Understanding foundations before tools

I’ve been following the latest Book Sprint at Eyebeam in New York City with interest as it is a bit of a unique project. They took a textbook that used all proprietary software for the exercises and examples, and re-wrote the book so that the exercises can be completed using all free software instead. Think of students shifting from Photoshop to GIMP, and seamlessly moving to InkScape from Illustrator.

The book was originally collaboratively authored in a wiki, and FLOSS Manuals got approached to take the textbook and turn it into a proprietary-software-free resource.

The introduction to the Digital Foundations book describes so well a typical student’s approach to learning.

This book was written by two artist educators who teach digital art and design studio foundation classes. While teaching classes that take place in software laboratories, we noticed that many of our students expected to learn to use software, but gave little consideration to aesthetics or art and design history. A typical first day question is, “Are we going to learn Photoshop in this class?”

According to Michael Mandiberg in “On collaboration,” as he was preparing for the Book Sprint he has a lot of thoughts about collaborative authoring, and I found it well worth reading. But I also noted his elation that “We have secured the first Creative Commons license from Peachpit/Pearson. (CC+, BY-NC-SA)” I love the spirit of openess represented from a publisher willing to experiment. This Book Sprint is such a neat example of what collaborative efforts can accomplish. Photos are found at http://en.flossmanuals.net/about and I like the energy shown in this one.

Sprint!

Eyebeam in NYC
This is what a sprint looks like when you’re there in person.

Wiki quickly!

FLOSS Manuals wiki interface
This is what a sprint looks like on your computer if you’re participating remotely – you’ll see your name next to one of the “chapters” or “topics.”

If you want to experience this type of authoring sprinting for yourself, get involved with the next FLOSS Manuals Book Sprint where we’ll be working on a book for the Firefox browser. The sprint is March 17th & 18th in Palm Springs, CA which will be lovely that time of year. It’s being held in connection with the Documentation and Training West conference, aka DocTrain West. Scott Abel is offering free conference registration to Book Sprint participants who stay in the conference hotel.

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