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Topic: Jeff's Thursday ToolFest Question

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Subject:   Rely on publishers? No thank you!
Author: Craig
Date: Jun 16 2005
An independent set of tools is a very valuable asset.  I'm speaking not as a
tool developer myself... my programming skills aren't up to the task.
Independent tool developers ask questions in different ways, and having a
variety of perspectives is important to me because I have a variety of students
who have a variety of learning styles.

I don't want to lessen publishers' enthusiasm for developing tools to support
their texts; some teachers who use those tools might do so as their first
exposure to use of computers in teaching.  Some publishers do a great job... the
Freudenthal Institute was contracted to develop some tools for a publisher (I'm
sorry I don't know which), and some of their tools are pretty good (search the
MathTools catalog for "Freudenthal").  I use an author-developed tool with my
Statistics students (not yet catalogued), but I also use several other tools
with that course.

Your concern about "breadth and scope" is, for me, a very real concern.  I
haven't yet found a set of support materials for a math textbook that meets all
of my needs, and I wouldn't expect tools developed for a specific task in a
specific textbook would meet my needs, either.

I could point to two analogies from the technology world:
-What ever happend to the Atari, Commodore, and NeXT computers?  They relied
on in-house software development.  IBM saw the wisdom of opening the PC market
to clones by sharing DOS, so that "everyone" would be motivated to develop
-Look at the rise of Linux and the "open source" movement... these certainly
point away from centralized development.

I'm extremely grateful for the developers at NLVM, Shodor Foundation, the
Statistics department at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, "Surfin'
Sinefeld," and all those independent, smart people who set out to solve tough
teaching problems in creative ways.  I hope the continue to provide such a great
service to the educational community!

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