Wednesday, November 17, 2004

How to write a textbook

My First-Year Seminar students have written sections of imaginary textbooks on their blog. You can read about Performance Anxiety, The Swing Era, Wagner's Ring cycle, the Bel canto tenor, Bel canto singing for sopranos, tutti horn excerpts, and The Little Shop of Horrors. There is an interesting discussion going on about vibrato in the bel canto soprano post.

The students are becoming more appreciative of the different styles available for academic writing. They all expressed admiration for the use of pictures and other graphics to break up a reading assignment and to appeal to other learning styles. But they all decided against including any pictures in their blogs (with the exception of the horn excerpts), as it would be a big pain. Now they know why many books, especially academic books, do not have any pictures. The hassles involved in typesetting, getting legal permissions, and finding or making the right kind of picture are very time consuming. Academics would rather spend that time polishing words or starting on new projects. I know that I often visualize various concepts, and therefore I would like to recreate those visuals in print. But I can never seem to physically recreate what is in my mind. A lack of drawing skill is one problem, aggravating the time issue mentioned above. But the other, more prevalent problem, is that when I closely examine my conceptualization, it turns out not to be visual. I think in gestures, but those gestures are often aural, or sometimes abstractions that don't translate to pictures. Maybe I should learn how to create animation, but that is another time sink. I'll stick to polishing my wordsmithing skills.

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