Meta-schoolbook Writer's Guide
What's a meta-schoolbook? The term is meant to refer to a schoolbook written for pupils who want to write their own supplementary literature for the schoolbooks of younger pupils. The writer's guide will recommend how to approach writing a meta-schoolbook and can be refined by authors of books following the guide. How do you write a schoolbook for authors who are still pupils? The authors need creative freedom and examples they can improve upon. The teachers need material that helps them to evaluate the resulting work. The audience of the resulting work is probably grateful for reference books where they can verify if their new schoolbook is not only interesting but also true.
One beneficial effect can be that the younger pupils may be motivated to question their school books and to read up on topics because they know the authors and can contact them in school, which can lead to a much different attitude. Since the literature should probably be useful prior to any work by pupil authors this might require additional books. For example: The main book (def.) should be useful for younger pupils without any additional work. An author's guide to a topic (def.) could provide examples for supplementary literature and give examples designed to be improvable but without being too obviously inferior: The pupils shouldn't arrive at the conclusion that this was intentionally inferior to the main book so they could do some unnecessary work. Quite to the contrary, the pupils should be encouraged to see any mistakes they found as a motivation to improve on the examples beyond the prearranged flaws. Teachers should probably find all the prearranged flaws in a special reference manual for teachers (def.) supervising an authoring group and younger pupils could probably be trained to be critical consumers of this literature if they had convenient access to reference books (def.) with definitions, explanations and extensive references to further information. An authoring group could also be encouraged to extend such a reference work (e.g., in a local school wiki). A handout for mentors (def.) can help mentors to understand what a pupil will have learned after reading a book and what the knowledge may be useful for. A handout for mentors should be provided in electronic form so the authors can modify the handout and add their own ideas. Handouts for mentors differ from supplementary material for teachers in that the handout is much less extensive and more oriented towards the general applicability of the knowledge covered in a book.
Both, the effect of the creative group work for the authors and the effect of having older pupils as book authors in a school community, could be assumed to be beneficial. The recognition the authors may receive could also work towards the selection of sensible goals in a school community, for the authors as a social status and for the readership as a role model.Pupils cannot be expected to research and compile schoolbooks all by themselves and teachers probably would be hesitant to use a book in a class that was entirely compiled and written by pupils. Consequently the work of an authoring group should be supported by literature designed for the purpose.
In a schoolbook test by the Stiftung Warentest experts and pupils have expressed quite differing opinions on the didactic qualities of the books being evaluated. A possible conclusion could be that pupils as authors may be able to enhance the quality of schoolbooks as perceived by their peers.
|Science is experience becoming rational. The effect of science is thus to change men's idea of the nature and inherent possibilities of experience.|
In the constructivist approach the teacher becomes a facilitator who focuses on the individual learning process of the learner and the learner assumes an active role in selecting and analyzing knowledge. The goal of writing a schoolbook seems well-suited for a constructivist approach. The authoring group can enjoy autonomy in designing their own procedures for cooperation in a democratic process and a teacher can join that process as a chief editor or advisor. The authoring group probably should analyze the educational goals of their book and construct mental models of the knowledge and learning process of the readers. An author's guide to a topic could facilitate this point of view through explicit examples of potential readers with differing knowledge and understanding. The fictional characters could have explicit descriptions of their prior knowledge, misapprehensions and concepts they were unable to understand at their age.
Reconstruction rather than transmission of knowledge 
||This book is currently incomplete.|
The constructivist approach means reconstruction of knowledge instead of transmission of knowledge. For an authoring process this could mean that the author's guide to a topic could contain some dubious and inconsistent material that clearly asked for independent measurement, theory formation or other forms of further research.
Didactic approaches for the resulting book 
|That which we learn most thoroughly, and remember the best, is what we have in a way taught ourselves.|
The authoring group should have a concept for a didactic approach of their work but an author's guide to a topic probably shouldn't unnecessarily restrict the options of the authoring group; the creative freedom may be a significant contribution to the motivation of the authors. An author's guide could be a kaleidoscope of examples following varying approaches and styles, explaining respective advantages and disadvantages. A challenge for the authors could be to resist changing the style of their own book inconsistently.
Pupil authors could be offered a set of patterns from which they could choose patterns they wanted to use in their own book project and which they could extend by describing new patterns to be used in the project. The authoring group could compile a manual of patterns and anti-patterns before and while writing their book.
Example patterns 
- Obvious but wrong association
- The reader is offered an erroneous association which can be easily revealed by bringing facts from the text together. This allows the reader to experience a learning success when the erroneous association is seen through; the act of analyzing the text may be more rewarding for some readers. A reader who easily jumps to conclusions may learn to avoid that.
- Wrong categorization
- The reader is offered a categorization that is suboptimal. The reader can derive additional motivation for a more thorough analysis from re-sorting the given aspects and constructing his or her own categorization. The text must provide a motivation for the reader to want to break up the existing categorization, otherwise a lazy reader may end up using the suboptimal categorization beyond the scope of the book.
