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Open Source Textbook For Computer Literacy? 95

Posted by timothy
from the just-ask-russie-poo dept.
dcollins writes "The college where I work has decided to forego ordering a textbook for the computer class that I teach this fall. Does anyone know of a free, open-source textbook for basic computer literacy concepts (overview of hardware, software, operating systems, and file systems)?"
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Open Source Textbook For Computer Literacy?

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  • by BabaChazz (917957) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:19PM (#28998017)
    And get the class to help. Contributions count towards the class grade, of course. http://en.wikibooks.org/ [wikibooks.org]
  • No need (Score:1, Insightful)

    by unlametheweak (1102159) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:19PM (#28998021)

    If you are going to teach, then a text book is redundant. Students only need to study from their notes, otherwise a library should suffice for extra curricular learning.

    • Re:No need (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Brian Gordon (987471) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:38PM (#28998179)

      Lecture notes are no substitute for a well-written textbook. Lecture notes are for when you learn in class, and then remind yourself for the test. But you really should be learning from your coursework and using lecture time to just try to absorb as much insight as possible from the masters..
       
      I've had professors who expect us to learn from the course materials. They don't repeat the same thing that's in the textbook because that's a total waste of time. They do what a professor should: provide insights not in the book, share real-world experience (if applicable), and answer questions.

      • Re:No need (Score:3, Interesting)

        by unlametheweak (1102159) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:52PM (#28998271)

        That really all depends on your own definition of "teach" and probably on some teaching paradigms that have been used on you. Everything can be taught via a text book (it would save money on hiring teachers). Or everything could be taught through a teacher, or a school could use your hybrid method. There is no "best" way to learn, though my option at least saves the expense of a text book while helping to ensure that the teacher is actually capable of teaching instead of just regurgitating. And the reality is that text books are a waste of money because there will be hardly any students who read them or study from them, except on a very rudimentary level. Even most "reference" works will be a waste of money for most students.

        • Re:No need (Score:3, Interesting)

          by maharb (1534501) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @06:17PM (#28998859)

          If you are talking facts and figures you are correct. Some teaching requires a back and forth 'conversation' with a teacher. For instance, try teaching writing using only books. Without a teacher pointing out flaws and showing the student where they are going wrong the student doesn't know if they get it. Some subjects are not so cut in stone enough for a student to just read a textbook and know if they truly understand it. Tests administered through a book can't even prove you know it because as many teachers will say, getting the correct answer isn't as important as how you arrived there. I think having a hybrid method is the best regardless. Books are needed because some students need more time than others to absorb information. Books allow those who are slower learners to spend more time on the subject. The teacher is needed to demonstrate the subject to you. These days multimedia are able to fulfill this role a bit easier. Teachers are also needed to answer questions and promote insightful thought processes. Teachers provide a vital role in learning that has no substitute.

          Russia is currently looking at how the US teaches art because their students lack insight and creativity. Art is delectably the most important subject to have a teacher to look over your shoulder and give insight into your learning. A book can't give you feedback, or help you be creative. Teachers in Russia teach as if they were walking textbooks, they just give facts and ask for those facts to be repeated. The result is little innovation, little creativity, and a whole bunch of robots that can do the same thing really well. I think if people were taught with textbooks they would be 'learning' but they would have little idea how humans actually interact with the subject which even if it could all be articulated into words, may still not provide the equivalent to a teacher.

          I have a perfect example of this that I just went through yesterday. Teaching someone to wake board. First I explained to the person how to do it (a textbook could have done this job) then it was time to try and do it. They tried to follow the instructions but fell forward. They probably didn't have the insight or perspective to know what the did wrong, but I, as a teacher did and I explained that they needed to do to fix the situation. This process went on until they finally learned how to wake board. A book can't do this, a teacher can.

          • by unlametheweak (1102159) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @09:15PM (#28999673)

            Some teaching requires a back and forth 'conversation' with a teacher

            That's called the Socratic method. It is not required but can be very useful if both the teacher and the student have the intelligence to exploit it. Unfortunately it is like debating committees; most people cannot perceive an ad hominem when it slaps them in the face (teachers or students). This approach also assumes that the average teacher is both intelligent and enthusiastic. Try arguing with a PhD in Mathematics; he will claim that he is more logical than you because he knows advanced calculus. Not so bright, many of these PhDs.

