Hello and welcome to the first post of the long overdue Textkit blog. This post provides some personal comments about the project and where it’s heading in the future. I’m glad you’re hear with us. –Jeff
2011 marks the 10th year of Textkit. Textkit’s original purpose was the electronic distribution of Greek and Latin learning material. We developed a unique library of no-hassle PDF downloads of Greek and Latin grammars and readers to that aim. Over the years Textkit servers distributed millions of grammars and readers world-wide and they went to places and to learners where traditional print material could not go. With the initial content came the Textkit Forums which is the heart of Textkit past and present. It’s been a rewarding experience to see so many learners help one another in the forums.
While Textkit’s server still distributes on average about 500 GB of material to 40 K visitors monthly, the Internet landscape has significantly changed since 2000/2001 when Texkit began. Unlike ten years ago, digital copies of public domain textbooks, readers and course material are now commonplace. And while commonplace, the demands by foreign language learners to seek out community and engagement and to seek help when studying in isolation are still high. So while Textkit’s tag line has always been “Greek and Latin Learning Tools”, it’s time to turn the page and build new tools that are better suited for emerging needs.
What’s Wrong With The ‘Old Textkit’
When I think about the road map ahead for Textkit, I reflect first on what’s obsolete about Textkit. Textkit pushed content to a user through the single method of a web download and the content is only in the form of PDF image. You have to come here, get the content, come back, get more content, repeat. Also obsolete is the form of the content which are book images wrapped up in a PDF. It’s content not data and there’s a big difference between the two. Content is editorialized. It’s served up to the user – the good with the bad. Data offers the potential to be transformative. It’s tailored to what the user needs right at that moment. What’s more, learning material in the form of data can be pushed not pulled to the learner through a myriad of paths.
The ‘New Textkit ‘ – Excitement On The Horizon
With humility, the comments I have made above concerning Textkit’s growing loss in utility have been true for several years now. In my Apology, I can only say that I haven’t seen a path forward for the project that offered me the geeky excitement needed to work on a project of this scale with full force. I have tried and failed several times in the past to reinvent the Textkit project. My failure is largely due to not developing within myself a new vision and framework for the site that’s energizing enough to carry me through to the finish line I have fizzled out despite best intentions.
For the first time in many years I have to say, I’m EXCITED. I’m talking about Textkit again. I’m thinking about holes in digital learning and what I can do to help, I’m using my imagination. Right now, I see a gaping hole which Textkit can fill and the whole is “Big Data.” What I mean by Big Data is the approach of not just building content, but building data sets and then sharing those data sets with other applications.
Data sets can take many forms but our initial data will be Greek and Latin vocabulary. This dataset will be made available under an open Creative Commons license. Textkit ourselves will use the data to develop a mobile educational gaming platform. The project will be called VocabularyWars. More to follow about the project here.
My vision for the future of Textkit is to build big data storage engines that are accessible via APIs in order to not just build tools at Textkit, but promote other developers worldwide to dip into our data and build their own applications. Old Textkit’s philosophy asked visitors to come here and consume content under our own terms. New Textkit seeks to build data sets and tools to push data out in many forms.
Do you have any comments or thoughts on how to shape a better New Textkit?