Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

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Week 8: A Final Effort

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 11:45 pm

I have really enjoyed working on BioBook this summer. I love our team. We work together well and are being extremely efficient, a result of lots of labor and of a workflow we have been perfecting throughout the summer. I believe that BioBook is a worthy endeavor and I hope that as more students start to use it and we as a team continue to improve it, BioBook will help non-major biology students gain an understanding of biology and pass their class.

In order to make BioBook a reality, I have spent last week and the start of this week documenting leaves we made last summer and editing new leaves on the nervous system. In addition, I revise existing leaf as other team members raise concerns or offer suggestions. This is especially helpful because often they come up with ideas I have not thought of or catch mistakes I have missed.

The future of BioBook is uncertain but I do know that it will be tested in the non-majors class at Wake Forest (and potentially at other places) in the fall. In addition, the full textbook, with all text and pictures completed and tools in use will be available to the public for purchase in January. I eagerly anticipate seeing BioBook when it is finished!


Week 7: Crunch Time

Monday, July 9, 2012 10:12 pm

Last week was so crazy- I forgot to blog! The pressure to get BioBook completed is getting overwhelming. So much content remains to be written and many tools needed for BioBook’s implementation are yet to be added. But we are making progress.

The good news: looking at the syllabus of the class that is going to use BioBook in the fall, we already have leaves for the material they will cover in the first 1/3 of the class. Amidst all the pressure to crank out leaves- I have been running into more leaves that are too complex for a non-majors course. So, our team is seeking to find a balance between generating new leaves and fixing existing ones.

I am spending tonight trying to think of ways to present the endocrine system in a comprehensive way. The current leaves we have on this subject go into enormous amounts of detail on the specific hormones that are used and what happens when these hormones are at abnormal levels. However, non-majors only need to know the basic functions of the thyroid, adrenal, and parathyroid glands, not about all the details about the hormones these glands release.

It is not clear how best to revise these leaves to make them fit more with the curriculum for non-major classes but I hope to come up with an idea of how to do so tonight. Work is getting stressful, but looking back over the summer I can see we have made enormous progress. I am excited to see the finished product soon!


Week 6: Decisions

Saturday, June 30, 2012 3:03 pm

This past week was filled with decisions. In the beginning, I was going back through existing leaves, checking their content next to our standards for what non-majors need to know and fixing minor errors (in spelling, referencing sources, etc.) as they arose. This is a very tedious process and I did not get close to finishing, but I am glad to have started.


About mid-week, I hit a group of leaves on animal diversity. There are a lot of these leaves in this section because every animal group, including flatworms, Cnidarians, and arthropods, was given a leaf of its own. Looking at the standards for non-majors, in general non-majors only need to know one or two facts for each of these groups. This means that we have written a whole lot more information than non-majors need to know.


Providing more information is not always a problem, but in this case I thought it was because of the subject matter. Animal diversity leaves basically consist of a brief introduction to the phylum, then a description of the anatomy of the organisms in this group. For example, the leaf on molluscs first states that molluscs are a diverse group of marine animals and discusses basic characteristics of molluscs, like the fact they do not have a skeleton. The leaf then provides information and a numbered list of anatomical qualities most molluscs possess.


As the amount of information in these leaves suggests, they contain an abundance of facts. My concern is that students reading these leaves will get lost in the amount of specific information presented. I therefore advised that survey leaves be made that present a paragraph of basic information on three or four different phyla. These leaves would contain all the information non-majors need to know and link to the more detailed leaves for students who want to learn more.


The team agreed with my assessment of the problem and proposed solution. So I spent part of this week making this week making two of the survey leaves, with more to come as time permits. Next week will bring new challenges as we seek to complete this textbook and make decisions about where BioBook will be tested in the fall, but regardless of how this process turns out, the project is going very well and I am proud to have had a part.


It is hard to believe that so much of the summer has already past!



Week 5: A Delicate Balance

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 12:30 am

This week was a battle with perfectionism. Our team wants BioBook to be perfect, but with such a small team, there is no way we can produce a book by August that is absolutely perfect. The plan is to therefore focus on what is most important, the content. However, though our entire team is laboring to generate content that covers all the material needed for a non-major biology class, taking steps to ensure everything is explained clearly and concisely, generating the content is a painful process.

We are working from a list of concepts that lay out all the facts that need to be covered. It gives us an idea of what should be covered, but still leaves it up to us to decide how much information should be provided and what specific examples, etc. to include. The reason the problem of choosing what to write came up this week was because after much discussion it was decided that some existing leaves need to be split because the cover more specific information than non-major classes cover.

Looking ahead, my plans for this next week are to keep editing but also take some time to look back over existing leaves and decide if they are needed for non-major classes. If I think a leaf is too complicated, it will be discussed with the team and then changed based on what we decide. In addition, I have now added to my workflow discussing future leaves that are highly technical with the team before editing and uploading them, in the hopes that we can avoid having to go back through existing leaves again.
Until next week,

Week 4: The Unexpected

Saturday, June 16, 2012 1:20 am

This week began like the weeks before, with me sitting at my computer editing pages of information for BioBook. About mid-week, however, I encountered a new challenge. When writing and editing leaves, we note what types of images we think should be found or created to best complement the text. Our team members who work on images then go back in after I have edited the leaves and add videos and images as necessary.

This workflow was going smoothly until our artists were unable to find microscope images of given organisms for leaves I had edited two weeks ago. Because microscope images were needed, the images could not be created. The only way to address the problem was therefore to find other images that related to the leaf and rework the text to fit them.

