1 Priorities and Disclaimers
This manual is a production of the CommUnity Health Action Lab (CUHAL). That means that it’s probably going to be a bit different from other manuals that you might have used. Here are some examples of how/why that we hope will help you navigate this book:
1. We partner with communities.
All of the content is designed with examples from the Iowa City Community School District, so if you’re from another district in Iowa or another state, you might be thinking ‘yo. what is the fixation on Iowa City??’ We worked very closely with a team of community partners to figure out what needed to go in this manual, how to talk about it, and what barriers people might face. Thus, this manual is something of a “bespoke” resource for the Iowa City community.
However, we really want this manual to be helpful to anyone who is trying to navigate online school. We have added suggestions for how to get to the same type of information for your school district (when applicable). We are working to set up a space where people outside of our community can ask for specific content, or tell us about things that are completely different in their home communities.
We also FULLY partner with communities. Sometimes researchers come in with what they think is a great idea and develop or test it with communities. Which is awesome, as long as real people benefit I am Here. For. It. But our preferred model is to partner with communities before we even get to the problem/problem-solving. Evidence suggests that this strategy results in more robust, usable, useful solutions. Evidence confirms that doing it that way also takes a lot longer :). It’s a flaw we’re willing to live with (supported by that whole tenure concept that people live to demonize). And it means that we’re going to ask for patience and forgiveness a lot.
2. We are careful about word choice.
I mean… you’d think that would be pretty standard a book out of a “communication” department, right? In this case, you’re dealing with folks who specialize in health and interpersonal communication, *and* have a deep connection to child welfare.
In this manual we tried to use the phrases “your student” or “your learner” vs. your child.
Our research leads us to believe that *most of the users of this manual will be adults responsible for facilitating a child’s learning, but that the child in question may not be “their” child. For example, the first version of this ebook was a CEU training module for child care providers. Additionally, we also want to be sensitive to families made up of foster parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, older siblings, etc.!
3. We will never have a perfect manual.
One of the CUHAL (pronounced “cool.” Because we are nerds and think we are delightfully clever :)) team’s primary goals is to help communities in need. A big part of that is creating free resources like this one using a team approach. And. Getting those resources out into the community a quickly as possible. And most of this time we’re doing this on a shoestring (or non-existent) budget. Do I wish we had an editor? Oh goodness yes. But that costs time and money we don’t have.
We have prioritized faster publication and keeping resources free.
There are errors. You’re going to find them. I’m going to be embarrassed. It is was it is.
Beyond that, tech is a DOOSEY to keep track of with updates and modifications and platforms and bug fixes and someone somewhere who decides to freshen the look (do you know that person? Could you tell them to stop? Please?).
This manual is a living book. This means that we plan to update it frequently and add/edit content as we get feedback. Our goal is to get this material to the community as quickly as possible, and we appreciate your patience.
4. We can’t help adding theory and research.
Our publications are the product of academia, lead by a person who lo-o-oves to get all up in her data and evidence and theory. So, this means that we used our nerdy superpowers to create the manual.
But it also means that we (ok, possibly mainly me) want to include some of that information! So we have sections that talk about these super nerdy things. We recognize that many (most? all?) of y’all are probably just here to get the info, and we understand! Thus, we have put all the bonus nerdy content together in its own section(s) and stick to the “ok, but help me solve this dilemma” -oriented details as the main content.
As of March 2021 adding this content is secondary to adding the teaching content, so you may see more and more of it as we continue to develop this book.
5. (Sometimes) We tell stories.
Word on the street is that a whole lot of people aren’t really into reading scientific research. Weird, right? Storytelling is one of the ways we try to bridge that gap. Between you and me, I also think that stories are more fun to read than academic research. Don’t tell anyone. DocMC in particular (me) loooooves to tell stories. I’m sure you didn’t notice. We tried to make it easy for you to know that you can just skip the stories and get right to the content by putting my stories in a shaded box. An example is below:
Sometimes when we publish we’re asked to talk about ourselves and who did what. My very favorite version of this to date was written by a beloved former graduate student, Jeanette Dillon, related to a 2020 publication about diffusion of innovation. She wrote:
The first author, Dr. Kate Magsamen-Conrad (fondly known as Doc MC by her students) is a self-identified social scientist who most often tells stories that numbers reveal to her. Her devotion to answering questions has led her to partnering with her qualitative colleagues in better understanding the world around her. With that perspective, she dove into a mixed-methods, community study while mentoring the second author who was a graduate student during much of the study. After graduation, Dr. Jeanette M. Dillon, who identifies as a mostly qualitative scholar, continued writing with Doc MC to further explore important community work. The voices of our participants were incorporated as much as possible to allow for a sort of ghost authorship. Students, seniors, senior center staff, and graduate students in Doc MC’s research group did not write in this paper, but their presence was essential, and their contribution is profound.
So, ok, yes, it wasn’t exactly what the journal wanted but I’ll cherish it always anyway because it’s how I’d like to see myself.
And I won’t even know if you skip over them!
See? Did you skip that one? I have no idea.
6. We’re still figuring this out.
This manual is our first official CUHAL publication (March 2021). It’s our first ebook designed for mass consumption. Our first iBook, and our first Amazon book. We probably messed up, but we’re confident that we’ll figure it out eventually.