Birds of Midlothian: Open Textbook Interview

bird silhouettes showing relative size to each other

In our fifth and final Open Education Week 2024 open textbook interview, Charlie Farley talks to Mayu Ishimoto, an Architectural History and Heritage student who worked as an Open Content Curator intern with the OER Service over the summer of 2023. Mayu now works one day a week as an intern with the OER Service, and published the open textbook Birds of Midlothian as one of her summer projects.


 

Charlie Farley  
When and why was the decision made to create this open textbook?

Mayu Ishimoto 
It was part of my Open Content Curator internship work during the summer. I was working with another Open Content Curator intern, August Enger, and Kate Douglas who was part of running the course the Geosciences Outreach course. The original content was made a few years ago by Radina Atanasova as part of the Geosciences Outreach course. It’s nice content that both students, small kids, and adults can use. We wanted to try a different format like open textbooks because we’d been focusing on content for classrooms.

Charlie Farley 

How would you describe this open textbook to someone?

Mayu Ishimoto 
It’s a guidebook. Easy to flip through and read, aimed for anyone interested in learning more about the birds that are around you (in Midlothian) that you might not be able to identify. So, you might hear a call or song and you might think oh, what bird is that? And then, what are its habits of living and breeding? The book can give you a sense of how the local biodiversity works and gives you a bit more insight into the area you live in.

Charlie Farley  
How did you build on Radina’s resource to make the open textbook?

Mayu Ishimoto
First I had to make sure that all the content could be made available publicly online. For example, using photos that are all Creative Commons licenced. I also added some audio content for each of the birds that were featured because I think that’s one of the ways that you can find birds.

The content was created and edited in Word documents, and then I formatted that content into EPUB and PDF so it could be more accessible and be published on Edinburgh Diamond. You do need to be careful when converting one type of document into another as it can sometimes cause glitches. EPUB is the most used format for e-textbooks, it was my first time creating EPUB but there weren’t a lot of difficulties. I formatted the content and then sent it to the Open Publishing Service at the Library, and they published it up on Edinburgh Diamond as an open textbook for us.

Charlie Farley  
What process did you go through to add audio to the guidebook?

Mayu Ishimoto 
I went to a webpage called Xeno Cantos which shares recordings of wildlife sounds from across the world. They’re a foundation working with Naturalis Biodiversity Center and have gathered recordings of birds singing and sound from all over the world. It has information on why it was recorded when it was recorded. It’s all free and you can access it anytime.

Charlie Farley  
What was the licencing and copyright process for the for the book?

Mayu Ishimoto  
I’ve put the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike licence on the open textbook to align with other content that was used to make the book. All the images and sounds used are also available for re-use. So, it’s free for people to make something new with it, so long as the original is attributed, and anything created from it is also shared with the Share-Alike licence and freely available for other people to access and re-use.

Charlie Farley  
And you said that this was also put up on TES Resources. What kind of an audience is on TES?

Mayu Ishimoto  
TES is a platform for teachers to find and share resources to be used at schools. Since content there is mainly for school teachers the version we shared on TES has additional information on what you can learn from this textbook, such as biodiversity, and what students the content is useful for.
As I said before, this textbook was made for a wide range of audiences, so it can be used for like early year pupils as well as students in the senior years. That version has more information to help integrate it into teaching.

Charlie Farley 
Fab! And have you heard back from any teachers or readers of the book?

Mayu Ishimoto 

I haven’t heard back from any specific people, but I can see that it’s being downloaded constantly by people on Edinburgh Diamond. It’s nice to see that it’s being used.

Charlie Farley 
Is there anything you want to say to someone who’s thinking about making their own open textbook?

Mayu Ishimoto  
The University possesses so much knowledge that other people can use, and it’s not as hard as you might think. Making a textbook sounds a bit formal and professional, and you might feel that there’s so much to learn. But I don’t think any open textbooks needs to be like big university textbooks. Of course, those books are great. But the great thing about open textbooks it that they can be made by anyone and used by anyone. It can be small, or it can be big. I think it’s nice to create something that will be helpful for someone in some way. And yeah, I would just say just do it.

 

Header Image: Birds of Midlothian Poster, Mayu Ishimoto, the University of Edinburgh, 2023, CC BY-SA 4.0.