            Without a teacher pointing out flaws and showing the student where they are going wrong the student doesn't know if they get it.

            You are talking about evaluating progress. This does not have to be in real time, and it doesn't even have to be done by a teacher. Granted a (thoughtful and intelligent) teacher may make the process a lot more efficient. Unfortunately it doesn't appear that teachers get hired based on thoughtfulness, but rather on the salesmanship skills of socialization like volunteering and references and grades (did any teacher ever have the honest and insightful proclamation that high grades does not make a person intelligent or less likely to amputate the wrong organ during surgery? and that grades don't demonstrate mastery of a subject or even basic knowledge of the material?... if not then you probably had mainly incompetent and dishonest teachers who strive to promote the status quo).

            Teachers provide a vital role in learning that has no substitute.

            That's where the whole mythology in these type of topics come to fruition. Teachers will above all teach you what they have been taught. The vast majority of actual in-class "teaching" is just regurgitation. We have Cable in the Classroom for that.

            Teachers are also needed to answer questions and promote insightful thought processes.

            I don't know where you live, but anything that is original or creative is likely to get a person sent to jail in the U.S.A. and many other Western countries. I wrote about this in one of my journals about Zombiism (Ref [slashdot.org]. Read the links I have in the journal; they are quite lucid as to the type of status quo education people receive in the U.S. and places like Canada, and the type of teachers that end up getting careers).

            Russia is currently looking at how the US teaches art because their students lack insight and creativity. Art is delectably the most important subject to have a teacher to look over your shoulder and give insight into your learning.

            Same answer as above. You will not find anything useful to learn in a U.S. school.

            Teachers in Russia teach as if they were walking textbooks, they just give facts and ask for those facts to be repeated. The result is little innovation, little creativity, and a whole bunch of robots that can do the same thing really well. I think if people were taught with textbooks they would be 'learning' but they would have little idea how humans actually interact with the subject which even if it could all be articulated into words, may still not provide the equivalent to a teacher.

            I grew up in Canada, and it's basically the same here. In fact in college in Canada I've had at least one Russian teacher. I don't think the U.S. is that different from Canada.

            I have a perfect example of this that I just went through yesterday. Teaching someone to wake board.

            Yes some hands on things like auto mechanics, dentistry etc are sometimes easier to learn with a teacher. But I'm talking from theory; now that I think of it most of the hands on things that I learned very well I actually taught myself to do. In school or in the workplace I always did poorly when trying to learn

            • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT net> on Sunday August 09, 2009 @11:30AM (#29002731) Homepage Journal

              Yes, I'll admit that there most of education is mostly regurgitation... or frankly even more important a bunch of diploma mills that go through the motions of delivering information (not the same thing as teaching) and hoping that some of it sticks when they graduate. Or even worse, it is a windowing process that gives a variation of trade guild journeyman status upon its graduates, but deliberately tries to cull out as much cruft as they can to maintain higher wages for the respective professions that earn these credentials.

              None of this is actually related to learning... as that isn't the point of the educational process. Indeed a great portion of the educational process is actually dedicated to deliberately occupying a significant part of the labor force (children and young adults) so that they won't be competing for wages against older adults. Other objectives for the educational process also include teaching conformity, social behaviors like not starting a revolution (even if teaching about previous revolutions), and all kinds of social conditioning.

              If you happen to learn something along the way, you have actually accomplished something above and beyond what the overall objective of the educational process was really about.

              Getting back to the journeyman status in various trade guilds... and keeping in mind that the ranks and titles are not the same for every profession.... it is generally assumed that a "journeyman" or somebody newly initiated into a profession ought to have at least a basic knowledge of that profession. It would look bad to the profession if somebody with the proper credentials can't really do what they claim to be able to do... so there are some information presentation standards that some of the brighter students do pick up.

              All this said, in the USA with its overlapping levels of jurisdiction (federal, state, county, municipality, and even neighborhood levels of government sometimes... and other governing bodies that cross various jurisdictional boundaries) there is room for an instructor who actually teaches. As an ordinary teacher, one of the real pleasures that you get out of the process of instruction is to be able to see a student who "gets it" that didn't understand a concept before. Typical school district tenure policies... while they do protect the incompetent and politically motivated... also protect those who genuinely have a love of learning and want to inspire the next generation of students.

