CC OER Hero: Mark Horner

By: Kelsey Weins

Physicist turned Open and Collaborative Resources champion, Shuttleworth Fellow Dr Mark Horner is beyond busy.  Mark co-developed Free High School Science Text (FHSST)  in 2002. FHSST aims to provide free science and mathematics textbooks for Grades 10 to 12 science learners in South Africa.

Mark and co-developer Sam Halliday were post-grad students at UCT when they struck on the idea of getting volunteers together to produce textbooks for the South Africa school system. With more volunteers then they could handle FHSST began. Siyavula Project, FullMarks and OpenPress all bridge off from FHSST. Siyavula Project is working to ensure that South African teachers have access to open licensed, sustainable curriculum. FullMarks allows gives educators some tools to help generate tests and analyse results.  Finally OpenPress is a crowdsourcing project that works off the back of FHSST allowing schools purchase texts at reduced prices with collaborative purchasing.

This year Siyavula has been focusing on two things: Translations and Distribution. Recently they held another Afrikaans Translation Hackathon, a community event bring together bringing together the Afrikaans community to translate  You might think that asking people to give up a Saturday to translate a matric maths textbook  would be a tough sell but Horner says “people are desperate to help and to be part of making change, to making a difference.”  ”Our group shows up at 8:30, there is no chatter, no vibe just work, they work until 5pm, people just come here to work.” Their output is tremendous and Mark is still bragging out their work months later.

Secondly they have been working on distribution. They decided to buy 12 hard drives for R10,000. They’ve loaded them with Kahn Academy videos, UCT data everything and anything a school teacher could use. Instead of shipping them blindly to schools to have them ignored by overworked teachers they have asked teachers to vote for a member of their peers to be the gatekeeper “the teacher is represented by their peers to hold the drive, share and distribute, this makes them responsible to their peers” Horner adds “this is so simple and might be the best thing we’ve done yet”.

Check out his 2010 Big Ideas Fest chat.

For more information on all Mark’s projects follow him at:


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