- False dilemma
- The reader is offered two choices where in actuality more discrete choices exists or a more sensible point of view lies in between. The reader may have to find the missing options him - or herself or may have to derive them from the fact that the authors at some point assume that the dilemma has been resolved.
- Mixed theories
- Parts of different theories are mixed so that the result is inconsistent and cannot be understood. The reader has to assemble the parts of the theories that form one or several consistent theories that describe the observed facts.
- Wrong mistake
- An obvious mistake the reader may disbelieve quickly turns out to be a surprising fact later. The reader can learn to be more careful in discarding information.
- Choice of experimental setup
- The books offers several experimental setups to verify a theory. The reader has to choose the experimental setup that is suitable to verify a theory.
- A concept is presented in a way that is recognizably too simple. The reader is motivated to reconsider the presented knowledge (as with "Wrong categorization"). An oversimplification should be accompanied by hints at the actual complexity of the concept to make sure the reader is actually motivated to think further.
- Contradictory claim
- A statement contradicts established knowledge. The reader is motivated to question established knowledge or to reject the claim. At some point the book should reveal, directly or indirectly, whether the claim or the established knowledge was in error. Established knowledge can be in error, for instance, if a theory makes assumptions or if a theory requires a refinement that has not yet been introduced.
- A causal relation that may or may not be true (but can, possibly incorrectly, be explained by other means) is explained by means that provoke objections, because the explanation appears rather unlikely to apply in general or to apply at all. Pseudo-causality is also useful to introduce humor (or "tiny problems that can be solved in very short time", which is what jokes are).
Graphics library 
Pupils may not be able to create an adequate collection of diagrams and other graphical elements for their book themselves. An author's guide to a topic should come with an extensive library of diagrams and graphics in SVG format. The pupils should again have to verify if the diagrams were in fact adequate and described what they were meant to describe. A recurring pattern could be that the visually most interesting graphics had the more unacceptable flaws. Flaws could also be designed to be easily remediable with an SVG vector graphic editor. A pupil who has adopted a graphic as his or her own work may become more involved and may derive additional motivation thereof.
Graphics could also sometimes have their own production history. A fictional team of pupils or college students could, for example, have conducted several experiments and they could have documented their findings in a research diary and a research paper. The authoring group could have to review the documents and to analyze if and how the findings were usable for the book project.
Interactive science experiment 
For an experimental set-up too extensive for the average reader, the authoring group could construct interactive science experiments, for instance with Molecular Workbench, SVG animation, Flash, JavaFX, Silverlight or EToys. An interactive science experiment could allow the reader to conduct an experiment in a virtual environment. The reader could have to choose parameters and to assemble the experimental set-up on a virtual workbench. The results of an experiment or possible mistakes in the experiment could be visualized with short movies from an actual experiment. An extensive library of graphical objects for use in interactive science experiments should accompany a Writer's Guide on a topic with potential for scientific experimentation.
School TV 
School TV documentaries can supplement a book made by pupils. To support an authoring group in their work to make a documentary a writer's guide can provide supplementary material that can be used in a documentary and recommendations where material can be found or how new material appropriate for the subject can be made. The provided material can, again, require the pupils to think about the subject matter. Material can be made available in different versions with some versions containing smaller or larger errors, like material in the graphics library. Mistakes in the provided material can be explained with a background story how the material has supposedly been created. Different qualities and approaches can, for instance, be explained with different sources, which is likely to promote the media literacy of the authors.
Documentaries can also be complemented with their own Wikibooks with further information about the topics of a documentary. Some video content formats may allow to add references to the wiki content from inside the video, possibly also back from the wiki content to a position in the video or another video.
Making of 
A special type of documentary can document the creation of the book and the work of the authoring group. In combination with an actual documentary a making of documentary can also document the production of the actual documentary, which allows a larger group of pupils to participate in the creation of material. A making of can also help to motivate that the work of the authoring group has to be presentable, which can promote seriousness.
Theory formation 
|Because of our education we use words, thinking they are ideas, to dispose of questions, the disposal being in reality simply such an obscuring of perception as prevents us from seeing any longer the difficulty.|
||This book is currently incomplete.|
Inventing terminology 
A group of pupils engaged in scientific research should be encouraged to make use of their own definitions and their own terminology. An author or teacher can, for instance, recommend appropriate Latin or Greek word stems but leave it to the pupils to agree on definitions. Self-made terminology and definitions can encourage the pupils to think independently of existing definitions and only to connect their findings to universally valid definitions in retrospect. This is primarily useful in subjects where the pupils can engage themselves in actual scientific work and receive tuition in scientific methodology.
See also 
- Kant, Immanuel (1900) [Compiled 1803 by Theodor Rink]. On education (Über Pädagogik). trans. Annette Churton, introd. by C. A. Foley Rhys Davids. (1 ed.). Boston: Heath. OCLC 2342855. http://openlibrary.org/books/OL13530445M/Kant_on_education_%28Ueber_p%C3%A4dagogik%29.
- Individual curriculum: Academic topics: Science (Assistant teacher course, Wikiversity)