Monday, December 9, 2013

Omnipresent variation in visions of the future introductory statistics textbook

The latest issue of Technology Innovations of Statistics Education, edited by Rob Gould of the University of California at Los Angeles, presents three very distinct visions of the the possibilities for a future statistics textbook. These articles are based on a session organized by Joan Garfield at the 2011 Joint Statistical Meetings, in Miami, Florda.

Three members of the CATALST team—Andrew Zieffler, Rebekah Isaak, and Joan Garfield—discuss the role of textbook in developing an introductory undergraduate course based on using simulation, randomization, and the bootstrap to develop the core logic of inference.

The innovation is primarily pedagogical. Zieffler et al. discuss how they found that having a unified, structured document to be very useful in supporting students' learning in an activity-based, student-centered course. The latest version of the textbook is available for free from Catalyst Press under a Creative Commons license which allows modification and incorporation of the material in for-profit works. (See our previous post on this book). The article discusses future plans for further innovations to the book such as incorporating videos directly into an e-book.

Cetinkaya-Rundel, Diez, and Barr also present a free product, OpenIntro Statistics, which is totally open source (the source code is fully available for modification). Their approach is based on a normal-theory based approach to the introductory course, chosen to encourage wide adoption, and the authors discuss the advantage inherent in having such a radically open process for development.

Webster West of North Carolina State University presents a vision that is more technologically intensive, including algorithmically generated exercises and tight integration of the textbook with the course management system and analysis software. His experiences partnering with Pearson Education and developing StatCrunch speak to how one might integrate technology with widely used, mainstream textbooks (though he describes himself as "closet radical").

The whole issue is well worth reading, because it features some lively and skeptical comments representing conflicting opinions from statistics education luminaries Beth Chance and Allan Rossman, George Cobb, Paul Velleman, and Jessica Utts, followed by responses from the authors.