A group of Finnish mathematics researchers, teachers and students got together this past weekend (Sept. 28-30, 2012) to produce a mathematics textbook in three days. They’re not quite done, but at almost 130 pages so far, they’re pretty darn close! Too bad my Finnish isn’t good enough (actually non-existent) to evaluate the results. Nevertheless, it’s a remarkable achievement any way you look at it. Especially when you consider that a group of teachers did something similar here in the Twin Cities last year and it took them an entire summer – which I then thought was a pretty remarkable achievement.
The Finnish group used a methodology called “Booksprint” which was developed to produce manuals for Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS). The method has already been used to produce over 40 FLOSS manuals. Booksprints involve a large number of individuals with various relevant backgrounds working collaboratively, either remotely or locally, to produce published books, usually within 2-5 days. The method requires intensive pre-planning culminating in an “unconference” at which the text is written, edited and prepared for publication. Participants make extensive use of open source methodologies and tools to facilitate sharing, versioning, and tracking, ex. using GitHub.
The Finnish math textbook project is the first open educational resource project that I have come across that uses the Booksprint methodology (I love that they’ve included students in the process). It seems ideal to the task and, in fact, what I have tried to promote for many years now with little acceptance. Hopefully Booksprint is exactly the concrete methodology that is needed to push this way of working forward. I’m sure that the Finnish appreciation for collaborative work in education is helpful, too.