Textbook Author - Donald I. Barker
Don Barker - Manito Park    

My Story

I have authored, coauthored, and contributed to forty-two textbooks on a wide range of information technologies, including Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach, which shows you how to create a winning social media marketing plan for your organization. In addition, I was senior editor of the PC AI Magazine and have written dozens of technical articles for a variety of other top journals and magazines, such as MIT's Technology Review, and the Industry Standard.

I stumbled into textbook authoring out of necessity. Over thirty years ago, I wanted to teach people how to use personal computers to improve business productivity, but couldn't find anyone publishing instructional material on the subject. So, I got sucked into creating it myself.

Advances, such as electronic spreadsheets, expert systems, and graphical user interfaces, drove my early work. When personal computers first arrived on the scene, productivity software was rare and expensive. To provide students with the opportunity to learn to use these amazing programs, I co-pioneered the inclusion of free limited versions of software with textbooks.

I came to understand the difference between "learning" and "teaching." The most effective way to learn software is to have students construct cumulative projects, which requires them to build upon what they have already learned. All my books focus on this "learning by making" (constructionism) pedagogy, which enables students to master complex computer skills easily and quickly.

My interest in artificial intelligence led me to author the first textbook on expert systems development, and coauthor an award-winning theoretical paper detailing the breakthroughs in this book regarding knowledge acquisition techniques. Soon after, I coauthored the first textbook about how to persuasively display business data graphically with a personal computer.

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, once shook my hand and thanked me profusely. Why? When Microsoft shipped Windows 3, it became clear that this graphical user interface (GUI) would change the way people interacted with personal computers. As a consequence, I wrote the first textbook on how to use Windows, with the 3.1 edition becoming a bestseller.

After the success of "Working with Windows 3.1," I happened to come face-to-face with the billionaire himself. Gates had just delivered a speech about the importance of critical thinking in education, and every local mover-and-shaker in Spokane was trying to get a word with him. With hundreds of people were pressing toward him, it was sheer chance I met up with him in that crowd. When Gates discovered that I had authored the first Windows book, he grabbed my hand and shook it vigorously, saying, "Thank you! Thank you!" Sadly, he didn't whip out his checkbook and write me one for a million dollars in sheer gratitude. ;-)

The Windows book broke new ground in its extensive use of screenshots as reference points for students. I used this approach to spawn the first series of textbooks featuring Windows-based productivity software. Taken together, these texts taught literally hundreds of thousands of people how to effectively and efficiently use personal computers with the Windows' GUI. 

With advent of the web, it occurred to me that "melding" the static nature of paper-based textbooks with the constantly evolving digital content on the web offered the ideal means to deliver the most up-to-date learning experience possible. Thus, the hybrid college textbook was born. The first textbook to benefit from this fusion of paper and digital featured the web browser, Netscape Navigator 1.0. I designed a Student Online Companion to work in concert with this text, ensuring that as the web evolved, so would the contents of the book. In a related vein, I also invented the first web-based instructor manual to accompany a textbook. Its decedents have saved textbook publishers millions in production and printing costs (Alas, I hadn't foresight to patent that invention! ;-).  

Simply put, I have enjoyed pushing the technology envelope and being at the forefront in helping people learn new ways to interact with computers.