Customized Open Spanish Text

Since 2007 Michael Dabrowski has been teaching Spanish at Athabasca University. But throughout that time, he often ran into problems with textbooks when publishers would change editions or discontinue books. Every time that happened, he would need to completely update his courses.  Recently, the publisher of the Spanish 200 and 201 textbook announced the book would no longer be published. “So, rather than adopting a new textbook and going through the cycle all over again, I decided to write one myself,” says Dabrowski.

Dabrowski and a team of experts will not be writing a regular commercial Spanish and cultural textbook, though. Instead, it’ll be a free digital Open Education Resource (OER) that will allow anyone to access or revise the information for their own classroom.  Dabrowski also plans to customize the textbook using content that is relevant to Canadian students. Dabrowski explains that most commercial textbooks tend to be produced in the United States and therefore generally include American points of reference. But for the new OER, Dabrowski wants to include references to Canadian geography, Hispanic Canadian writers and artists. 

“We’d like to showcase Canadian examples rather than do the very traditional: Here’s Antonio Banduras and Selma Hyak and go through the stereotypes of what’s visible in Hollywood for Hispanic people,” says Dabrowski.

Dabrowski believes one of the first steps is creating awareness so that his colleagues in other parts of the world know about the project and will also benefit from it. He’s attended various conferences in Canada and will go to the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association conference in October to speak about the OER.  As far as the development of the textbook, Dabrowski says the process will be similar to how any textbook is created. “I’m having it passed through a group of professors who will review it and get it to the equivalent standard of a peer review article or commercial publication process,” he says.  

Dabrowski is hopeful that the development of this OER may lead to a cascade of other OER projects when other institutions and professors see its benefits. “There are so many feel good aspects of developing OER courses rather than the traditional way people have run courses, which is: They run a course, it’s top secret, the material is rarely shared with anyone else,” he says.  He explains that the traditional model creates a competitive teaching environment where professors vie to attract students through the best courses. Instead, he would like to see professors working together to create the best learning experience for everyone across the country. And OER are one way to start that collaborative process.