Free textbook marks milestone for university  

  Tuesday, April 24, 2018 8:30 AM
  Academics, Milestones, News

Pittsburg, KS

John Franklin

English Associate Professor John Franklin is an avid traveler, so it only made sense that when he set out to write something that he believed would serve as a valuable resource for his students and recent graduates, that he modeled it after a guidebook. 

After all, "guidebooks are time-honored as essential to travelers venturing into foreign territory that is already settled," he said. 

Franklin used guidebooks to backpack and bicycle through numerous countries in Europe. 

"The best guidebooks were highly portable, illustrated and written with tone, so that I could anticipate something in advance or mull something over in retrospect," he said. "The best guidebooks assumed that I am intelligent and adventurous, but naïve." 

"Thus it is with this guidebook." 

Published this year as the first Open Education Resource textbook printed by a Pittsburg State faculty member and shared with students, "ELA for M/S: A Guidebook for Beginning Teachers," is comprised of short, pithy chapters written to inform the lives of two distinct groups of travelers: students in his English 478: Literature for Middle and Secondary Schools, and recent graduates as they journey into their first English or Language Arts classrooms in a middle or secondary school. 

Best of all, he said, it's free. 

Franklin spent a year compiling a career's worth of content before reaching the final product, assisted by Brenda Frieden, Jason Kermashek, and the PSU Open Educational Resources Steering Committee, as well as other university faculty and staff instrumental in designing and printing it. Professional development funds paid for its publication. 

"This is a great example of how faculty can help make college more affordable for students," Frieden said, referring to OER. "Hopefully, other faculty will consider creating an open access textbook for their students." 

Open educational resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. 

Franklin said the chapters of his book are short on purpose, and the size is small intentionally. 

"You can fit it in your pocket," Franklin said. "It's small and compact enough if they bump into a problem, they can thumb through and solve it. I worked hard to make it as compact and succinct as possible." 

Chapters range from the five steps to dealing with a book being challenged in a classroom, to the 26 literary terms he encounters most often in the field, to everything it's helpful for young or soon-to-be teachers to know and understand about parents. 

"I included how to prep before a parent-teacher conference, for example," said Franklin. "Things I wish I'd known when I was just starting out." 

In class, he asks each student to select a chapter to present to their classmates. 

And he gave his former students in the Class of 2016 credit for making the book a reality; their photo and names are on the back cover. 

"I have a lot of admiration and a great deal of respect for our graduates," he said. "Each one of these students helped field test this book," he said. "And that's how it should be. I'm always asking students: 'How can we make our program better?'. I think OER is a definite asset that will do just that." 

Learn more about PSU's English Education program at