Category: book-writing

Bloggingbook-writingBooksCarroll UniversityCarroll University USA

Exceeding my Expectations: My Students Explore Book Writing

Team2016b

Throughout the 2015-2016 school year, we four undergraduate research assistants in “Dr. Simpson’s Neighborhood” have been familiarizing ourselves with several different learning tools described on Jane Hart’s Top 100 Learning Tools List. As we read about and played with each tool, we wrote blog posts using  WordPress to let the world know more about the features, benefits, tips, and drawbacks of each learning tool based upon our personal experiences. As these blogs were being published throughout the fall semester, Dr. Simpson suggested OUR writing our own book about how the tools can facilitate learning in the classroom and business world. We responded to this challenge with both trepidation and zeal! 

We took each of the blog posts previously written and compiled them into one large Microsoft Word document. Then, over the course of about two months, we carefully went through each blog post. We improved the writing, further developed ideas, updated our learnings, corrected errors, added pictures, and temporarily removed hypertext links. We divided the learning tools we examined into 5 chapters: Video Editing Software, Social Network/Interactive Networking Tools, Note Taking Tools, Data Collecting Tools, and Presentation/Sharing Tools. We added screenshots for examples and created potential cover pages for the book. We decided upon a basic layout: an introduction at the beginning of each chapter, a reasonably detailed description of each learning tool, and an explanation of how the tool is useful in business and educational settings.

(Alison Lehman) Converting our short, to the point blog posts to a book format was no small task. Creating a book took a lot of planning, coordination between team members, additional investigation into the learning tools, and large amounts of time to create, write, coordinate and edit our thoughts and experiences. Initially our idea was “simply” to convert each WordPress blog onto Google Docs so that each team member had access to the book-in-progress no matter where they were. This decision was vital to a successful workflow of communication.  We could leave notes for one another on the Google sheet, see what each other had been working on, and be aware of what still needed to be completed. When the WordPress blogs were converted into the Google Doc, I had naively assumed that a lot of the information we had previously written would be easily ported into the book. However, varying writing styles and incomplete information did not easily lend themselves to a smooth transition into a book. Consequently, we chose almost to completely scrap the original posts and start anew. In hindsight this decision was a blessing in disguise because it gave us an opportunity to rethink our ideas, add important details, include updated information and impose a common, improved format from the bottom up. Since we were not producing short blogs anymore, a lot more research went into investigating how to use the tools, what the tools were most useful for, and the utility of these learning tools in the classroom and business environments. Though the discussion of each learning tool examined was primarily written by one or two individuals together, but each was then edited and read and reread by each individual of the research team. Creating a book taught us all about proper planning, how essential clear communication is between members, how to incorporate  the ideas and thoughts of each member, and how to establish and maintain a realistic timeline for completing a managable task. Our ideas were continually being improved and applied to better enhance the effectiveness of our collaborative first book-writing efforts. With the final product being steps away from completion, I am proud for all time, effort, and resources that were dedicated in creating a book of this kind. I look forward to the future projects and goals the research team will accomplish together. When a great group of minds come together, there is nothing that can stand in the way of their success and ambitions.

(Arianna) Until writing our own book, I had never appreciated the time and effort that goes into writing. The need to sit down and carefully read and reread and reread again every page trying not to miss a single typo or spelling error and making sure all of the tenses match up is daunting but necessary.  However, after about ten proofreads and several edits to the document, we were able to publish our hard work.

