By Lance Eaton
Recently, I listened to the audiobook of Chris Anderson’s “Free: The Future of Radical Price” for free. The premise is that behind the digital revolution is the mass amplification of cheap goods and services to be offered will increase and what people will get is the most basic model; if they want a more specialized version, they will have to pay. Anderson expands upon this in a variety of ways, but that’s the gist. This has me thinking about the uses and benefits of digital freebies as it relates to the classroom and the Freeway Flyer.
One of the areas this has become increasingly interesting useful and relevant to the classroom is of course, the extensive material available for free (and legally) online. A site I often use is the Archive.org, which is filmed with a mass amount of text, audio, video, digital material that is part of the public domain. One can read the Collected Works of Mark Twain Volume 1, watch Night of the Living Dead, or listen to Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First”. I often use this site to provide free required or supplemental material to my students.
But out of this free movement has come Flat World Knowledge, a site that is attempting to provide free digital textbooks to students (with affordable prices should they choose to buy a physical copy). Though the texts are currently limited, support of the site will hopefully expand the texts available and provide substantial financial assistance to students who currently have to spend $100’s of dollars each semester on books.
Finally, of course, there is the idea of e-readers or small-handheld computers. Though I’m still leery of completely digitalizing my audio, book, and video collections since digital rights for consumers is still murky, I’m highly tempted by the abundance of material at my fingertips. Given the amount of free (and legal) books online and the accessibility of them on an e-reader makes it a tool that could certainly be well utilized in the classroom or even between classes. No longer forgetting books or notes, etc (unless of course, you forget the tool itself).
So why talk of bits and bytes here? Well, quite frankly, my back could use a break. I slug around 3-6 books a day depending on where I’m teaching along with a notebook, the essential binder occasionally a laptop. I’ll admit I have fantasies of being able to move from class to class, campus to campus with nothing but some device fill with all my digital content and ready to plug into whatever jack in any classroom.
What other digital freebies are out there to take advantage of? What do are essential digital resources that make your life skipping from campus to campus much more light-footed?
About the Freeway Flyer: Lance Eaton has a Master’s Degree in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts in Boston where he focused primarily on Popular Culture and Gender/Sexuality studies. He also has a Master’s in Public Administration from Suffolk University, where his concentration was on nonprofit organizations. He teaches at several schools in the Greater Boston area including Emerson College, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and North Shore Community College. He’s professionally written and presented on topics such as comics, zombies, audiobooks, and adaptation. He also keeps a running blog with his students at http://hitchhikingadjunct.blogspot.com. When not flying from school-to-school, he also enjoys reading comics, cycling, gardening and cooking.