              In this I'd have to agree that most of what happens is to pound in information in a rather robotic fashion, but there are scattered around to have enough of these would-be real instructors who actually help students to learn that it allows the system to actually work. These instructors (they can be grade school teachers or university professors... found at all levels and kinds of educational institutions) usually just quietly do their job and get things done, and it is because of the humble and quiet nature of what they do that they are able to stay beneath the radar of those who would drive out this sort of creativity.

    • by gerf (532474) <edtgerf@gmail.com> on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:56PM (#28998315) Journal

      He can just have good notes and ideas of what he wants to teach, then print copies of those for each class. Add in a few projects or assignments to drill specifics into the students, and viola, you're good to go! It's a lot more work, but if you're willing to save the kids the money on books, it's a possibility.

      • by unlametheweak (1102159) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @05:09PM (#28998425)

        He can just have good notes and ideas of what he wants to teach, then print copies of those for each class. Add in a few projects or assignments to drill specifics into the students, and viola, you're good to go! It's a lot more work, but if you're willing to save the kids the money on books, it's a possibility.

        That's something that I was thinking as well (as a substitute for a textbook). To add to my previous comment; there will never be enough time to truly learn what is in a textbook because school curricula will always outpace the amount of information that are in these text books.

        Your method of course is not particularly good either, because a large part of the learning process is in taking notes, organizing information in your own notes, etc. I hope things have changed since I was a kid, but nobody ever taught me how to learn, or spoon fed me for that matter, so I ended up getting a lot of C's and D's in school before I finally learned on my own how to learn. I now use mind maps, flash card techniques, outlining techniques, etc and so on. I'm not in school any more, but I'm learning more through my own initiative right now than I ever learned in high school or college. Formal education is over-priced and over-lame.

        • by DeadSeaTrolls (591736) on Monday August 10, 2009 @02:08PM (#29013823)

          Bravo, to me you are making a whole lot more sense than most of the posters here. You are not alone.

          I remember getting a lot of C's too, the fallacy here is that it was not because I was lazy, but because the material was boring or lacking strong practical applicability, and I was frankly not interested. The C's were a result of proving I understood the minimum required to get to something more interesting, or of doing something more interesting instead of the work the teacher actually proposed, or expected. It is ok to rock the boat. Kids should be encouraged to find things they enjoy and excel at, the one-size-fits-all teaching methods are fundamentally flawed and damaging. And the medicate to achieve conformity is nothing short of criminal. ADHD is a symptom of the failure to achieve real engagement.

          I have found that the process of taking notes, transcribing white/black board writings, or even retyping someone elses notes is far more effective than just reading them, or reading a text book. It is a function of "crossing the brain", where the information enters, is actually processed, and exits. I can also scan things, but that is more of an immediate operation where the content is mostly discarded, but I know where to go find it later if it becomes important.

          This whole expectation that you can spoon feed people, or beat it into them with repetition is what flaws the US and UK systems, and the damage that has been done to them over the last few decades by people that are supposedly qualified and certified to teach, or set teaching environments.

          Everyone learns in different ways, but I've always found that reading a book, or multiple books covering a topic from a couple of perspectives, and then applying that information in some practical way, or trial and error, are the best ways to truly understand a topic. Unfortunately most people want to "learn" enough to earn the qualification, and not actually "understand" what they are doing. For it is understanding that permits you to do things that aren't printed in a book, or a Google search away.

          Formal education is over-priced and over-lame.

          Indeed, and I'd hire someone who had actual demonstrable skills, over someone with a shelf full of supposed certifications.

    • Re:No need (Score:-1, Offtopic)

      by unlametheweak (1102159) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @05:50PM (#28998699)

      These negative moderations that I get whenever I comment on education is really indicative to the audience. It reminds me of when Mathematicians were flaming me because I told them that the average person does not need to know calculus in order to drive a car. People like YOU may call me stupid, but YOU are just an ASSHOLE. GO fuck yourself.

    • by gabebear (251933) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @05:55PM (#28998723) Homepage Journal
      These classes are basically certificate courses... no real learning goes on in them.

      In my experience, these computer literacy classes are a waste of time for 95% of the people taking them. I proctored a couple of these classes and had a hard time staying awake and would have skipped the classes if it had been an option. "Teaching" these classes is very hard (I'm not even sure it's possible). These classes cover such exciting things as "opening files" and then finish with advanced topics like "Excel functions". Freshmen think it will be an easy "A" and don't bother testing out of it, then don't bother attending the classes and fail it.

