Writing about learning

I run a publishing company called Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. At this time, we have twelve books published, most of them written by educators. These books represent a wide array of content, but all are about creating modern, creative learning opportunities.

Educators often ask me about writing their own books, and I highly encourage it. I’m not just looking for new authors, even though I’m happy to talk about joining the CMK Press team. I believe that there are multiple benefits to writing about education, both for the world and the writer.

  1. The world needs to see real models of learning. I hear all the time about how all schools are boring test-prep factories and that will never change. Yet I talk to educators daily who are breaking the mold and doing amazing, creative, wonderful things with students. People don’t believe it because they can’t see it. You can fix this.
  2. Nobody else can do this. The New York Times or Oprah is not coming to tell the story about how wonderful your classroom is. We can’t wait.
  3. It will be eye-opening for you. There is nothing like trying to write down what you do every day to make you think deeply about your own process.

What’s stopping you?

  1. I don’t like bragging. Teachers especially worry that talking about what they do looks like self-promotion. Get over it, it is self-promotion. But that’s different than bragging.
  2. What I do isn’t special. I talk to teachers EVERY DAY who start by saying, “Well, this isn’t that great but…” and then proceed to tell me a fantastic story.
  3. It’s hard. Yes it is. So are most things worth doing.

Getting started

If writing a book seems impossible, do it a step at a time. You know the saying, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. No one sits down and writes a book all at once!

Blogging – Blogs are perfect platforms for compiling a book. A typical book is about 50,000 words. Most blog posts are about 1,000 words. That’s 50 blog posts. If you write once a week, you will have enough for a book in a year. You do not have to attract a following or be “popular.” It does not matter if no one ever comments on your blog. You are the audience.

Podcasting – Similar to blogs, podcasting is a way to start small and work your way into more content. If you want to turn your podcasts into a book, there are amazingly inexpensive transcription services that can take your audio files and send you a document in no time at all. Most people speak at about 150 words per minute, so if you make a 20 minute podcast episode, that’s about 3,000 words. Let’s say 2,000 because there is always extra stuff in podcasts, so that 50,000 word book is only 25 podcast episodes.

Find your way – Both blogs and podcasts have an advantage of spacing out your thoughts and letting you find new ways to express yourself. You may find that as time goes on, you start to focus in on different aspects of your topic, or find a new topic that consistently comes up. Be flexible. Don’t restrict yourself to only what you think you “should” write.

Presenting – If you have ever spoken at a conference or event, one great exercise is to take each of your slides and try to write 1,000 words about each one. Since you have already gone to the trouble of making slides and thinking about what you want to say, this is a jumpstart into writing.

Play with genre – There are LOTS of different ways to write a book. Not every book about education is the same, there are plenty of ways to capture your topic. Think about the variety of books that influenced you at various points in your own journey as an educator. Or you may want to try to write a how-to book about a particular method, tool, or model you use.

Be the expert + share your passion – These may seem like two different things, but they are a matched pair. You won’t get far if you aren’t passionate about your work, and the reader won’t find it compelling if you don’t present the tale, or share the content with a confident voice.

Getting over your fears – One of the hardest parts about writing is that it exposes everything you worry about yourself. I’m not interesting, I’m not good at writing, I never have the right words, I can’t spell, my grammar is terrible, there are thousands of people better than me to say this, what I want to say has been said before… the voices in your head will pound you into the ground. The only way to get over your fears is to write anyway.

Outlines – I’m honestly not a fan of outlines as ground zero for starting a book, I think it’s unrealistic and a bit of a straitjacket, making you feel unnecessarily guilty if you have to deviate from the path you thought you had perfected. It often takes time to figure out what it is you want to focus on, and getting started with the writing is the best way to work it out. For my own work, I tend to write some, and then “chunk” it into sections, sorting what I’ve got into 5-7 piles and seeing what those piles turn out to be.

Just do it – Don’t worry about having the perfect idea, the right software, or a fully fleshed out plan. The only way to get started is to get started.

Aren’t books over?

You might think that in this digital era, books are not the best way to get your message out. But, actually, books are exploding. Books give people a way to dive into a subject, to read, think, jump around, and really dig in. Around the world, book sales continue to climb, while e-book sales have plateaued. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t offer an e-book version of your book, in fact, many people tell me that they have purchased Invent to Learn in both paper and e-book versions, and use them both for different reasons.

However, there has been little take up in interactive books like Apple’s i-book platform which was supposed to “revolutionize” book reading, and then “revolutionize” textbooks… and then didn’t.

Will it make a lot of money?

No.

Do I need a publisher?

No, in fact, I think it’s a better idea to start with your own ideas and start the writing process yourself. Now, if a publisher has approached you and asked you to write a book, that’s a different story!

