Posts by Alex Christopher

Most outstanding Australian classroom resources announced

Australian educators and publishers last night celebrated a year of making outstanding resources for student learning across the country at the Educational Publishing Awards Australia. Twenty vital learning tools produced by local publishers and used in primary, secondary and tertiary classrooms were awarded.

Two new awards were presented this year at The Arts Centre, Melbourne. The Scholarly Non-Fiction award for a work that serves the education market, had 34 nominations and five shortlisted, with Charles Massy’s agriculture-meets-ecology tome Call of the Reed Warbler (University of Queensland Press) taking out the inaugural prize. Using his personal experience from a chemical-using farmer to a radical ecologist the judges said, “Call of the Reed Warbler exemplifies the potential of research-based writing to speak beyond the academy, enriching public discussion and, without question, the lives of its readers.”

The second new award was made in honour of Professor Mike Horsley, who co-founded the EPAAs in 1994. The award is for dedication to the educational publishing sector and was awarded to Firefly Education’s Peter Stannard, who has been serving the sector for fifty years.

Firefly Education had a good night with three trophies, including one for most outstanding primary resource for Sound Waves Foundation. The judges said this resource was innovative in harnessing sound searches and bespoke images to help students use sound for literacy development.

Other outstanding winning resources were Poems to Share II produced by AATE and Red Room Poetry for secondary, and the Clinical Placement Manual for the Diploma of Nursing 1e by Catherine Joustra and Ali Moloney published by Cengage. The judges considered Poems to Share II a uniquely designed box set of cards and praised the use of creative writing works from students alongside teachers and established poets.

Judges commented that Clinical Placement Manual for the Diploma of Nursing 1e is well-designed for student self-assessment in that its Work Experience tool practically supports students’ work placements.

For the second year in a row Publisher of the Year was awarded to PLD Literacy (primary) and Oxford University Press (secondary).

Keynote speakers of the evening were Lian Davies – principal at Whittlesea Secondary College and previous Educator Rising Star recipient – plus the Copyright Agency’s Reading Australia Fellow for a Teacher of English and Literacy, Alex Wharton, who shared about his research into the textual representation of First Nation and non-First Nation colonial experience to will inform English teaching practice.

Other speakers on the night included Member for Higgins Dr Katie Allen MP, who has authored numerous scholarly texts in the area of pediatrics, and major sponsor of the event, the Copyright Agency’s Adam Suckling.

The event was coordinated by the Schools and Education Publishing Committee and supported by the Tertiary and Professional and Scholarly and Journal Publishing committees of the Australian Publishers Association.

Special thanks to our major sponsor: The Copyright Agency, and also to sponsors: OPUS Group, Newgen KnowledgeWorks, VitalSource, ReadCloud, IndigiPrint, CQUniversity, AAP Photos and Books + Publishing.

Read the full list of winners see this page on the website.

 

30 years in educational publishing – Heather Fawcett of Oxford University Press

Portrait of Heather Fawcett and Michael Gordon-Smith as Heather has been presented her George Robertson Award

Portrait of Heather Fawcett and Michael Gordon-Smith as Heather has been presented her George Robertson Award

Director of Higher Education at Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand, Heather Fawcett, was earlier this year awarded a prestigious George Robertson Award by the Australian Publishers Association. Heather tells us about her experiences, why she’s motivated to stay in the education publishing sector, and why she welcomes change.

I’m thrilled to be a recipient of a George Robertson Award, and very touched by the generous response of colleagues to this recognition.

I came to publishing after a short teaching career; my first publishing job was a Brisbane based primary sales role, the key product being large reading schemes that were typically a whole school purchase.

I moved into the tertiary sector in a Sydney sales based job and eventually found my way back to Melbourne where I was hired by OUP in 1993. The role, Academic Sales Manager, was my first management job, and I really loved the mix of my own territory and people management. Since then I have had at least a dozen different job titles at OUP across sales, marketing, publishing and management in Higher Ed, Academic, Trade, ELT, Dictionaries and Schools.

I’m somewhat reluctant to offer career advice, so please accept these thoughts in the spirit of reflection. In my experience, career advancement is supported by engagement with commercial imperatives and with the objectives of the organisation, a preparedness to take opportunities as they come along, and a genuine interest in customers. Opportunities abound when an organisation is in a growth phase, so by contributing to the growth of a business the chances of career growth are increased. If you happen to have young children while advancing a career, a supportive partner and awesome parents are a great asset; also know that if you do happen to work the odd long day, travel for work or miss the occasional event at their school, they will probably still turn out okay.

We hear much about the demands of managing and coping with change in the workplace and in our operating environments. Most changes at work are for the better; believe me – email and Yammer are a whole lot better than handwritten memos in triplicate and faxes, sending digital files to print is better than film, and it is good that we are not allowed to smoke at our desks! Anyway, there’s little point wishing that we could go back to the way things were when our customers have changed.

Throughout my career in education publishing I have been sustained and motivated by the knowledge that what we do is worthwhile work. It is a privilege to work with authors who are motivated by a genuine commitment to excellence in teaching and learning; they are experts in their field and could undoubtedly spend their time and effort on more financially lucrative pursuits however they chose to put their energy into developing resources to support teaching and learning at scale.

