- delighted my mother, Cathleen O'Neill - high school history teacher, feminist, and fixer of all scrapes and bumps
- positioned me as a co-author on a team of four, trying to turn an outline into a textbook
I've learned a few valuable lessons about applying design to a nominally creative process. For the rest, I'm seeking help from the readers of the whiteboard.
Putting on my coordination pants
A lot of decisions go into making a textbook. Who is our target? What tone will we use? How should we structure discussion questions? My role in this stage has been surprisingly similar to my role as a user-experience designer in other projects - figure out the questions we need to answer and arrange the conversation or activity that will get us there. It turns out writing a book is really just another, fascinating design project.
I've concentrated on reaching group consensus and exploring group knowledge before diving into writing. Here are a few group activities I have tried or am planning.
- Inspiration Quest - everyone spreads out to look for elements of textbooks they like or find appropriate. While this has helped me structure meetings and present decision points to the group, unfortunately the team has not yet embraced this type of meta-research.
- Convorientation- I used a series of open-ended questions in discussion to guide us to one position as a group on book themes. This has worked well, provided my questions are scaffolded and I keep pushing for the point (so, it's really about...).
- Author Interviewing - the author in charge of each chapter often has a lot of ideas but no good place to start writing. I wrote up a series of questions and am conducting interviews with the lead author for each chapter to figure out what the big ideas are and how best to conduct the research to support them.
I am also spending a good amount of time devouring theory and plotting world domination. If you're interested, I recommend checking out the Textbook Writing Tutorial by Daniel K. Schneider.
Have you written a text book or lesson plans before? Do you have suggestions for empathy work with our target readers? Do you have any writing of your own on this subject? Please share or leave details below in a comment, or let's move the conversation to coffee.
Well-designed conversations within the group of authors will, I believe, only get us to consensus. Well-designed structure and content will make the textbook successful.
Caitria can be reached on Twitter at @CaitriaONeill