Initial Thoughts on How to Create Your Own Textbook
This is another installment in the Keep Your Skills Sharp series. In the last segment we talked about where to find free electronic textbooks. But one of the criticisms of textbooks is that they get dated quite quickly. One of the best things that an online learner can do is to create her own textbook based on her learning needs. In the article, “How to Create Your Own Textbook — With or Without Apple” MindShift outlines three steps – aggregate, curate and create, to create your own textbook.
I am revisiting this post, since this year, a big part of the focus on this blog is learning the 10 key skills needed for future jobs. Since not everyone will be able to read five books on each skill to master them, I am creating some curated posts for each of the 10 skills. You could use the 10 curated posts to create your own textbook to learn the 10 skills needed for future jobs.
UPDATE: First Published in August 2013
[Further Reading: Find and choose content – or add your own]
Steps to Create Your Own Textbook
This is the data gathering phase. Research the topic that your course covers, gathering as much information as you can. Although we did not mention it previously, we could have also searched for free electronic textbooks using Google.
We already discovered that most of the free electronic textbooks are in PDF format, and we also know that many of the textbooks are not in their entirety, but in sections, therefore we can use those sections to build our customized textbook. You can use a service such as Smallpdf to merge PDF documents. It is easy to use and very flexible. You can order the sequence of the documents.
For instance, to search for free electronic textbooks for my Introduction to Visual Thinking course, in the Google search box I entered filetype:pdf “visual thinking” which returned only PDF documents about the topic visual thinking.
In addition to searching Google, I used my Toronto Public Library card to access the library’s online databases, and I was able to find some great articles on visual thinking. I limited my search by placing visual thinking in quotes “”. To gather more information, I also searched for the term visual thinking on Scoop.it. Scoop.it returned some great articles, and I used the Print Friendly bookmarklet to save the articles as PDF documents. You can also search YouTube for videos and SlideShare for presentations on your topic of interest.
I chose two different methods to store the information, to determine which way is easier. Evernote Clearly allowed me to highlight sections of a webpage. I used the Evernote Clipper to store the articles and other documents in my Visual Thinking Evernote notebook. I also created a Visual Thinking folder on my computer hard drive to save the documents there as well.
Since first writing this post, I have purchased lifetime access to two curation software, CurationSoft and TrafficFresh. So far, I’ve been using them to curate articles on problem solving and negotiation. Another option is to use the free version of BuzzSumo to find great content on your topic of interest.
To create a worthwhile textbook, it is important to find very good articles. You can do this by accessing your public library through its online portal. But you must have a library card. When you access articles through the library, they have been vetted, so the information is accurate. It is also worthwhile to subscribe to newsletters from top universities such as Harvard, Wharton, Colombia, Cambridge, Oxford, and Queens. In addition, there are organizations and institutions that conduct research in areas that you are interested in. You could use a service such as Feedly to subscribe to their blog feed. You will get very timely information.
Evaluate the information. Read through all the information that you have gathered on your topic of interest and only select the best to include in your personalized textbook. When evaluating the articles, other documents, presentations and videos, pay attention to the source of the information, and the credentials of the authors, then select only documents and videos from trusted sources.
If you used your library’s online databases, the information has already vetted for you. Other sources you can trust are universities and governments. Only the best information, from trusted sources should be included in your customized textbook.
Spend some time organizing the sequence of the articles (chapters) for your textbook. For the first chapter, include 01 before the name of the document, for the second chapter, include 02 before the name of the document and so on and so on. This reorganizes the documents in your textbook folder as textbook chapters.
If you would like to develop expertise in curating content, you will find these books helpful.
Curate This: The Hands-On, How-To Guide To Content CurationNon-Obvious 2017 Edition: How To Think Different, Curate Ideas & Predict The FutureContent Curation: How to Avoid Information Overload (Corwin Connected Educators Series)
If you are using your Evernote notebook to store the articles, after you have evaluated the information and weeded, out the not-so-good articles, in your notebook, you now have your textbook. By now you should have created your personal learning environment using Symbaloo personal knowledge management system, with the links to your free online courses. Add another tile for your textbook, and have a link to your Evernote account on the web, to give you access to your personalized textbook. This is the easiest way to create your own textbook.
Create Your Own Textbook Using Google Sites
Another way to make your textbook is to create a Google Sites. You need to have a Google account for this. When you are at Google Sites:
- Select Create
- In the box, write the name of your textbook. At the bottom of the page, enter the code in the box and click Create at the top of the page.
- At the top of the page that that appears, select a new page (icon with + sign)
- Name your page
- Under select template, click on webpage to reveal options and choose file cabinet, and click on Create.
- Click Add File and select all the files that you saved in your textbook folder on your computer hard drive.
- If you have YouTube videos and SlideShare presentations select Add link, follow the instructions, adding the link to the video, and make sure you include a proper description of what is included in the video and presentations.
- To make your site private, at the top of the page, click on the Share button, when the new page comes up, click on the Change button that’s beside the name of your page, and select private.
- Add a new tile to your Symbaloo dashboard and add the link to your Google Site for your personalized textbook.
Tools Needed to Create Your Own Textbook
- Symbaloo account
- Evernote account
- Evernote Clipper bookmarklet (save webpage to Evernote)
- Evernote Clearly bookmarklet (allows you to highlight sections of the webpage)
- Print Friendly bookmarklet (allows you to print as well as save the webpage as a PDF document)
- Google Site
Final Thoughts on How to Create Your Own Textbook
I found both methods to create my visual thinking textbook – Evernote and Google Site – to be straightforward, but Evernote was faster, but Google was more flexible. Using CurationSoft, TrafficFresh, and BuzzSumo, finding great articles and videos is a simple process.
- If You Read One Article About Complex Problem Solving Skills Read This One
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- Ultimate Guide to Emotional Intelligence Skills
- Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Service Orientation
- How Decision Making Skills Can Get You Your Heart’s Desire
- The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Negotiation Skills
- Bite-Sized Guide to Cognitive Flexibility Skills