Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Open Content Textbooks Available to All Without Proof of Disability

U. S. Department of Education Grants Funding to Bookshare to Convert OpenContent Textbooks to Accessible Formats

I have been doing a lot of training this past fall on Accessible Instructional Materials and copyright issues. When I share about the content via NIMAS files being available to those who qualify, I see enthusiam fade. Why?
Many special education teachers think at first that the students they have who have reading and processing disabilities or are LD will qualify for NIMAS files under AIM initiatives.
When they realize that you can only freely access these files if you are:
1.) Blind/visually impaired 2.) orthopedically impaired to where you can't hold a book or turn pages, or 3.) diagnosed by a medical doctor with an organic brain dysfunction, they are disappointed.
Now, there has been a new wrinkle to this issue. An open content math/science textbook has been designed and adopted in California that meets their content standards. The press release below, outlines the details. This new open content textbook will be available to any student for free, regardless of disability identification or eligibility status. The files will be able to be downloaded at Bookshare. They are not available yet.
This means that for the first time, there is a textbook that anyone can download for free to access content in aletrnate print formats. The questions that need to be answered are:
1. Will other states adopt this text as a viable alternative to the textbook companies versions?
2. Will school districts allow teachers to use this as supplemental text to support the curriculum to any student needing an alternate format?
3. If so, does this fulfill the requirements of AIM if it is a text other than what everyone else has?
4. What is the quality of content in these open/content texts?

The answers will have to be explored. I will download the files when available and look through them. I am going to pass them on to the curriculum folks in our region to present to curriculum committees for cross-referencing and to see if they are aligned with our content standards. I am also going to ask our state AIM group and text book adoption team if they would look into this and see what they think.
This is an exciting new trend, but it could have some pitfalls if we are not careful. One I see is that the content for schools gets taken out of the hands of free-enterprise and competition for quality by publishers and gets placed in a government-controlled content text that can reflect the standards and opinions it wants to convey. I don't mean to be paranoid, but I think we need to consider and warn against that if this is a trend that might snowball state by state.

All the best to you,

Open Content Textbooks Available to All without Proof of Disability

Release by Benetech and Bookshare - "Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has awarded Bookshare $100K in supplemental funding to create the first accessible versions of open content digital textbooks. The initial planned conversion of open content textbooks, which are distributed freely under a license selected by the author, are math and science textbooks approved for California students. California is leading the nation in encouraging the use of free, open content textbooks. Under the direction of the Governor, Secretary of Education, and Superintendent of Public Instruction, the California LearningResource Network (CLRN) reviewed for standards alignment open-source digitaltextbooks for grades 9-12 in the subject areas of mathematics and science. While some open content textbooks may be edited, the publishers of these digital high school textbooks are guaranteeing consistent content for the next two years. As other states begin to approve open content textbooks, Bookshare will continue to convert these materials to accessible formats for all students who read better with accessible text. The first open content textbooks approved for use in California will be available via Bookshare at<http://www.bookshare.org/> http://www.bookshare.org/. The texts will be offered in the accessible DAISY format that enables multi-modal reading, combining highlighted on-screen text with high-quality computer-generated voice, and BRF, a digital Braille format for use with Braille displays orembossed Braille.
"Once again California's innovation has inspired action, as those with reading challenges will soon be able to read the standards-aligned digital textbooks adopted under California's first-in-the-nation digital textbook initiative," said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"Thanks to Bookshare and the U.S. Department of Education, these textbooks will be converted into accessible formats so students who struggle with reading traditional textbooks have a new opportunity to enhance their education." Under the terms of the OSEP award, the accessible formats will offer a choice of digital book files with or without images, including detailed math and science illustrations and image descriptions for those with visual disabilities. "Traditional copyrighted books, including those contributed to Bookshare by publishers, are protected with digital rights management technology and available only to those with a documented print disability. But Bookshare's open content books will become part of the freely distributable books in the Bookshare collection and can be used by anybody without proof of disability," says Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman.
"These accessible books will not only help disabled students throughout the U.S. and globally, but provide parents, teachers and assistive technology developers with free access to real talking textbooks." This initiative builds on Bookshare's experience as the largest converter of digital textbooks from the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) into accessible formats for students in K-12 public schools.
TheNIMAC is a federally-funded central repository for digital versions of textbooks. About Bookshare Bookshare is the world's largest accessible online library for people withprint disabilities. Through its technology initiatives and partnerships, Bookshare seeks to raise the floor on accessibility so that individuals withprint disabilities have the same ease of access to print materials as peoplewithout disabilities. In 2007, Bookshare received a $32 million five-yearaward from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special EducationPrograms (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with aqualified print disability. The Bookshare library now has over 60,000 booksand serves more than 70,000 members. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that creates sustainable technology to solve pressing social needs. "


Bookmark this on Delicious

No comments: