Archive for September 2016

Interview with Lesley Englert, Firefly Education

The Educational Publishing Awards are committed to rewarding excellence and innovation in the publishing industry at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. We have put together a series of interviews with the publishers, editors and individuals involved in the creation and development of educational resources.

We caught up with Lesley Englert (former ACARA board member and teacher) who has teamed up with Firefly Education to create English Stars, a shortlisted entry for the Primary: Student Resource – English (Literacy, Literature, Language) award.

Why do you think English is such an important subject?
English is the foundation for all learning! We rely on literacy for nearly every aspect of life; it helps us develop our knowledge and potential; allows us to fully engage with our community and culture. Our ability to read, view, write, design, speak and listen means we can understand and communicate effectively in the world we live.

What challenges do you think teachers face when delivering a comprehensive English program?
Being a teacher is a lot harder than most people realise! I know first-hand how much time it takes to put together a lesson. Teachers are expected to do so much more than just teaching: there’s also planning, finding quality resources, marking, and managing behaviour. Now, imagine this workload across five or more subjects! I wanted English Stars to include everything teachers need, so they can focus on what’s most important — their students.

What was your motivation for developing an English program?
The implementation of the Australian Curriculum for English was the subject of many discussions I had with Peter (Stannard) and Ann (Smales) – the Directors of Firefly Education. All of us have been in the classroom and know the kind of pressures that teachers face.

We incorporate English learning into just about every subject, but until now there hasn’t been a comprehensive English program available to teachers.

We wanted to create a program that would be teacher-led… Something with all the lesson resources, planning and assessment tools that teachers could use to deliver an effective English program. After a lot of late nights and long phone calls, working through our shared vision, we decided the time was right to make it happen– and that’s how English Stars was born!

Why does your product deserve to win at this year’s EPAs? Is there anyone you would like to acknowledge and thank for making this product the success it is?

English Stars isn’t just the same old workbook exercises — we really wanted to make the most of all the new technology that has been making its way into classrooms. At the same time, we didn’t want to arbitrarily digitise everything, just for the sake of it. There are things that technology allows us to do that we could never do before. But sometimes, it’s better to have students writing things, or collaborating, or interacting with real, material objects.

So, we created a program that could have the best of both worlds. We use digital technology to save time on things like automatically marking activities, monitoring progress in real time, or capturing results and collating them in interesting and meaningful ways. That said, we haven’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater! There are still abundant opportunities for kids to engage in handwriting, and hone their listening and interaction skills. It’s all there!

I think the program’s innovation in seamlessly uniting curriculum and technology is a great representation of what the awards are all about. English Stars is certainly unique in the Australian education landscape.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention all of the talented people at Firefly Education who helped create the amazing learning videos, and teaching slideshows and all of these clever interactive tools and activities that I believe are both delightful and useful.

Good luck and all the best Firefly Education!

The Educational Publishing Awards are held on Thursday, 6 October at The Pavillion, Arts Centre Melbourne.

Interview with R.I.C. Publications

The Educational Publishing Awards are committed to rewarding excellence and innovation in the publishing industry at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. We have put together a series of interviews with the publishers, editors and individuals involved in the creation and development of educational resources.

Today we caught up with Gail Glendenning from R.I.C. Publications to talk about The Maths box, a shortlisted entry for the Primary: Student Resource – Mathematics  award.

The Maths box series fully supports the teaching and learning of Australian Curriculum Mathematics for Years 1 to 6. Could you tell us how this product works?  

The Maths box series is a set of six boxes with 75 unique cards in each box for students to work on independently or in small groups. It also provides a comprehensive teachers guide with curriculum links for each card, student and teacher tracking sheets to identify areas of difficulty within the classroom, support resources (including worksheets for further teaching and mini posters of key concepts), full-colour answer cards, glossary of mathematical terms and a unique sample card to assist teachers to demonstrate how to use the cards.

