I have some advice for you, gentle reader: don't get yourself in the position where you have to finish a book and mark over 100 exams and courseworks for the same deadline. I did, and had about as much fun as Indiana Jones did when he climed out of the quick-sand using a snake as a rope (i.e. not a lot).
However, both deadlines have now been met and I find myself with evenings and weekends again. It seems un-natural. Let me tell you about the book, though, because I really enjoyed writing it. It's called Inside Stories: A Narrative Journey. I am first author, and my co-authors as Lisa Gjedde, Ruth Aylett, Rose Luckin and Paul Brna. It's illustrated by Maria Skov Pedersen, and you can see an example illustration below (prizes for guessing the story it matches). I love the pictures - she's done a beautiful job. My husband did the cover design and proof read it with his normal minute attention to detail (but we're still happily married :-) ).
The book is aimed at teachers, storytellers and researchers who are interested in how to support storytelling skills using technology. It boils down to the argument that a) storytelling has various educational benefits particularly in emotional and social education and b) technology can help to support learning through storytelling and storymaking. We view technology as a set of tools: to think with (as in Papert), share with, imagine with, and to feel through. Teachers use all kind of tools in the class; technology can provide another set of tools to add to the existing tool box.
Inside Stories is written as a storybook. It's about five travellers who meet on a train: a teacher, a technologist, an educational researcher and two children. They're on their way to a Future of Leaning Conference, and on the way they swap view points about storytelling in education. We wanted to make this academic book about narrative learning environments a story itself; the medium matches the message. It's a mix of theoretical argument in dialogue form, example stories,and advice on how to get started with storytelling and technology projects with a few case studies thrown in. If you've chatted to me about education any time in the last two years you might find some passages eerily familiar. The sections which were easiest to write were the ones where I remembered back to a conversation I had. A learning styles enthusiast might say I am an auditory learner; in reply I would snort and say it makes it a lot easier to write natural dialogue.
The book is self published using Lulu.com which is a print on demand service. At present the proof copy is being printed and I will get it in about ten days. We're going to launch it at the NILE conference on 5th August (attendees get a free copy!) and it will be available to buy on Amazon and other online booksellers from that time. Print on demand and self publishing are quite interesting. Self publishing means anyone can write, print, sell and distribute a book they have written without getting a commerical publishing house to take it on. Print on demand means that copies are only printed when people order them which prevents trees being cut down for books which languish in warehouses. Being a Web 2.0-ist I approve of this ultimate form of user generated content. Being an academic, I realise that my colleagues will disdain such a document. But we didn't write it for other academics. We mostly wrote it for teachers and so the original academic publishers we had were the wrong choice. They normally produce technical books for computer science academics. The last book published in the series we would have been part of cost £40 and is no longer available to buy from Amazon. I bet they would have objected to pictures too. So we decided to self publish to get the price down and the availibility up, and as we have the intellectual copyright, we can take it to a mainstream publisher when it becomes massively successful (and when that days comes I will retire and eat bon bons all day, watching the pigs fly past). We can soothe our academic egos with the thought that between us the authors must have several hundred peer reviewed articles in respected academic journals. Who reads academic journals anyway? Time to give something back to the world. A related sobering thought it that judging by the stats on this blog, more people read my random drivellings here than read the carefully written and researched articles I have written for respectable journals. There is a saying that only three people read most academic papers: the author, and the two reviewers. Of course with publications for European projects, the number would be increased to 23: the twenty one co-authors and the two reviewers. But I digress.
I am really looking forward to seeing what the book looks like. A drawback of print on demand is that you have to do all the editing and formatting yourself. I now know more than I ever wanted to about Microsoft Word. Integrating sections from 4 other co-authors was also incredibly time consuming, because the book has a storyline and you get enormous continuity gaps if you're not careful. This wouldn't be the case in normal academic edited collections, but was necessary for the storybook format. As for the writing itself, most of of my indivual sections were written on a diet of 30 minutes per day. Which just goes to show: even if you are incredibly busy with other things it is possible to write a book if you set aside a little bit of daily time. What are you waiting for? Get started today!