Posted on October 8, 2013 · Posted in Siyavula

One of the reasons I believe openly-licensed resources are a better proposition for education is that they are a much more natural fit with the idea of continuous development and improvement. In the spirit of continuous development, our plan is to, before the end of the year, rework one chapter from Grade 10 Physical Sciences with the help of the community so that we can design the most efficient process and plan for a complete rework in 2014.

In the case of OERs, the cost of the resource is significantly reduced and, therefore, it is feasible to consider more frequent changes than the normal textbook procurement processes allow. Once we move to digital materials it will be even easier. In addition, the financial incentives are different and it is in our best interests to have the material continuously evolve and to continuously expand our engagement with the broader education community rather than get a book on a static approved list and then let it stagnate.

It has always been our intention to rework our books but we weren’t able to keep up with the roll-out of the new curriculum and simultaneously rework existing titles. Although our team worked really hard to produce an updated set of Natural Sciences and Technology with the Thunderbolt Kids workbooks earlier this year in addition to working the Grade 7-9 workbooks. Now that the content development for the FET (Grades 10-12) roll-out has been completed we can start to rework content. We will begin with one chapter from Grade 10 Physical Sciences to test our process and then use that to inform the plan for the complete rework of Grade 10 Mathematics and Physical Sciences next year.

We will be asking for feedback from anybody and everybody that is willing. All feedback will be considered BUT the final outcome will need to balance all feedback and maintain style and consistency. We will be as transparent as possible and give our feedback publicly. Anyone that contributes to the process will be listed, if they agree, on a contributors page in the new book.

As part of this process we will be looking for feedback on:

  • terminology used with suggestions for improvements
  • specific explanations in the text with suggestions for alterations
  • any errata that have been noted
  • illustrations
  • worked examples in terms of scope, format, process
  • existing exercises
  • suggested new exercises with a motivation for why they should be included

The new version of the book will be available under an open license in the follow ways:

  • print PDF (with print-specific features)
  • regular PDF (without print trims etc.)
  • ePub3 version
  • web-version on
  • mobi version on
  • Mxit version

Prototype Process Overview

Run a prototype of the process on a single chapter with the community to show how we intend to live up to our commitment to continuously improving the books, engaging with them in that process and are able to significantly improve the books. Completing the cycle will allow educators to give feedback and get involved in the discussion about the changes. Restricting it to a prototype of the process for a single chapter will reduce the risk that we commit to something long-term that doesn’t work.

The process in 2014 would be more than just this and should include some workshops around exercises as well as the development and review of concept maps.


  • Summary report of process
  • Old chapter in PDF complete with annotations for transparency
  • First revision in PDF complete with annotations for transparency
  • Second revision of chapter in:
    • PDF
    • HTML
    • Android application built from HTML using PhoneGap (
  • Plan for rework of all other chapters in 2014


  1. Choose a chapter from Grade 10 Physics [Mechanical Energy]
  2. Put file up on for feedback
  3. Communicate process to educators
  4. Collect feedback from community [Approximately two weeks]
  5. Implement feedback [Approximately two weeks]
  6. Respond to annotations on first version [One day]
  7. Put revised chapter on for further feedback from community [Approximately one week]
  8. Spend at most one week on feedback and improvements [One week]
  9. Write a summary to send to all stakeholders. Summary should include
    thoughts on process from Siyavula’s side
    before and after versions of chapter
    a concrete plan going forward and communicate it to all stakeholders (including to Mathematics educators)
    [One day]


  • Oct 8: start process
  • Oct 14: commenting starts on original Grade 10 chapter
  • Oct 28: comments locked, implementation starts
  • [adding a week-long break to attend Open Education 2013 in Utah, USA]
  • Nov 18: new chapter shared and opened for comments
  • Nov 25: comments locked, implementation starts [timeboxed]
  • Dec 2: report written, sent out

About the Author

Mark Horner is the CEO of Siyavula Education, a social enterprise working in the school sector in South Africa. While working as the Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow for Open and Collaborative Resources, Mark was able to transform the Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) project, which he co-founded, into Siyavula Education. In this process, openly-licensed, collaboratively authored textbooks have been printed and distributed nationally in South Africa. Working at the intersection of community, openness and technology; Mark intends to leverage this success to make Siyavula an innovative, technology provider in education that works effectively as part of the education community to ensure better learning opportunities for all. A recent notable event being the delivery of Siyavula's textbooks over Mxit, the most popular mobile chat solution in South Africa. Mark has a PhD in physics from the University of Cape Town and conducted his research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California on the results from the STAR experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. His work is carried out in the belief that the liberation of information and support of education in South Africa will lead to a peaceful and prosperous future for all South Africans.