      I think these "literacy" courses should not count towards your GPA, this would motivate people to test out of them and clear enough of the chaff to allow the classes to be taught to the 5% who couldn't figure this stuff out on their own and need to be taught. Anyhoo... the bureaucracy in most universities makes it nearly impossible to encourage people to NOT take a class.
  • Free and easy (Score:3, Informative)

    by XPeter (1429763) * on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:20PM (#28998031) Homepage

    First, there's Wikibooks http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page [wikibooks.org] which includes a large number of references, but the quality isn't always superb.

    Then, there's Flat World http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/ [flatworldknowledge.com] (A relatively new, growing site) that contains not as numerous titles as Wikibooks, but the writing is thorough and usually better than the textbooks themselves. The big downside to Flat World is that in your case (since it's still developing), it doesn't contain a computer science section, but it's being worked on and is expected to be released soon.

    Though I have not personally used Wikibooks and Flat World extensively, I've heard from others that they're amazing resources.

  • by ojintoad (1310811) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:21PM (#28998039)
    http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Subject:Computing [wikibooks.org] Add another AskSlashdot to the pile that's 30 min of google research time.
  • "Open Source" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:24PM (#28998055)

    I guess free/open concept has been hijacked into becoming free/cheap. I don't think that was the point at all.

    Anyway, if you want "cheap" option, cobbling together various Wikipedia pages may be a feasible option?

    • by michaelmanus (1529735) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @05:08PM (#28998413)
      It's funny that wikipedia is probably the best for both uses of the term.
      The new "open source" - free.
      The old "open source" - you can look at the source of the work - revision history, contributors, etc.
    • Re:"Open Source" (Score:3, Interesting)

      by st0rmshad0w (412661) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @05:51PM (#28998703)

      I fail to see the college's angle on this. They are refusing to order a textbook (we are told) that will be required for the class, a class they approved to be taught for which they are happy to collect tuition money from students. But they won't order textbooks? Which are (in every college I have ever seen) ordered by the school bookstore and sold to students taking the courses for a profit? What the hell? There is something more to this story that we aren't being told because it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

      • Re:"Open Source" (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Magic5Ball (188725) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @01:28AM (#29000737)

        The timing of this question one month before classes start suggests that the department or instructor missed the bookstore's deadline to order sufficient copies for sale in September, due to unexpected increases in enrollment, recently discovered issues with the old text, or to lack of administrative support/orientation to a new or sessional instructor who would be expected to adhere to bookstore or publisher/distributor deadlines.

        Also, university bookstores are increasingly encouraged to operate as profitable or self-sustaining business units, putting other objectives in front of servicing students and faculty. Ordering and shelving a low/high number of copies on a rush basis may not be sufficiently profitable at the margins involved.

      • by kubulai (768474) <promotions@alt-fw.org> on Sunday August 09, 2009 @02:30AM (#29000911) Homepage
        Perhaps the University simply feels that a person qualified to teach is capable of writing material with which to teach? Or that material written now would be more up to date in a fast changing field.
      • by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Monday August 10, 2009 @01:26PM (#29013139) Homepage

        Yeah, the idea that a professor might actually want to save his students money just doesn't pass the sniff test. There must be a conspiracy afoot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:25PM (#28998069)

    1. Google
    2. RTFM*

    * If you don't know what this means, refer to Lesson 1.

  • by Krakadoom (1407635) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:25PM (#28998071)
    "overview of hardware, software, operating systems, and file systems"

    I have a hard time reconciling that this should be college level course material. What kinds of students actually need to be given this information in 2009?
    • by unlametheweak (1102159) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:32PM (#28998123)

      "overview of hardware, software, operating systems, and file systems"

      I have a hard time reconciling that this should be college level course material. What kinds of students actually need to be given this information in 2009?

      That sounds incredibly arrogant (and quite stupid IMHO). One could always wonder why people would need to review the different functions of various parts of the brain for an introductory psychology course, because well, everybody has a brain so they should know how it works. Unfortunately this line of thinking has very little to do with reality.

    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:42PM (#28998199)

      "overview of hardware, software, operating systems, and file systems"

      I have a hard time reconciling that this should be college level course material. What kinds of students actually need to be given this information in 2009?