There are multiple options for publishing a book, and only one of them is with a traditional publisher. It used to be that a publisher was the only way to get your book into stores where people could buy it. Now, there are many options for publishing, because there are more options for buying. I’ll share some of these options in a future post.

Black Friday sale on CMK Press Kindle books

Our book publishing company, Constructing Modern Knowledge Press is having a Black Friday sale! From Black Friday( November 29, 2019) to Cyber Monday (December 2, 2019) all our Kindle books will be available for $1.99!

All Kindle versions of Constructing Modern Knowledge Press books, including the newly revised 2nd edition of Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the ClassroomThe Invent to Learn Guide to 3D Printing in the ClassroomMaking ScienceThe Inner Principal, and Education Outrage will be discounted up to 80% from November 29 – December 2, 2019! (Offer good at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk)

New book – The Art of Digital Fabrication: STEAM Projects for the Makerspace and Art Studio

ADF cover

I’m very proud of the latest publication from Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, The Art of Digital Fabrication: STEAM Projects for the Makerspace and Art Studio by Erin E. Riley. This is an absolutely gorgeous book of projects using 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, CNC machines, and other tools found most often in school makerspaces. These are exceptionally inventive, beautiful, and thoughtful projects, brought to life with photos of student work and clear explanations of the steps and stages of how these projects unfold in the classroom, makerspace, or studio.

The book will be available in paperback and hardcover on May 6, 2019, but you can pre-order it now at Amazon and other online retailers. If you pre-order, you can have it in your hands on May 6!

Erin has created a unique book that offers a vision of STEAM that embraces Art as a primary motivation, with design as the guiding vision. Every project offers multiple understandings across all STEAM disciplines. This viewpoint creates avenues for teachers to understand how digital fabrication tools can be an opportunity for students to express themselves and find meaning in the world. It creates pathways for modern mathematics to emerge as concrete manifestations of precision and beauty. And it allows engineering to be fully expressed as the desire of humankind to make ideas become real.

It was a wonderful learning opportunity for me to edit this book. Erin is an amazing teacher, constantly adding and inventing new projects with her students, and then making them better. Her documentation is superb, and her explanations of the choices she makes as a teacher and designer are thoughtful and deeply enriching. And she is an artist, she hand designed every page of this book with loving care and attention to detail.

Erin organized the book by artistic process, rather than by tool. Processes like drawing, patterning, casting, prototyping, making 3D objects, and more are each explored with a variety of tools. This creates a treasure chest of inspiration and a relatable way for art teachers to see digital fabrication as an expansion of artistic vision. It opens a whole new way of thinking when you realize that drawing with a machine is similar to drawing with the hand, with the added benefit of being able to precisely draw with a laser, with a pen attached to a vinyl cutter, with code, light, or even with 3D filament. She also wrote an introduction explaining important concepts in graphic design and software, what students learn from digital fabrication, and making the case for STEAM in modern education.

For the past few months I’ve been carrying a dog-eared, marked-up copy of the work-in-progress proof of this book to various conferences and workshops, showing it to educators. The reaction has been extraordinary—people actually tried to convince me to sell them the unfinished proofs! But now the wait is over, it’s done and we can share it with the world. Check it out, you will not be disapointed.

Available for pre-order at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble online.

Beautiful full-color photos, directions, and ideas for innovative projects using digital fabrication technology.

Features Inside the Book

  • Over 25 Digital Fabrication Projects with color photographs of steps and student work. All projects offer extension ideas, resources, and connections to STEAM curriculum.
  • The Project Cross-Reference lists projects by digital fabrication tools, supplies, and software. Color coding highlights certain process details in each project chapter.
  • An Art Material and Process Inventory intended to spark creativity and encourage the mixing of materials and processes within digital fabrication.
  • An Overview of the Digital Fabrication Machines commonly found in school labs or makerspaces.
  • Photocopy-friendly Design Guides and Checklists for the main design software programs demonstrated in this book can be given to students as they self-guide through each design program.
  • Maker Powers Classroom Poster
  • Curriculum Connections of digital fabrication experiences with skills and curriculum subjects.
  • Introductory articles supporting STEAM learning, where the Arts is integral to deep understanding of content and student empowerment.

Available for pre-order at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble online.

For volume sales, PO purchases, or international sales, contact CMK Press. This book is now available from local distributors in the U.S, Australia, and the U.K.

Invent to Learn to be published in Korean and Chinese

Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom (Second Edition) will be published in simplified Chinese, the language of mainland China. The publisher is Tsinghua University Press Limited (清华大学出版社有限公司), a respected publisher of education, technology, and culture books with deep experience in books and electronic resources from around the world. We look forward to sharing the publication date soon.

Our Korean publisher, HonReung Science Publishing Company, will also publish the second edition. The first edition is available online.

