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Physics Textbook 2.0

February 27th, 2009 No comments
Online Physics Flexbook

Online Physics Flexbook (click to expand)

Imagine a textbook that you can download, is open-source, is up to date with the latest information and you can comment on? Well, it exists. It’s called a “Flexbook” and today the state of Virginia released a Physics Flexbook online for a 2 week public review.

The 11 chapter online textbook contains a chapter devoted to teaching physics with modeling and simulation. It uses three Learning Labs developed with STELLA and allows students to interact with them using the free isee Player.

We got involved with the Physics Flexbook project last fall when we met the director of the program, Jim Batterson, at the MODSIM Conference in Virginia. He told us about a “wiki-style” online physics textbook that allowed teachers and scientists to collaboratively develop the content. The content would be free for anyone to use, share and adapt and contain the latest scientific information.

We thought this sounded like a fantastic idea and pledged our support for a chapter of the book that incorporates modeling and simulation to teach physics. Our friend Mark Clemente wrote the chapter and we setup a web page to host the STELLA models and allow easy access to the isee Player to interact with the models.

Earlier this week, Joanne and I were back in Virginia for the VSTE 2009 Conference (Virginia Society for Technology in Education). We attended Jim Batterson’s session on the Physics Flexbook where we got the full story on the inception and development of Virginia’s first open-source, online textbook. The session was very inspiring.

Jim Batterson is a retired NASA Engineer, former physics teacher and school board member. While Jim was at NASA he was chosen to direct a review of Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL) in science education. The goal was to come up with recommendations for the state on how to better meet the needs of the 21st century workforce.

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