The cards expose students to a range of question types, including multiple choice, short-answer and true or false questions, while covering all strands and sub-strands of the Australian Curriculum Mathematics. The cards are colourful and appealing with all artwork created by in-house graphic designers to engage and motivate students while reinforcing mathematics concepts. Additional activities on each card provide further practise or extension for students after completing the questions.

What was the motivation behind publishing this product?

Following the success of The Literacy Box and The Comprehension Box series, R.I.C Publications identified a need for a similar product to assist teachers to develop Mathematics knowledge and skills in their classroom that is also appealing to the students. The Maths box was designed to provide time-poor teachers with planning, teaching and assessment material in a compact, easy-to-use product which focuses on learning in an engaging way and can be re-used multiple times. It is a great value-for-money product in a time where budget allocations are strict.

What impact does The Maths box have in schools? Is there a need for teachers to use this resource?

The Maths box series is a comprehensive resource targeting individual or small-group learning, allowing the teacher time to provide additional instruction to students who require support or extension. It also allows the teacher to check students’ work during the lesson to intervene and correct any misconceptions prior to students completing the card incorrectly.

The teacher tracking sheets in the teachers guide allow the teacher to monitor progress and identify any concepts that need further instruction or any students that require additional support or extension.

It is not designed as a complete program, but a complementary resource for existing programs that may be mandated in the school. It provides opportunities for students to revise and practise concepts covered in mathematics lessons.

Its success so far in the Australian market has led to international markets requesting adapted versions of The Maths box series to sell in to their markets.

What are your views on the current Australian education landscape? 

Education has moved away from teacher-directed learning to a student-centred approach. In mathematics there is more emphasis on hands-on learning through the use of manipulatives.

There are increasing demands and pressures placed on teachers, and their workload is increasing as a result. Time is a precious resource for teachers, and it is quite clear that there is an increasing demand for products offering a complete package that can assist with planning, teaching and assessing.

This is where we try and offer teachers some reprieve with our products— because we don’t want teachers to forget the joy and satisfaction that can be found in teaching children, and we want to make it easier for them to love their job.

Do you think there will be more of a ‘digital’ presence in the classroom in five years? What do you think the classroom of tomorrow will look like?  

While the world itself is becoming more and more digitally active, the key element for any learning is the face-to-face interaction and the quality of the relationship between the teacher and students. The skilled teacher is needed to plan and provide worthwhile learning experiences to their students. While more and more areas of the curriculum may be done on digital platforms in the next five years, the core concepts that need to be taught are best done by individuals–the teachers themselves, who are passionate about their students and their classroom environment, and who pride themselves on their students growing their knowledge and skills in the classroom. Digital technologies can certainly assist the teacher and their students; what is key is that digital technologies are carefully implemented, deployed and monitored in a way that enhances the expertise of skilled teachers and the curriculum.

Why does your product deserve to win at this year’s EPAs? Is there anyone you would like to acknowledge and thank for making this product the success it is?  

This innovative product is a must-have resource to creatively support the teacher’s maths program of work. The students love The Maths box, and so do teachers. The Maths box encourages and motivates maths learning and creates a positive attitude towards it in general. Given that the durable cards can be used over and over again, the series is great value for money at $275 per box. The boxes are a credit to the hard-working production, marketing and sales teams at R.I.C. Publications—our writers, typesetters, designers, editors, salespeople, social media and marketing teams, and various managers. All of their hard work and commitment to a quality product over two years resulted in the success of The Maths box series.

Lastly, R.I.C. Publications took out the Publisher of the Year Primary award last year – and you’re turning 30 this year! What does it mean to be recognised for your hard-work and success by the industry? And what do you think the key to longevity is in the ever-changing publishing industry? 

A lot has happened over the 30 years that R.I.C. has been operational, and the product which we are very proud of today bears little semblance to that was produced in 1986. We are pleased to say, however, that the ground rules that applied then, in the creation of new products, still exist today — that is, we look to solve problems and challenges that teachers encounter every day in the classroom. This remains the fundamental premise which underpins our decision-making at all levels and will always remain so.

