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Updating the Textbook

Prof Peter Goodhew | Universities of Liverpool and Derby

Updating the Textbook

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Many topics in materials and engineering might be considered factual and the role of the conventional book is largely to transmit and explain technical concepts. This remit has been extended over the past couple of decades by the addition of on-line material to support, illustrate, amplify or formatively assess the subject matter. However there is a different type of text in which subjective opinion plays a greater role. This is of course commonplace in arts, humanities, and social science, but I believe that there are a number of topics in modern engineering in which attitudes and approaches are amenable to discussion and debate. These might include management topics, ethical issues, engineering education and even current 'hot' topics such as sustainability and climate change. Any printed version of a book which includes such topics is immediately frozen at a point in time with a particular set of attitudes, approaches and examples. I have therefore identified a need for a 'commentable' book. Ideally this would be an original text, produced in the conventional way by one or two authors, published on line preferably as an Open Educational Resource (OER) under a Creative Commons licence. The reader would be able to add a comment to any paragraph to provide an alternative point of view or an additional example. Since I believe that a paper book still has value (it's hard to wave a web page at a seminar or read it on a West Coast mainline train!) the on-line version would be linked to a print-on-demand facility. All the constituent elements of this concept exist ? free on-line texts exist; you can comment on the writing of another in googledocs; there are many print-on-demand suppliers ? but they do not appear to have been combined in the way I suggest. I have therefore set up a proof-of-concept project to take my existing text 'Teaching Engineering' update it as far as I am able, and then publish it as a commentable text. I expect by April 2014 to have made substantial progress on this project and propose to report on the success or otherwise of this experiment.