This is a fundraising page (where people pledge to contribute monthly, rather than one large donation all at once) for a Minecraft community that has been created for children with autism, Autcraft (Facebook). "He set up a server for kids like his to play Minecraft in a safe space," writes a longtime reader. "The Autcraft server is the only place of its kind in cyberspace -- other Minecraft servers for children with autism have come and gone since his was started in 2013. Autcraft now has over 5000 members -- and no money." Hence the fundraising initiative.
I'll just quote the key findings from this report (24 page PDF) and let them speak for themselves:
- Almost one-third (30%) of students replied that they had used financial aid to pay for their textbooks.
- For those that used financial aid, the amount of financial aid dollars they put toward purchasing textbooks was more than $300 on average per semester.
- Textbook prices disproportionately impact community college students.
None of this is any surprise; what is surprising is that we've just allowed the problem to continue to exist, even in the internet age when free or nearly free content should be almost a given.
The data is coming in, and it is as expected: open access saves students money. "Free textbooks from Rice University-based publisher OpenStax are now in use at one-in-five degree-granting U.S. colleges and universities and have already saved college students $39 million in the 2015-16 academic year." It's the same lesson learned from the BC Campus open textbook project, which has saved more than a million dollars for British Columbia students. The OpenStax library is the outcome of Rice University's Connexions project.
According to Barbara Fister, Rebecca Kennison and Lisa Norberg have come up with a plan "to build a new system for funding humanities and social sciences publishing that would make it open to all while preserving it for the future." The idea is that all academic institutions would contribute to a common fund that would pay for the publications. They point to the benefit of this model to universities by pointing out that "our graduates are currently shut out of the expensive resources that institutions provide to currently enrolled students at great expense. Wouldn't they be happier if that funding meant they had continual access?" It would make me happier. And ultimately institutions would reallocate their acquisition budgets to the support of open publishing, and help secure their position in society by providing for the common good.
Frontiers began as a "researcher-led initiative envisaged as being 'by scientists, for scientists' the mission of Frontiers was to create a 'community-oriented open access scholarly publisher and social networking platform for researchers.'" After flirting with various business models (even including a business methods patent) it seems to have settled on a sustainable, if sketchy, existence based on publication fees. This article is a fascinating overview, and as a bonus there's a link to a full interview with Frontiers CEO and co-founder Kamila Markram (pictured) at the end.
At what point does something personal - like writing a nice note to congratulate someone - become something impersonal - like writing a script that automatically selects and congratulates people. David Wiley poses this question in a thought experiment and David T. Jones carries the discussion a bit further. What if it isn't a congratulatory note, but something that sends a note asking people who have stalled whether they need any help? And, ultimately, "What about the apparently holy grail of many to automate the teacher out of the learning experience? Are we fearful that technology will replace teachers? Can technology replace teachers?" Image: PC Mag.