It’s a huge honour that teachers place their trust in our company as they have done for 30 years.  We pride ourselves on providing teaching resources, that not only support the different areas of the Australian curriculum but are of a high quality. The key to longevity is maintaining this quality and keeping up to date with the needs of teachers.

Good luck and all the best R.I.C. Publications!

The Educational Publishing Awards are held on Thursday, 6 October at The Pavillion, Arts Centre Melbourne.

Interview with Nina Sharpe, Cambridge University Press

The Educational Publishing Awards are committed to rewarding excellence and innovation in the publishing industry at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. We have put together a series of interviews with the publishers, editors and individuals involved in the creation and development of educational resources.

Today we caught up with Nina Sharpe from Cambridge University Press to talk about Knowledge of Life, a shortlisted entry for the Tertiary (Wholly Australian): Scholarly Resource award.

For those that may not be sure, what is your role at Cambridge University Press? Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your interest in publishing.

I am Senior Commissioning Editor and Development Manager at Cambridge University Press where I have worked for the past six years. I’ve worked for other publishing houses throughout my time in the industry, always placed in Higher Education. I have a passion for Education and developing content into learning solutions for students. It’s ever challenging and rewarding to see this unfold.

Knowledge of Life is the first textbook to provide students with a comprehensive guide to Aboriginal and Tores Strait Islander Australia. Do you believe there is a need in the market for a product that is written by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academics on a range of topics from history and reconciliation, to sport and health?

There are so many reputable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academics within Universities across Australia and I have been lucky enough to work with many of them. As I worked with this team, led by Kaye Price, the experience and passion among them prevailed, and the collaboration allowed the sharing of ideas to come together as a team.

Not only do the authors write with authority on their respective topics, but they present a precis’ to open each chapter offering a personal insight into their experience growing up as an Aboriginal Australian. These authentic voices encourage students to engage with the issues on another level and to understand the real-life implications.

Why do you think this text will be appealing for students to engage with in their studies?

It does not specialise in one area and allows students to explore a range of pressing issues across social, cultural and political landscapes. The topics cover sport, reconciliation, literature, art, human rights and midwifery to name a few. The language is engaging and personal, while well researched and detailed. It is contemporary, topical and relevant. It was a manuscript I couldn’t drag myself away from and I’m sure the book has had the same effect on readers.

Were there any challenges leading up to the publication of Knowledge of Life?

As with many books, it was challenging to bring together the right team to write and to keep things on schedule – though this is of course not unique to this text! While there were challenging times during the writing process, the manuscript was delivered to publish on time and once it publishes all those delays are a distant memory.

Why does your product deserve to win at this year’s EPAs? Is there anyone you would like to acknowledge and thank for making this product the success it is?

There were many involved in bringing this publication to life across editorial, production, sales and marketing but most importantly I want to acknowledge the author, Kaye Price. Kaye’s career has been dedicated to better education and she has worked tirelessly to improve the education experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. I have personally learnt so much and benefited from my experience working so closely with her and value the ongoing friendship we have developed.

Having Kaye’s expertise and leadership, alongside the collaboration of the contributors and the array of ideas presented in one package is unique and distinctive from any other publication. This is a very special book!

 

Good luck and all the best Nina and the team at Cambridge!

The Educational Publishing Awards are held on Thursday, 6 October at The Pavillion, Arts Centre Melbourne.

 

Professor Mike Horsley and the Educational Publishing Awards

Until the establishment of the Educational Publishing Awards, educational publishing in Australia enjoyed little, if any, professional recognition. The inaugural Awards in 1994 gave Australian educational publishers their first opportunity to shine.

This year, the Awards mark their 23rd year of celebrating excellence in educational publishing.

Their ongoing success is a tribute to Professor Mike Horsley, who was a driving force in their inception. In establishing the Awards in partnership with the Australian Publishers Association, Professor Horsley’s aim was to encourage leading-edge educational publishing. He has been Chief Judge in the Awards since then, tirelessly promoting the cultural and educational value of publications designed to meet the needs of Australian students and teachers.

Words: Penny Martin 

For the full story remember to pick up a copy of the Educational Publishing Awards catalogue at the ceremony.