Semantic HTML5 editor
I have a fellowship from the Shuttleworth Foundation to make textbooks easier to create, adapt, remix, and deliver in print, on the web, on mobile devices, and on ereaders. Specifically, my team, along with Connexions (an open textbook repository) and input from Siyavula and Sourcefabric, has been building a web-based editor that produces semantically structured textbooks. My focus has been on making an editor that is easy for teachers and professional authors alike to use, without sacrificing the power of a semantic format. The semantic format is used to deliver the content in many forms (web, mobile, print), to ensure that the content is accessible (math, images, and tables can be understood when read aloud), and to enable new tools that automatically pull content from textbooks to build new learning, review, and assessment tools (for instance creating flash cards and quizzes from all the textbooks a student is using).
The editor that we are developing is open-source and based on an existing HTML5 editor called Aloha. The authoring experience is similar to Google Docs or Word, but incorporates draggable block elements for images, mathematics, and semantic structures like definitions, exercises, examples, and notes. The format of the textbooks is semantic HTML5 modules, strung together with a table of contents that can be used in EPUB.The editor has been embedded into three different platforms so far;
- : a conversion and editing tool that lets authors take content from Google Docs, Word, LaTeX, or HTML, convert it to semantic HTML5, edit using customized Aloha, and then publish it to Connexions in a related XML format called CNXML. Once there, PDF and EPUB are automatically generated.
- A whole book authoring editor that uses Github to store the books, version them, and make derived copies. This is based on a prototype built by Phil Schatz, a Connexions employee. It is being customized for Siyavula (a learning technology company in South Africa) to use with teachers customizing books in South Africa.
- An authoring client for Connexions that provides a full service account and editing service for creating, remixing and adapting modular textbooks.
We face most of the challenges that the workshop will address, both in development of the editor, and in the production system for converting content, editing content, and producing PDF, EPUB, and HTML. We are exploring solutions to the challenges that may be of interest to other participants and we would like to demonstrate them and learn about approaches that others are taking.