Selected Readings of Classical Writings for Linguistic Theory, Literature History, and Applications of the English Language. to develop the skills required for a more introductory English education. As far as I have seen, Connexions provides the most material for non-English speakers.

Yet, if, like me, you are looking to expand on your prior English knowledge with college-level material, no resource has as many options as MIT open courseware. Their literature department has classes dating back to 2002. They have steadily built their department and now offer classes on just about every major facet of English literature from Studies in Poetry: 20th Century Irish Poetry: The Shadow of W. B. Yeats, to Literary Interpretation: Literature and Urban Experience, or Medieval Literature: Dante, Boccaccio, Chaucer depending on your interest. The classes they provide are similar to the classes required at the University of Georgia to fulfill the major requirements for an English degree. For those with a little extra time or seeking to brush up their English, this is a significant resource.

There are many other organizations that have OER resources for the humanities. Yale open courseware has four English classes available, including a great course on Modern Poetry. CCCOER has a mélange of helpful textbooks like Methods of Discovery: A Guide to Research Writing and Writing Skills for Business English. Many OER repositories out there may have at least one or two English resources; I just tried to highlight the ones with the most expansive resources that offer the most choices for those ardent English lovers like myself. Whatever you end up using, happy reading!

Rebecca Arnall is a sophomore at the University of Georgia. She working towards her B.A. in English and is an active member of the Demostenian Literary Society.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

One Laptop per Child: Spreading Education Through Technology

By: Jon Durden

Computers and Internet access are modern conveniences that many of Western nations take for granted, but almost impossible to obtain in developing economies. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has a plan to change that. OLPC is an organization dedicated to giving laptops to children in developing nations who might otherwise never experience such technology.

This device is more than just a laptop, it is both an e-reader and a gaming platform. The screen actually flips backwards and turns the laptop into a tablet. While in tablet mode, the screen switches to monochrome-mode, which makes it easy to read in direct sunlight and reduces its power consumption. A directional-pad and buttons located on either side of the screen may be used to flip pages, or they may be used to play video games while the device is in tablet-mode.

These laptops are more than just a cool toy—providing low-cost computers means providing access to education. OLPC has already delivered laptops to several countries, despite being only a few years old. Over two million laptops have been donated to several countries, such as: India, Paraguay, Madagascar, Nepal, Kenya, Afganistan, Uganda, and more. OLPC is connecting youth to the Internet and showing them a greater world.

Sierra Express Media (SEM) gives a real-world example regarding the benefits of providing these laptops to women of Uganda. In Uganda, women are largely ignored by the educational system. According to SEM: “Giving the little children the opportunity to see what their counterparts in other parts of the world are capable of achieving, via the Internet, should be enough of an incentive to make real progress.” By exposing them to a world where women are able to receive an education and become successful, they have the ability to realize their true potential.

The goal of the Global Text Project is to provide free textbooks to everyone in the world. These textbooks are available online, so without initiatives like OLPC our reach would be limited by a country's ability to access the Internet. The XO laptop will not only grant students access to our resources, but it will allow them to read the other digital material, should printing be too expensive or unavailable. Through our combined efforts, we have come one step closer to our goal of providing access to education around the world.


Jon Durden is s a junior at the University of Georgia. He is studying New Media and working towards an B.A. in English.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Keeping OER Accountable

By: Rebecca Arnall

In any worthwhile enterprise, accountability is crucial. Open Education Resources, or OER, should be no exception. With the growing mass of resources available through OER, it is becoming more important that a standard of reliability be enforced. While most of the Global Text Project's textbooks have been previously published and/or peer-reviewed, this is not always the case with OER materials. Some questions that need to be addressed are: how can a reader know whether the open education resources they choose are current (is the country of Czechoslovakia in the text?), who has created the resource, and has it been peer-reviewed before publishing?

Though currently no such thing exists, a possible solution is to establish an overarching accreditation system for OER resources. I am not sure exactly how this would happen, yet as more and more OER organizations collaborate with one another, the idea is becoming more of a reality.