(Lizzy) Well, writing this book was definitely an eye opening experience for myself. I had never once thought I would have the opportunity to write a book, much less publish one for others to enjoy. I did not know how much work goes into writing a book until we had to be a team and work together on creating this book. We had to combine all of our different writing styles together and blogs that were almost done to blogs that needed a lot more work. We had to write about applications that seemed so basic to us, but were actually a lot more detailed than we thought. I know while writing the Excel piece that I had no idea all that could be done with this learning tool until I started to use it for some of my classes and explore the different features it has to offer.  I had no idea for more than half of these applications all that they could do. Personally, I now use some of these tools on a daily basis and i can envision singing them at work, at school, and for future purposes. I have gotten so much better at writing because of Alison and her helping me have a better writing style and teaching me to watch my grammar better. Also, I have never been so open and excited to learn about internet tools that are so useful and that everyone can have access to till I started working with Alison, Arianna, and Tia. We all have come together and given each other different perspectives on our idea of the book, how to write it, what to include, how these tools can benefit others and in what ways. It was such a great experience. It took a lot of time, but was most definitely worth it for the end result and the great feeling of accomplishment all of us get to share together, including Dr. Simpson. Without Dr. Simpson helping us as a team to give us the resources, the challenges, and the time to write these blogs and experience these tools, we never would have had this great opportunity. I have made closer friendships with these beautiful ladies because of writing this book together and getting to know each other. We all have such different ways of thinking and different perspectives on how we interrupt certain situations or applications and it is really cool how we can all combine our ideas together to make our first book and for us to grow as partners in the workplace and grow a friendship outside of it. This book I believe also improved our relationship with Dr. Simpson because of the collaborating we all needed to do to get to where we are now as a team. We can only grow from here and I can not wait to experience this journey with each of my teammates!


book-writingCarroll ReflectionsDesk Top PublishingStatistics and Experimental Design

Still Looking for Ways to Improve Courses After 36 Years of Teaching (Pt.1 of 2)

Proof of Self-Publishable Book I've talked about in progress for the past 30 years!

Proof-reading ready copy of self-published book I’ve talked about being in progress for the past 30 years!

I’m sitting on the porch attempting to complete the bulk of my Fall semester Carroll University course preparation before intentionally disconnecting from the Internet and enjoying five days of pure vacation in northern Michigan a week from tomorrow. This year I shall be teaching two sections of Psychology 205 (Statistics and Experimental Design) and one section of Psychology 303 (Experimental Social Psychology).

Tonight I am focusing on the Statistics and Experimental Design course—-a course that is particularly meaningful to me. For the past 20 years I have used a traditional textbook enhanced by my handouts. Students also have weekly labs to gain hands-on experience using SPSS (The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences). I’ve been very pleased by evidence that students learn, and I have received consistent positive evaluations across the years about the course both at the course’s completion and from graduates. But, there is always room for improvement—especially improvement attempts informed by thoughtful reflection from former students. So help me out. Are the two ideas below worth pursuing?

Across the years I have repeated heard from students how much they valued handouts I have distributed. These have essentially been a succinct outline of my notes (though I must confess that I haven’t used notes in 15 years!). The handouts are replete with a congery of Carroll-specific data and data collection exercises.

I have been troubled by the high cost to students of textbooks and bothered by what I see as unnecessary inclusions in textbooks (e.g. color, study guides, constant revisions, and electronic ancillaries of dubious didactic value) which drive up costs. Therefore,  I’ve been recently exploring a number of self-publishing mechanisms (especially Lulu.com and ibooks author). One of the best resources about self-publishing I have come across is Rick Smith’s  (self-published!)  CreateSpace and Kindle Self-Publishing Masterclass (2014 edition). I found it very useful and useable.

I’ve recently carefully examined Amazon’s CreateSpace.com. I have been very impressed by its ease of use, pricing structure, and quality of physical book production. I am holding in my hand tonight a hard-copy proof of a very physically attractive book —my book—with a glossy cover which I created using Create Space’s Cover Creator software. If I proceed, the book can be printed on demand and/or, if I choose, it can be converted relatively effortlessly to Kindle format (This i have not yet tried). I can pretty much decide the cost to readers (I’ve toyed with the idea of it being free).

  1. Idea 1: I am tempted to give students the opportunity to buy a copy and to help me improve the book by their adding their own data collection examples. Alternatively, I hold off distribution until 2nd semester when I before which time I add information to the book (perhaps with some student/former student collaborators).
  2. Idea 2: I am also considering building into the course this semester formal instruction in using Survey Monkey software now that I have a Carroll account in addition to my Schneider Consulting account. I envision in my last few years’ teaching creating a Carroll Student Statistical Consulting service and this would be one of the tools the use.

 

 

AutismBloggingbook-writingCarroll ReflectionsCarroll University USA

Tyler speaks: A loving Mother shares lessons learned with her ASD child

 

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Many WordPress bloggers have shared their vicarious and first-hand experiences with autism. A number of books attempt to describe the autistic experience through fiction and there are many films dealing with this topic. Below, Keri J. Johnson, one of my Carroll University research students shares her observations as a mother.

