Wiki Wiki Waaa?

So, I’m in a quandary.

For the past 6 years, I’ve used this book as the textbook for my Intro to Music Tech. It’s over 10 years old, which is an eternity in music technology, but nobody has really written anything that’s as clear and usable since.

loudspeakersThis morning, I stumbled across the Wikipedia article on loudspeakers. It’s … fantastic. Clear, concise, well organized, contains everything it should. It is, in fact, much better than the chapter on speakers from the textbook I’ve been using. That led me to the entries on microphones, MIDI, digital recording. Some are great, others are written by engineers using inscrutable symbols and mostly made up vocabulary.

But even the one’s that aren’t great are still pretty good. Which really has me considering why I make my students buy a $25 book every semester.

So, I’m considering a switch for the fall. Instead of having a required textbook, I think I might just have a page of assigned links instead, some from Wikipedia, some from other sites that cover the material well. The content is there, I think I can organize it in a way that has some continuity and logical progression. Maybe I’ll put together a few pages of my own on my academic site to cover the gaps.

Anybody think that’s an awful idea? Phil?

10 thoughts on “Wiki Wiki Waaa?

  1. Stick

    I agree. Having taken the advice a much wiser teacher than I, I taught from this same book for my foray into college teaching. I think I’m going to go this route too, next time I do it.

    They forget their books every week, but always have their laptop with them.

  2. Scott

    Just watch out for the kid who makes those lovely sneaky edits to the article to leave classmates astray… it could happen, I saw it on 30 Rock!

    :)

  3. Pi

    I never bought the book for Intro to Music Tech. Or for Intro to Computer Science. Or Baroque/Early Classical Music. Or Ancient/Renaissance Music. Or…
    I found all of the necessary resources, including tutorials, sheet music, scores, transcriptions, example problems and essay, for these classes online for free. In many cases it was more advantageous for me to look up references on wikipedia than in a book. I dream of one day taking a class where the only thing I ever need to bring to class is a laptop. Getting rid of an “analog” textbook is one step in that direction.
    Do it. Drop the book.

  4. michael lee Post author

    My one big hesitation is the issue of authoritative source. There’s a LOT of information available online, and much of it is bad or wrong. It takes some level of competence in the field to know the difference.

    If a student is confused on a topic because of bad information, it’s helpful to be able to point them to chapter and verse in the authoritative source to get the correct information.

    Maybe having the “class links” page would help with that, but it does seem like one extra step to add between confusion and understanding, for some students.

  5. Pi

    One thing I appreciate seeing on a syllabus is a recommended reading/book list, to me it says, “these are helpful, but not necessary.”
    One possibility might be moving the text book to a “recommended” reading list, so that if a student were consistently confused by the subject, the authoritative source could bs referenced, as in the syllabus.

  6. Nick

    Michael Scott: Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject, so you know you are getting the best possible information.

  7. michael lee Post author

    True!

    So, Gretchen and I have been talking about it, and I think it might be cool to put together a wikipedia editors team to tackle the music technology articles specifically.

    The technical details are great on most of them, but they all need a “Plain English” introductory section written for intelligent, but unfamiliar, readers. That’s something that a group of us could do, article by article.

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