One such collaborator is the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER).Teaming up with College Open Textbooks, the organization provides its own accreditation system, complete with over 150 institutions in 16 states (see: CCCOER members list ). Their strategy is: “providing training for instructors adopting open resources, peer reviews of open textbooks, and mentoring online professional networks that provide support to authors who open their resources.” With a continuing emphasis on quality resources and peer-reviews, this organization has created a network of academics that can help identify textbooks and provides guidelines for others to produce reliable resources.

According to a UNESCO forum that was held in May 2010, there was discussion about acquiring some kind of auditing or accrediting systems like this since 2004. Although helpful ideas were presented in these forums, (read the summary report here: UNESCO forum) there has been no implementation.

Of course, there is no easy solution to this situation. Any new development will take time, but it is certainly a problem worth reflecting upon.

Rebecca Arnall is a sophomore at the University of Georgia. She working towards her B.A. in English and is an active member of the Demostenian Literary Society.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Questioning eligibility for US federal OER funding

By Jon Durden with Marisa Drexel

In the US, the government just made a huge commitment to the OER community. The US Department of Labor announced a solicitation for grant applications that will award two billion dollars in US federal funding to OER programs working to improve higher education.

The Department of Labor's solicitation in Section III. A., states, “Eligible institutions are institutions of higher education as defined in Section 102 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1002) which offer programs that can be completed in not more than 2 years.”

This grant solicitation is a sign that the government has decided to embrace open textbooks. However, I am concerned that limiting funding to community colleges may not fully utilize the whole OER community. Some four-year institutions have OER programs already in place. The Global Text Project working through the University of Georgia is such an example. Other institutions also maintain resources like OpenCourseWare and digital repositories. Are two-year institutions going to build programs from the ground up when there are strong foundations or programs already housed at four-year institutions?

In the grant solicitation, eligibility is available for “consortia” to work with two-year institutions, but that generates even more questions in my head. Will the OER community be able to work together effectively enough so that program development will not be redundant and the money will not be wasted? Or, are eligibility demands stifling the effectiveness of government money?

At present, it just seems unfortunate to know that UGA's Global Text Project cannot immediately participate. Maybe we will find out more collaboration soon.

Regardless of my own queries and GTP's interests, a government pledge like this is truly commendable. It aligns with the Global Text Project's goal to make textbooks available to everyone. If this sort of funding model initiates more interest and the promotion of OER (in the US and around the world), in the future everyone will have better access to higher education.

For more information see:

Department of Labor's news release (,

Jan. 20, 2011 Creative Commons blog that included PDF program announcement (

Jon Durden is a junior at the University of Georgia. He is studying New Media and working towards an B.A. in English.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The impact of GTP on me

By Desiree White

Global Text Project's work is beneficial to those who cannot afford an education and I could tell you all about the pleasant feelings associated with making a difference in someone else's life, but I know you've heard that before. Instead, I want to tell you about what its like to be a twenty-something graduating into a globally depressed economy and what impact the Global Text Project has had.

I took on this internship with Global Text Project due to personal interests in the Open Education movement and technology. While I enjoy working with GTP and working with the production staff to put out more and more textbooks for use, I'd honestly never considered working in the publishing industry.

Although I have a semester left, my chance of getting a job initially seemed grim. I have bolstered myself by double majoring, but neither of my majors are in high demand. As graduation nears, nothing short of ongoing waves of semi-latent panic attacks persisted until I made a rather startling discovery.

As I started looking into ads for jobs in editorial or publishing industries, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself quite prepared. Many entry level positions wanted a BA, preferably in English (Check!), computer skills (as the current computer dork among the editorial assistants, check!), and at least a year of editorial experience (CHECK! I'll have a year and a half when I graduate). Suddenly the future doesn't seem so bleak, especially given that my year of editorial experience involves textbooks–and not just any textbooks! These are used internationally. That's a definite edge over a yearbook or a local paper or magazine because it adheres to higher standards of correct information and standardized formatting.

In addition, its a grand slam on the community service front because our books are free for anyone and downloaded all over the world. Between working with the social media and tracking the locations of people involved for a marketing project, I can list a plethora of places associated with GTP. I owe GTP so much for calming some of these coming-of-age fears and I can't wait to see what next semester brings as a production manager.

Look out publishing industry, here I come!