      I have a hard time reconciling that an educated person would be unaware there are college students enrolled in majors other than Computer Science.

      If you've been to college, you almost certainly have been required to take courses outside of your major - usually known as survey courses. You're usually given a range of classes that meet the basic requirement. A CS survey course would likely satisfy a general science requirement for, say, a history major or an art major. You might even see students from other science programs (e.g. geology, chemistry).

  • by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:26PM (#28998081)
    Just read /. - an education in itself!
  • by zackhugh (127338) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:31PM (#28998119)

    It's not open source, but for $0.01, you can buy Robert X. Cringely's wonderful though dated Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date [amazon.com]. Not only does Bob give you first-hand accounts of the people who pioneered computer hardware, software, and operating systems, he's also pretty damn funny. You could also point your students to his free sites: the current site [cringely.com] or the old site [pbs.org].

     

    He's not always right, but he's usually knows what he's talking about and he's frequently entertaining.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:31PM (#28998121)

    "Does anyone know of a free, open-source textbook for basic computer literacy concepts (overview of hardware, software, operating systems, and file systems)?"

    Physical books don't have source code. :D It sounds like you are looking for a "creative commons license" for a text that covers the aforementioned. However, those licenses are "free as in beer, not free as in freedom", to quote an old adage. There are write-ups on the various topics, but I haven't seen a book published under any kind of open license available in print. You may have to do what many instructors do -- which is create a workbook instead with various works. If you're looking to create a curriculum, I'd look past just text books. Take this for example; It's a short video with some of these concepts covered.

    Google has an option for searching by "Usage rights". Consider using it to find some of these works.

  • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmytheNO@SPAMjwsmythe.com> on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:37PM (#28998161) Homepage Journal

        Not to be too obvious, but...

        man man

  • by Comatose51 (687974) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:47PM (#28998227) Homepage
    Seriously, for introductions to subjects, the Wikipedia is often very good.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:49PM (#28998253)

    I was always pointed to www.pcguide.com for nice answers. They're fairly frank in their articles, but they have lots of information if you can get past the unusually colours.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:50PM (#28998257)
    I know one, but your readers will have to fetch the newest sources from a Git repository an then build it with pdfTeX. But mind you, they will be pretty computer literate afterwards!
  • by raboofje (538591) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:53PM (#28998275)
    Take a browse though http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Electrical-Engineering-and-Computer-Science/index.htm [mit.edu] There doesn't seem to be an 'overview' class like the one you're describing, but perhaps you could combine some of the introductions of the various courses.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 08, 2009 @05:44PM (#28998667)

      +1.

      I actually used these at the same time as taking the lower level equivalent courses locally, 2000 miles away. I was out of school for 10 years prior and worked full time while in school full time. When study time finally came around, I couldn't always make sense of the notes I took in class. When I fired up the lectures on the same topics from http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index.htm [mit.edu] , I could effectively pause, and repeat segments of lectures until I fully grasped the concepts and ideas, then proceed at my own pace.

      When I saw this topic, I knew I had to post about it.

      TLDR: E;FB

  • by dhjdhj (1355079) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @04:54PM (#28998285)
    If you don't know how to find such a thing yourself, I would not want to be one of your students!
  • Source? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rm999 (775449) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @05:12PM (#28998447)

    What does "source" mean when you say open source? If you mean creative commons or some other open licensing scheme, don't refer to it as "source", which specifically refers to software.

    If you want a really high level overview from a source with an open licensing scheme, Wikipedia is probably good enough. Wikipedia actually has very good coverage of basic computing concepts. I realize that is a bit unprofessional though, but any open source will potentially have the same issues that Wikipedia does.

    • by vnaughtdeltat (1167485) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @02:34PM (#29003863)

      What does "source" mean when you say open source? If you mean creative commons or some other open licensing scheme, don't refer to it as "source", which specifically refers to software.

      There are plenty of extensions of the phrase "open source" that have nothing to do with software. See Terms based on open source [wikipedia.org] for examples, which include "Open source political campaign", "Open source record label", and "Open source religion".

      I realize that technical people are the last people to criticize for being nitpicky about their terms, but, for the rest of the world, language changes. You should be glad that people have picked up on the ethos instead of jumping on them for inaccuracy.

      • by rm999 (775449) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @05:33PM (#29004999)

        The problem is the term "open source" in this case is vague. Does it mean several people can work on it, like a wiki? Or just that it's free, as in beer?

