On writing #OER textbooks – moving ideas from simmer to boil #amwriting @ScrivenerApp @mindmeister

29 08 2015

mind map pns

Last year, I published an OER textbook for one of my biology courses.  Writing the book was a linear project.  I started with an outline and sat for a few hours a day a few days a week to pound out the words.  I inserted simple pictures I had drawn or photos I had taken.  When I wrapped one chapter, I moved on to the next.  I composed the book in Word and distributed the final project to my students as a .pdf.  Linear progression.

This past spring, I started my second book – for my pharmacology course.  I wrote the outline.  Then, I stalled.  Pharmacology is an entirely different beast than is general biology.  So many pieces… so many interlocking threads… an exponentially larger project per page.  I turned to my old standby organizational tools – OneNote and Excel.  I made a bit of progress.  And, stalled again.  Summer term began – through the roof enrollments and the grading demands that go along with full classes.  Still, the “how will I…” and “what if I…” book construction questions simmered on the back burner.

August arrived.  Professional development season.  I attended a conference week followed by a week of faculty inservice.  Energized and motivated by the interactions and connections inherent in bouncing ideas around with colleagues, I pulled together the bits and pieces of outline from here and spreadsheet data from there.  I assessed my progress.  I realized the old ways just weren’t going to work this time.  I had to move beyond the Office sandbox.

I needed something fluid – so I headed to Target for the biggest pieces of paper I could find.  I started to draw out connections.  And, realized I was mind mapping – and that there were probably apps that were more flexible than my big pieces of paper could be.  Once I found MindMeister (www.mindmeister.com) I lost an afternoon to med math map development and was encouraged by the progress.

But, I was still stuck with the transition from map to paragraph.  Yesterday, I found Scrivener.  (www.literatureandlatte.com/) Where has this program been all my life??  It even has index cards!  Color coded ones!!  Spending an afternoon with the program I was completely hooked.  Did I mention the index cards??  The more I played in the demo, the more sure I was my free trial period was going to be just the start of a long, productive, writing union.  I bought the program.  I started setting up my notes.  I’m thrilled to take the book off the back burner and to have the ideas bubbling up again, my brain firing at full boil.

And, for the times my sentences run on and my words get too pedantic? There’s an app for that too… Hemingway will be there to gently remind (in bold red highlighting) that perhaps the writing would be improved with a few tweaks here and there.  (www.hemingwayapp.com)

Excited to be writing again!

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