Textbooks are like dinosaurs: clunky, archaic, and not readily available. That's why Neeru Khosla founded CK-12 Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to lowering the cost of educational materials and making them more freely accessible around the world (Creative Commons).
Founding mother of the free-textbook movement
Neeru Khosla believes that the textbook should rely on open source web 2.0 technologies in order to be free and "re-mixable," which will better meet the unique learning needs and teaching styles of both educators and learners. Khosla, who has both a Master’s in Molecular Biology from San Jose State University and a Masters in Education from Stanford University, co-founded the CK-12 Foundation. CK-12 offers free access to open textbooks and supporting multimedia across a wide variety of devices ranging from e-readers to iPads. Print a copy, peruse at your leisure (or while a stressed-out student!), engage in video tutorials and multimedia content, all created by leading educators and vetted by a team of peers. CK-12 was born out of both an appreciation for the power of well-designed open source materials and a need Khosla experienced first-hand in her own science education, more access to often costly STEM-related textbooks.
Beyond helping to lead the "flexbook" charge, and in addition to remaining active in her local education community, Khosla has also served on the board of organizations ranging from the American India Foundation to DonorsChoose. She also served as an advisor for Rice University’s open source project, "Connexions," which focused on providing access to educational resources. Adding onto her already impressive CV, she was also an early member of the founding board of the K-12 Initiative at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. Despite keeping a low-profile, CK-12 has become a leader in the free "flexbook" movement providing access to free texts for educators and students all around the globe. Unlike for-profit ventures such as InkLing, CK-12 Foundation has managed to lead the field and remain free-of- charge.
Redefining the textbook of the future
Texts have been used to facilitate learning for centuries. However, despite this long history, there have been relatively few innovations in textbook creation, delivery or consumption, especially within the last century. Instead, with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution came a parallel standardization and assembly-line approach to getting learning materials into students’ hands. Paper, mass-production and a generic one-size-fits-most approach took hold and education has still not fully shaken free. Not until people like Khosla, other groups like Flatworld Knowledge, and open source technologies and content creation tools like iBook author has the textbook revolution started to move forward. More collaborative, open and ubiquitous materials to support learning could help to propel us toward the classroom of the future.
Image: Neeru Khosla at TEDxNYED (via Wikimedia Commons)