This week we have started talking about how we can make a BC textbook book sprint a reality in the spring of 2014. These are still very preliminary plans, but I’m very jazzed about the potential.
A book sprint is inspired by code sprints in the software development world where, in a very short time with a number of participants, something concrete is created. In the world of academic software development, I think of projects like the One Week, One Tool project out of George Mason University, which has given us tools like Anthologize and this years Serendip-o-matic developed in an intense one week burst of coding frenzy. (aside: I am a big fanboy of the work of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason. They have built some wonderful digital tools over the years, including Zotero, which I really should have included in my support what you use post as it is a tool that I do use every day for my research).
In the textbook hacking space, there has been some great projects that we can draw inspiration from, including Siyavula in South Africa, the Utah Open Textbook project , the Finland hackathon that produced a math textbook in 3 days, and (over the past weekend), the Creative Commons supported textbook hackathon at the University of Otago in New Zealand that produced a first year media studies and communications textbook.
This last project is especially interesting for 2 reasons. One, we are looking for a media and communications handbook for our open textbook collection and even though this will be create with a New Zealand focus, there will probably be material in there that we can use as a starting point to create our own media studies and communication textbook.
Second, one of the goals of the event was to create a textbook book sprint cookbook; a guide for others to use who wish to do a similar event. I love serendipity. Needless to say, I am looking forward to getting my hands on that cookbook, and have to applaud the crew involved in the project for recognizing that capturing the process is just as important as the final result. Open FTW.
As I said, these are really early days in our planning, and one of the first pieces we need to figure out is whether we create something from scratch, or whether we modify an existing resource. While many of the examples so far have focused on creating something from scratch, I actually think there is great value in having a book sprint where we remix an existing resource instead of creating from scratch. Remixing works is still a foreign and uncomfortable idea with many challenges (both technical and cultural). A remix-a-thon might help us address some of those issues head on and develop some real and concrete tools that could empower and enable others to look at remix as a viable option.
We also have to figure out the right mix of people to be involved. Obviously there will be faculty (subject matter experts), but what kinds of resources will we need to support them? Technical support, developers, editors, designers And how do we begin to facilitate the work? It needs to be tightly focused to meet the tight deadline. What kind of pre-event work needs to be done so that by the time you get to the event everyone is prepped and ready to roll? These are all questions that we will need to answer in the coming weeks and months as we begin to flesh out this plan.
Photo: Drupal code sprint by Kathleen Murtagh used under a CC-BY license