        I would normally assume the first, but in this case he probably would be fine with the latter. That is why the misapplication of "open source" troubles me - most consumers of information don't care about the libre aspect of free, i.e. the part that actually makes it open.

        • by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Monday August 10, 2009 @04:36PM (#29015815) Homepage

          Open source doesn't really mean either of those things, but I understand the confusion. The term seems to be getting looser as it makes its way into popular culture, and it's being applied to things where the official OSI definition doesn't really apply (textbooks, pictures, movies, etc.)

          If the discussion were about software, we'd be best to adhere to the OSI definition. None of this "Microsoft Shared Source" crap. But for a textbook, here's what "open source" means to me:

          * It is available to the user in a user-modifiable format. Tex, Quark, InDesign, whatever. The software itself needn't be free or open source, but it helps.

          * All text in the book, and the layout, are under a license that allows redistribution and modification. Ideally, Creative Commons.

          * All images in the book are available under a license that allows redistribution. Graphs should be available under a format and license that allows easy modification. Think SVG as opposed to, say, JPG.

          Free beer textbooks are awesome, but I think we should be firm on the fact that they're not open source.

    • by dcollins (135727) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @10:42PM (#29007121) Homepage

      "What does 'source' mean when you say open source? If you mean creative commons or some other open licensing scheme, don't refer to it as 'source', which specifically refers to software."

      No, the use has expanded in publishing and academia.
      See here in California -- http://www.opensourcetext.org/ [opensourcetext.org]
      See here in the Federal government -- http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-1464&tab=summary [govtrack.us]

  • by IQGQNAU (643228) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @05:46PM (#28998677)
    Connexions (http://cnx.org) is a project for open source book material that is designed to enable teachers to "mix & match" books that are then printed on demand. There are 2336 hits for "computer" in the catalog. No idea if any of that is useful to you. http://cnx.org/content/search?target=&words=computer&allterms=weakAND&search=Go [cnx.org] There is also content on "open source in education": http://cnx.org/lenses/rgardler/foss [cnx.org]
  • by greenlead (841089) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @05:49PM (#28998691) Journal
    My dad's non-profit: http://alt-fw.org/ [alt-fw.org] Download page: http://alt-fw.org/manuals/index.htm [alt-fw.org] From the page: "Computer Manuals available for free download under a Creative Commons license. All manuals are ©Copyright Adult Life Training, Inc. The manuals are provided "AS IS" in .pdf format. By downloading any of this material you agree to the terms specified therein. "
  • Poor Students (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moehoward (668736) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @06:02PM (#28998761)

    You will never be able to get for free what you can get in a textbook. What book were you using before?

    Good computer concepts textbooks are updated yearly or every other year to incorporate the latest technology. For example, 2 years ago you could buy an up-to-date book that included floppy drives, but no USB flash drive coverage. But today, a modern book would not include floppies but include flash drives. One example of hundreds.

    A purchased textbook includes exercises, marginal elements that challenge students in a number of ways, copious instructor materials, supporting Web sites, and assessment software. You will NEVER find such a complete, up-to-date replacement for free. Good luck trying, though. Your school is doing both its instructors and students a disservice.

    These days, textbook companies do quite a bit of work for instructors. Modern instructors of such computer concepts courses do not want to do grading, write exercises, and, god forbid, create their own lecture. They want it spoon fed, and textbook companies do that if you want it.

    Just because students (and young instructors) have gotten "free" digital entertainment does not mean that this concept translates to educational material. I see so many young instructors who grew up on Napster now trying to transfer that experience to almost all published material. I'm not saying they want to steal content, just get high-quality for free. How sad. Do you next expect your students to ask you to lecture for free as well?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 08, 2009 @09:54PM (#28999825)

      Considering that most intro computer textbooks I've seen would, in fact, just be starting to offer information on USB Flash drives as you suggest - I'd say you'll never get decent quality computer lit information from a for-pay textbook either.

      Dump the kids in a lab with triple-boot Macs (Ubuntu / Snow Leopard / Windows 7) and make 'em complete assignments on each in round-robin using Open Office / Apple Works / Microsoft Office, then turn the assignments in to you via burned CD's, email, etc. Then they'll actually learn the basics of using a modern computer.