To be notified of upcoming book releases from CMK Press, the publisher of Invent to Learn, please add your name to the email newsletter list.

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New! Second Edition of Invent to Learn Released

We are excited to announce that a newly revised and expanded edition of Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom has just been released.

It’s been five years since Gary Stager and I published the first edition of Invent to Learn. In that time, schools around the world have embraced making, makerspaces, and more authentic STEM/STEAM experiences for all children. It’s been fun to be a part of this worldwide phenomenon!

The brand new second edition includes a lot of new material reflecting how much has changed in a few short years. There are many new microcontrollers to choose from, and many more that are better for school use. The fabrication chapter has been updated to reflect how the design process has been streamlined by hardware and software progress. There is an entirely new section on laser cutters and CNC machines.

Programming options have expanded as well with software appropriate for students as young as four years old. Finally, there are some fantastic and accessible environments for programming microcontrollers. When we published the first edition, we were positive that a good block-based programming language for Arduino was just around the corner. Although new software environments emerged, they lacked the polish and stability required to make a difference in classrooms. Now things are different.

There is more research about the positive impact of fabrication, robotics, and coding to share. All of the suggested resources have been updated and expanded. The online resources here on inventtolearn.com are even more extensive.

The additions and updates to the book go beyond mentions of new technology and fixing broken URLs. There are new examples from educators around the world who have embraced making in their classrooms. There is more context provided for the connections between project-based learning and making. We attempt to be clearer about the real reason that making matters—not to build a special room or purchase equipment, but to make schools a better place for ALL students and teachers to learn.

The second edition is now available in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle on the Amazon website and other online retailers. For volume sales, using a PO, or international sales, please contact sales@cmkpress.com.

Virtual session handout – Sylvia Martinez

Sylvia Martinez – Session Resources 

Making in the classroom is not a shopping list or a special place, it’s a stance towards learning.

Presentations, webinars, and blog at sylviamartinez.com

Making in Education Resources

Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager. (Second Edition) Completely revised and expanded, the book called the “bible of the maker movement in schools” has helped thousands of educators embrace the tools, technology, and mindset of the “maker movement” in learning spaces. The website contains resources, links, a free book club guide, recommended books, workshop handouts, and more.  www.InventToLearn.com

Invent To Learn is available at Amazon.com and other online retailers in paperback, hardcover, and e-book format. For volume discounts, wholesale, or POs, contact CMK Press.

Recent slidedecks

Getting Started with Making in Education (Articles by Sylvia Martinez)

Girls and STEM Resources

I believe that there are many good things happening to support gender equity in STEM education, however, there are many things left to do. This presentation offers a view from K-12 through college to the job market with recommendations about what’s working and what still needs to happen. Extensive resource list included.

Other books from Constructing Modern Knowledge Press (cmkpress.com):

  • Meaningful Making: Projects and Inspirations for Fab Labs and Makerspaces – Columbia University FabLearn Fellows share their projects and ideas for making in classrooms, libraries, and makerspaces around the world.
  • Super Awesome Sylvia’s Project Book: Super-Simple Arduino – Learn about electronics and programming from 14-year-old web sensation Super-Awesome Sylvia.
  • The Invent To Learn Guide to Fun – Step by step instructions for creative, whimsical projects by educator Josh Burker
  • The Invent To Learn Guide to 3D Printing: Recipes for Success – Educational projects using your 3D printer by education pioneer David Thornburg.

The Professional Learning Event of the Year!

Constructing Modern Knowledge, July 14-17, 2020,  is a minds-on institute for educators committed to creativity, collaboration and computing. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in intensive computer-rich project development with peers and a world-class faculty. Inspirational guest speakers and social events round out the fantastic event.

More information at ConstructingModernKnowledge.com

Bring Sylvia Martinez to your school, organization, or conference!

Professional development, workshops, and consulting are available. See our calendar of events or choose from topics.

Stay in touch – subscribe to the Invent To Learn email newsletter.


New from CMK Press – The Invent To Learn Guide to 3D Printing in the Classroom

Coming June 2014 – The Invent To Learn Guide to 3D Printing in the Classroom: Recipes for Success

by David Thornburg, Norma Thornburg, and Sara Armstrong

This book is an essential guide for educators interested in bringing the amazing world of 3D printing to their classrooms.  Learn about the exciting technology, powerful new design software, and even advice for purchasing your first 3D printer.

The real power of the book comes from a variety of teacher-tested step-by-step classroom projects. Eighteen fun and challenging projects explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, along with forays into the visual arts and design.

The Invent To Learn Guide to 3D Printing in the Classroom is written in an engaging style by authors with decades of educational technology experience.

 Subscribe to our mailing list for the announcement!