According to Autism Speaks a staggering 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), with an even higher amount of boys with 1 in 42. Raising and caring for a child on the spectrum is challenging both emotionally and physically. All any parent wishes is the best for their child, and when you see your child struggle it can be heartbreaking. This is my journey raising a child with ASD.

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Tyler speaks…

 

 My son, Tyler is a charming boy with a bright future. He likes to play video games, watch television, swim, and play sports. He is passionate about weather, and can name all the clouds in the sky. He has an endearing quirkiness about him that you will notice as soon as you start talking to him.

      When Tyler turned two years old I noticed he did things differently than other children his age. Although he could speak well, he did not comprehend what others were telling him. For example, he would understand if you asked him if he wanted something to eat, but if you told him to put the block on top of the table he would give you a blank look. I also noticed at playgroups that he would play differently than other children his age. Instead of driving the toy cars around on the floor, he would line them up.  Also when the other kids were playing in a preschool playhouse Tyler just kept opening and closing the door as if he needed to know how the door was put together.

     I knew all children at his age had tantrums, but Tyler’s were different. They were full-on meltdowns that could last for over an hour, and would leave both him and me completely exhausted.  Looking back now I can see these episodes as having been red flags, but at the time I didn’t recognize them as such. I made excuses for him saying to myself and to others that he was just very passionate with a very analytical mind—maybe a future engineer. I decided to bring the subject up at his next doctor’s appointment, in hopes that the doctor would ease my concerns.

     I took Tyler to his three year well-child checkup and communicated my concerns to the pediatrician’s attention. I point blank asked the doctor if he thought it was possible that Tyler was autistic.  He said that he believed it was very possible.

    With this diagnosis my world stopped. I came home from the appointment and cried. As a parent you have so many hopes and dreams for your children, and when you get a diagnosis such as this all you can think of is what kind of future will they have. Needless to say I was very angry, but I knew I needed to do everything I could to help him. I had to learn everything I could about autism.

     I enrolled him into an early childhood school program and he was assigned both an occupational therapist and a speech therapist. Things were not always easy for Tyler; meltdowns ranged from 10 to 60 minutes and were extremely exhausting for everyone.

     By the time Tyler was in elementary school I was getting called every day to come and help calm him. I would hold him in my arm and just rock with him back and forth until the meltdown would subside. Sometimes the meltdowns were so bad that I would break down and start crying right along with him. Anything and everything could trigger a meltdown such as smells, sounds, and having to wait in line. He would always feel miserable afterwards, and I knew I had to find a way to help him.

     I looked to no avail for therapists who would work with children with mild autism. Frustratingly, there was just no one who was willing work with him. I felt abandoned and  completely alone, but I never gave up.  I started to research different calming and coping techniques that I could teach him.

     Social stories were a huge success, because he was able to learn how to cope in different situations. I found that tickling his arm and back soothed him and could stop a meltdown before it started. Schedules were also very important, and seemed to agree with him. I had made him a schedule that told him what he needed to do from the time he woke up until he went to bed.  I discovered  that he had a need for constant manipulation. He learned how to finger knit, and the feeling of the yarn and the movement of his fingers helped soothe him.

     As a result of these interventions, Tyler  was doing really well at home, but school was still very hard on him. His anxiety over homework, tests, and talking to other students made for very hard days,  and he would come home emotionally exhausted. It was very sad because he knew he did not want to act that way.

     Tyler would ask me why he was like this, and why was he different than the other kids. These questions  broke my heart.  It was hard as a parent to see him this way because I knew he had so much potential. His teacher suggested I look into putting him on medications. I was extremely upset that she would suggest such a thing, and I fought it for several months. However, I eventually decided it might be the best thing for him.

     Tyler went through over a dozen different types of medication with many different side effects until we found some that worked for him. Although he seemed to be doing better on meds, I often wondered if I was doing the right thing. I felt that they were just a bandaid or temporary fix, and that he might never learn how to cope on his own. I wanted him to be able to self-soothe without relying on medication.