This week, I only had to go back and majorly re-edit two leaves. Because I only had to redo two leaves, I did not get behind on the leaves I am currently editing. However, now I am conscious about writing text based on images that may be hard to find. I now try to think about how specific images need to be and then write notes when I think on other images, besides the suggested figure, that can be inserted if the suggested figure cannot be found.
It’s been another great week!

Week 3: Focus

Friday, June 8, 2012 8:01 pm

Week 3: Focus
One of the great challenges of editing for BioBook is the variety of topics it encompasses. BioBook is being written for non-major college biology classes, introductory courses that cover a massive amount of information about a range of scientific concepts, from the basic structure of atoms to the ecological levels of organization to the steps of mitosis.

This week in particular I edited an unusually diverse collection of branches, which are organizational groups of informational pages (leaves). I started out working on leaves that discuss the structure of atoms and how electrons interact between atoms to form different types of chemical bonds. Once finished, I edited a set of leaves on major macromolecules (nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids), then a set on how molecules are transported across membranes.

The challenging part of this week was staying focused. Continually editing for days in a row is really hard (especially when abstaining from coffee). So, I have begun to come up with creative ways to maintain my focus, like bringing small snacks to eat mid-afternoon and chewing gum. These methods are improving my attention span and I hope that through deliberate action to continue concentrating, I will stay optimally productive.

This week was also significant in that I learned several important things about the direction of our project once BioBook is completed. In particular, to bring BioBook into the college curriculum:
1. We have already arranged to have field trials in the fall (we have already carried out trials with BioBook, but it only contained a portion of the content).
2. We are inviting instructors to use BioBook as a course supplement for free for 1 semester before committing to it as the course source.
3. We have started building our web presence (, publishing our results in high-visibility educational technology magazines, and sharing it with colleagues at meetings.

Through work can sometimes be difficult, I am excited about the potential BioBook has for revolutionizing the textbook industry and look forward to the day when BioBook is ready for student use.

Week 2: Details

Saturday, June 2, 2012 1:20 pm

This week was a week of tediously working out some details of the project. In addition to finally having our full team together and meeting to discuss our vision for the summer and overall project, we encountered a few small “bumps” in workflow. Though this was definitely still a productive week, I did get less editing finished than I had hoped.

The problems to work through this week arose from a lack of consistent notation, specifically regarding images. Often, team members who work on text also have ideas for what pictures should be included with the text. However, as another team member Tiffany mentioned on this blog, few existing images have the information and licenses we need to use them. When unable to easily find an appropriate picture, writers often describe what kind of picture they think needs to be added or show an image that is close to what they want to be replaced later.

Complications arise when members describe or provide an image but fail to clarify if that image should be used, replaced, or created. Fortunately, we realized that this was a problem before uploading too many branches. Though a few of us now have to go back and look over all image descriptions from branches that have already been revised, from now on we will use a standard system when describing images.

Though I did not edit as much as I had hoped, I did finish editing a few branches. At the pace I am working and at the current pace of our team, we are doing well. Although it will take a LOT more time and work to finish BioBook, I am happy that after week 2 I can already see BioBook starting to come together.
Now finished with week 2!

BioBook and my return to work

Saturday, May 26, 2012 4:34 pm

I am working on The Adapa Project, which is “a group of academic and commercial partners who share a common goal: transform science education (and perhaps other disciplines too), by rethinking the most basic tools and practices of teaching and learning.” This project is led by Dr. A. Daniel Johnson at Wake Forest University. I have been working on BioBook, our first electronic textbook, since last summer and hope that through the hard work of every member of our team, BioBook will soon be completed.


BioBook is a textbook for non-major college biology classes. Because this textbook is being developed according to a framework that is very different from traditional textbooks, making it has proved to be a laborious process. Producing an entire textbook built on entirely new framework with only a very small team has been and continues to be a great challenge.


My contributions to the project as a whole are focused on its text. Because of the amount of text that needs to be included in this textbook, our team has decided to use open-access educational resources as much as possible. My job is to take this already existing text and reorganize and revise it to fit BioBook‘s structure.


This may not sound very difficult at first, but anyone who has read a science textbook will understand the importance of what I am doing. I am majoring in biology and for my major have taken four introductory biology classes at Wake Forest. Each class required a thick textbook that cost around $200. Despite paying so much for my books, I stopped reading them after the first few weeks of my first biology class.


The reason I stopped reading my biology textbooks was that they were not helpful. They were written in overly scientific language that made it difficult to understand the material and often the text contained so much extra information that taking the time to read twenty pages of writing that could have been condensed at least 50% seemed ridiculous.


In reorganizing and revising text for BioBook, I am seeking to address both of the problems that kept me from reading my biology textbooks. Much more than just editing the text for grammar mistakes, I am taking out unnecessary information, deleting repetitive information, rewording sentences when they are written in an unnecessarily complicated way, reorganizing ideas when the way they are presented does not make logical sense, and organizing the text into small units of information our team refers to as leaves. These leaves cover only one idea and are the basic unit of information presented in BioBook, which does not contain traditional chapters.


Since Tuesday, I have been working on text from The On-Line Biology Book by Michael Farabee. So far, I have edited around four branches (which organize related leaves together) and uploaded them to a site on which Dr. Johnson and another member of The Adapa Project with whom I work closely, Dr. Sabrina Setaro, will review them before the leaves are uploaded to BioBook.

Cannot believe one week has already passed!



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