      Otherwise, they'll spend days reading about the wonders of SCSI termination, Floppy disk care, and RS-232 and it'll be like a Software Engineer taking a Haskell course :)

    • by oheso (898435) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @02:05AM (#29000853)
      How is this insightful? This comment is akin to yelling at the cashier because you don't like the prices at Walmart. The OP didn't invent the policy; he's trying to cope with it.
    • by creeva (1021101) on Monday August 10, 2009 @11:22AM (#29011123) Homepage
      If a new up to date text book two years ago included floppy drives, yet no USB drives - I would say this part of the argument for an open source text book. I haven't used a floppy in a modern computer for at least 8 years - and I clung on to the floppy. .....
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 10, 2009 @01:24PM (#29013079)

      Actually, yes...
      MIT has classes online for free, and I have heard of more than one state that has talked about creating or sponsoring "opensource textbooks"
      For less than 1% of what student's pay for textbooks, public universities could compile a textbook using reputable volunteers and could then update them on a yearly basis for even less than that (much the way wikipedia articles are maintained). I would guess that very quickly the problem would be keeping the amount of content down to a manageable level.

      The idea that textbook companies should make massive profits by selling 90% of the the same material (maybe slightly less for CS) year after year is ridiculous.
      Once content has been created and paid for by a public entity it should be available for everyone. The for-profit model is not the only way to create quality content.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 08, 2009 @06:50PM (#28999059)

    The single most important thing you could teach the students is to find there own information. Wading through all the junk on the internet to find correct information. Using a text book that has some basic vocabulary that is over 5 years old is worthless. Having all in one place is worthless, they need to be able to find there own information.

    Put together your own vocab list, be nice and tell them about wikipedia or let them find it on there own (They have all already found it)
    As all students at that level 95% of them will expect to be spoon fed to quiz them weekly so that can see that they are not doing there work.

    The hands on projects where problem not going to come 100% from the book any way, find some other instructors class projects and borrow them. Perhaps MIT open courseware has some basic assignments.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 08, 2009 @10:03PM (#28999863)

    Although not a text book. this link [lucidsystems.org] has some basic data management tips. These tips could be considered pre-course information. Someone took some time to make this introduction. I think you could safely send the URL to your students in an email explaining that this information should be fully understood before they start the course.

  • I need more info (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Atrox666 (957601) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @11:00PM (#29000155)

    Do you have a syllabus?
    A description of where these people are going to be starting and what standard you want to bring them up to would be handy.
    Do they need a description of how to use a mouse?
    How many classes are going to be devoted to this?
    How long are the classes?

    • by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Monday August 10, 2009 @04:54PM (#29016005) Homepage

      Given the number of links to various introductions to computer science, or even -- omilord -- beginning Java, I don't see how this lack of information is an impediment to answering.

      Seriously, though. If you have a resource that you think might fit the bill, post it. The dude will have to figure out for himself whether the book is right for his needs in any event.

  • Secret Guide? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Aryeh Goretsky (129230) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @12:17AM (#29000533) Homepage
    Hello,

    Many years ago, I purchased an edition of The Seecret Guide to Computers [wikipedia.org]. I am not sure if it is still available in its entirety online, but it might be a good starting point for novice computer users.

    Regards,

    Aryeh Goretsky
  • by kubulai (768474) <promotions@alt-fw.org> on Sunday August 09, 2009 @02:23AM (#29000899) Homepage
    You must create the material to fit the curriculum goals for your class. Take the goals listed for your class in your curriculum. Use the goals as an outline, sort it in order of logical progression, then make each major goal a chapter. You can actually begin with each chapter being only a simple outline and expand it to paragraphs eventually as you teach the same material semester after semester. Remember to include an abundance of graphics. I created material that I have used the last several years at Adult Life Training and released it under a Creative Commons attribution license around 2003. It is still available for free download at alt-fw.org. That material has worked well for mature adults (>55 years), but would be far too simple for young college students with normal learning skills.
  • by mattr (78516) <mattr AT telebody DOT com> on Sunday August 09, 2009 @03:03AM (#29001003) Homepage Journal

    Quick answer:

    Introduction to Information & Communication Technology - Using Free Software and Open Technologies
    Edited By: Will Brady
    http://openbookproject.net/courses/intro2ict/index.xhtml [openbookproject.net]

    The Non-nerds Guide to Computers
    http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Non-nerds_Guide_to_Computers [wikibooks.org]

    But seriously spend half an hour going through results of Google search on these terms: open textbooks computing

    You will have to go through the texts yourself but there are many out there at many different levels.