     During fourth grade I started to read about the benefits of a gluten free diet. I really wanted to find an alternative to medication, and thus we started our gluten free journey. I am not going to lie; the first couple months were extremely difficult, but I knew we needed to stick with it.  After three long months I started to notice a difference in Tyler.  His anxiety was lower, he was happier, and his meltdowns were nonexistent.

     Fifth grade was very good for Tyler. He was happy, had good grades, and not one meltdown the entire year! I was thrilled for him.

     He is now almost finished with the sixth grade, and has been medication free for over a year. He is still gluten free, and doing wonderfully.  It has been a long journey, but we never gave up.

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Keri J. Johnson will graduate from Carroll University on Mothers’ Day, May 11, 2014. She is writing a book about her lessons learned with Tyler.

App GenerationBloggingbook-writingCarroll University USACurious David

Three Digital Tools in Need of My Sharpening

I’m in the process of revisiting several resources that have influenced my choice of online teaching tools. This post focuses on the book by Steve Johnson (2011)—a thoughtful and concise compendium of his thinking about today’s “tech-savvy” (high school age) learners and how to prepare them for their digital future. He systematically  evaluates over 30 “etools” he judges to be useful for engendering collaboration, creation, and publication across the curriculum, and offers concrete suggestions for how to get started (and how to keep up) as an instructor. Among the many tools that he recommends that I have personally found especially useful for my teaching at the college/university level are the following:

  1. I have grown to like Animoto as a vehicle for creating and sharing video-like productions, despite its constraints of needing to use Adobe Flash and accepting only MP3 formatted music files. I have elected to have an educational account with them. Here is an example of how I have used it.
  2. WordPress is now my blogging tool of choice and the blogging tool that I teach to students. I myself move back and forth between WordPress.com (“David in Carroll Land”) and WordPres.org  (“Curious David in Carroll Land”). The latter gives me far more creative freedom (e.g. the use of plugins) but at an additional cost (both financial and time I need to devote to its higher learning-curve). Here is an example of a WordPress.com blog piece in which my student research assistants shared  “sand box” activities while they explored for me the value of some beta version software which showed promise to me of eventually being useful in the classroom.  Here, on the other hand, is a recent blog piece co-written with my students using the WordPress.org blogging software (which I still am at an early stage of mastering). Without doubt, my best etool  evaluators are my highly trained student assistants.
  3. Google Docs is becoming an increasingly important tool for me. Indeed, I would love to devote the time to create a Google Apps course for our students.  Richard Bryne, an educator thought leader whom I follow on Twitter and whose contributions I benefit from, has created a wonderful comprehensive guide to this tool.

Presently my students are more facile with this learning tool than I!.  We regularly use it as a means of collaborating and sharing documents —photos, videos, journal articles, rough drafts, spreadsheets. Just today one of my senior research seminar students shared with me, on Google Drive, a wonderful video she had made of her interviewing her twelve-year-old son about his experiences with a form of Asperger syndrome. Keri and I shortly shall be incorporating this video and her insights about parenting such a special child into a blog piece as a first step in assisting her in writing a book to share her knowledge.


 

Appsbook-writingCurious David

(E)booked!

Bookwhacked

A fellow educator  recently asked me for a recommendation of an eBook tool that could be used  by high-school aged students and which is cross-platform, cross-device, allows incorporation of multimedia, and allow for collaborative and seamless editing across the world. Any suggestions? The number of ebook formats is quite overwhelming. And ebook software that meets the needs of my friend seems still very much under development (e.g. Vellum). What high calibre software exists? What are some work arounds for my friend?

Though I have explored the use of over 200 technology learning tools over the past seven years , I’ve quickly come to realize that there is no best tool. In attempting to help my (e)friend I revisited tools that came close to addressing her needs. For example, Learnist allows for some of the capabilities she desired. (My thanks to research assistant Amy Peterson for reminding me of our use of this resource in her Virtual Course creation research).

I also examined the ebooks that I have which are accessible via my Kindle Cloud Reader app. How embarrassing to discover that I have 72 books sitting there to be read.  I just never have gotten comfortable reading books from a screen.

What ebook creation software do you have experience with? What led you to choose to use it over other? What others?

Evil Eye

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