    Here are the main resources.

    Wikibooks
    http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Subject:Computing [wikibooks.org]
    http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Non-nerds_Guide_to_Computers [wikibooks.org]
    http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Computers_for_Beginners [wikibooks.org]

    Flat World Knowledge
    http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/ [flatworldknowledge.com]

    MIT Open Courseware
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIT_OpenCourseWare [wikipedia.org]
    http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Electrical-Engineering-and-Computer-Science/index.htm [mit.edu]

    Make Textbooks Affordable open textbooks
    http://www.maketextbooksaffordable.org/statement.asp?id2=37833 [maketextbo...rdable.org]

    Student PIRGs
    http://www.studentpirgs.org/open-textbooks-catalog#computersci [studentpirgs.org]

    List at Walla Walla Community College
    http://www.wwcc.edu/CMS/index.php?id=2835 [wwcc.edu]

    The Assayer free books list
    http://theassayer.org/ [theassayer.org]
    http://www.theassayer.org/cgi-bin/asbrowsesubject.cgi?class=Q#freeclassQAc [theassayer.org]

    California Learning Resource Network (only math and science)
    http://clrn.org/FDTI/index.cfm [clrn.org]

    OER Consortium
    http://oerconsortium.org/discipline-specific/#Computer [oerconsortium.org]

    Open Book Project
    http://openbookproject.net/ [openbookproject.net]
    http://www.openbookproject.net/courses/ [openbookproject.net]

    Introduction to Information & Communication Technology - Using Free Software and Open Technologies
    Edited By: Will Brady
    http://openbookproject.net/courses/intro2ict/index.xhtml [openbookproject.net]

    O'Reilly Open Books
    http://oreilly.com/openbook/ [oreilly.com]

    Textbook Revolution
    http://www.textbookrevolution.org/index.php/Book:Lists/Subjects/Computer_Science [textbookrevolution.org]

    http://www.opentextbook.org/ [opentextbook.org]
    http://freelearning.bccampus.ca/openTextbook.php?page_id=221&bookmark=Computing [bccampus.ca]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:22AM (#29001709)

    Hmm.. thepiratebay.org has a large section of free books. I am sure you can find some there, in an easy to use PDF format.
    Not only that, but teaching your students how to go online with torrent can save them a lot of money on books, music, movies and other non-essentials, so they can better spend their money on beer and parties :D That is after all where the real world experience of college is, isn't it?

    Enjoy

  • by Kwesadilo (942453) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @12:27PM (#29003083)

    Linux: Rute User's Tutorial and Exposition by Paul Sheer [2038bug.com] is what I used when I was first getting started using Linux. The first few chapters are about computers in general, and the rest of the book is about Linux. Approximately one third is about being a user, and the rest is about administration. The entire book would be a bit heavy for an introductory computer course, but you would have no difficulty finding in-depth explanations of the things you described (file systems, what the operating system does, etc.) in a Linux context. The book is intended to teach you how to administer Linux systems, but it really gives you a thorough understanding of how the systems you're configuring work. Even if you don't finish the chapter on configuring your box as a router, your students could get a lot out of the first part of that chapter that explains how IP works. It's a very long book. There's probably a section for whatever you would want to talk about in a basic computing course.

    I can't recommend this book enough. It is by far the best book that I have found on how to use *NIX systems, but it is much more than that, and it significantly furthered my computer education.

  • Google.com, "It Holds All Life's Answers." Maybe your class of beginners can codify their questions and learn from their results. Now that would be an interesting Dissertation.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 09, 2009 @06:52PM (#29005539)
    Face it, the major textbook publishers have spent the past ten years trying to stifle the dissemination of knowledge to extend their monopoly on textbooks. It's a fucking scam and you're all baa-baa sheep to fall for it. Pay your hundred bucks so I can go on vacation this year! I got a bonus last year, this year and probably next year, too! You know what's next? Subscriptions to their online learning environments. Get the kids hooked, make sure the professors assign work to lock in student participation and it's more money for the big book publishers. It's all a big business, including your participation in the system.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 10, 2009 @07:03AM (#29009123)

    http://rute.2038bug.com/index.html.gz

    It's not the newest book, but it goes through a lot of interesting things.

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