As publishers we play an important role in the delivery of good quality materials (print or digital); a great textbook is not simply about knowledge transfer, it is about developing proper understanding of a subject at the appropriate levels for all learners. The expertise that my colleagues hold, and continue to develop, in pedagogy, content delivery and design in response to the needs of educators and students makes coming to work meaningful

What else has kept me in educational publishing, and at OUP in particular, is the genuine commitment of colleagues to great outcomes for students of all ages. I can honestly say that I love coming to work because of the people I work with and the worthwhile work that we do.

I hope that many of you reading this find educational publishing such a satisfying career that you will eventually join me in addition to my colleagues, Florence Chin, Debra James, Richard Harms, Heather Robinson and others in the 30 year club.

 

Many thanks to Heather Fawcett from Oxford University Press for sharing her words. 

Science teacher on educational publishing with Tina Bean

Images of Cosmos Magazine covers

In this post, we interview secondary science teacher, Tina Bean, on the value of quality educational resources in the classroom. 

 

How long have you been a teacher and what inspired you to become one?

I have been a teacher for 10 years. I retrained to become a teacher because I wanted to give kids opportunities that I had never had. I enjoy working with teenagers in particular and I wanted those kids to be able to enjoy school and have a positive experience at school

What do you teaching and to what Grades?

I teach years 7-10 science and Senior Chemistry.

How often do you use published texts, learning resources and teacher guides for your classroom? Why do you choose to use them?

I use published resources frequently. I tend to use them to create my own resources in school that I adapt to my students. What I may use in one classroom I may not use in the other, even if I have two groups of students that in the same year. The resources that I use will depend upon what works best for the students, what I have the time to work through and work out how I will use them for my students and what level the resources are set at. Some resources are great for Gifted and Talented students but are not good for those who have learning difficulties or may be EAL/D students. I need to carefully go through each of my resources and figure out what will be best for which students.

I often choose resources that have different levels, simple over views and definition and then some work that I can give students that are working quickly through the resources and are enjoying science.

What features of an educational learning resource do you look out for? Why? 

I like my resources to have online support and little video’s included in the content that help to explain the resource. So I look for something where there may be a physical aspect for the content as well as an online platform that supports and expands on the content. I also like to be able to log in and see where my students are up to so that I can assess them and make sure that they are completing the content and understand the content. I want my educational resources to be colourful, high quality, durable and relevant to my students. I want my students to see themselves doing science not just an old fashioned notion of what a scientist is.

I work in science and it can be difficult to find experiments that will engage students. At the beginning of each year there will always be a group of students that ask if we can explode something. Obviously, that is not going to happen. However, I do want to have good quality practicals in my resources that I can work into my classes. Those practicals need to be clear, easy to implement, not require a lot of costly material and easy for students to understand. There also needs to be an understanding that neither the lab technician nor the teacher has a huge amount of time to set up really extensive practicals so any practicals need to be easy to manage and require small set up times.

What’s the most valuable thing about a high quality resource to you in your planning and classroom?

It engages the students and helps them to see science in a visual way and to want to learn more about science. A high quality resource will facilitate my teaching. I will be able to set work from the resource or work with the resource to spark whole class conversations and learning.

When I am planning I want to know that my resources are aligned to the syllabus and that I don’t have to flip back and forwards to another part of the resource, or to another resource to figure out how the resource is aligned to the syllabus. However, I don’t want to have to work through a text book from beginning to end either. I want to be able to flip to the sections that are relevant to me and to my class and ignore those that are not.

Is there a particular Australian resource that you really value? What is it and talk us through what aspects of it really work for you and your students.  

I really like the Cosmos magazines and their sister site Stileapp.com I like being able to customise the work. I love the fact that the units are updated regularly and that they are often based on new articles that are coming through all the time. I like the platform. The platform allows me to look at what my students are doing and how well they are performing. It allows me to see where a student is struggling and where we need to focus more as a class. At the same time I can always change things up if I want to and add in more content or less content.

How do students respond to high quality learning resources in your experience? To what extent can a good resource shift how engaged a student can be? Have you witnessed this happening with a particular student?

Quality resources can help to keep low ability students engaged while at the same time helping to facilitate higher level students explore on their own. I have one particular student, as soon as I gave them access to one particular resource they just powered ahead and explored everything they could. They were so interested. Others kept on working through the work that I requested them to work through, but this one particular student sat there and worked through everything, he wanted more. This is a great response from a student and I was so pleased to have access to a resource that I could use to expand his horizons and to facilitate his interest.​

IT and Mathematics teacher choice on educational publishing products, with Jeff Nicholson

Portrait of Jeff Nicholson

Portrait of Jeff NicholsonIn this post we interview IT and Mathematics teacher, Jeff Nicholson, on what aspects of educational resources he looks for to utilise in his classroom. 

How long have you been a teacher and what inspired you to become one?

I’ve been a secondary school teacher since 2005. I teach IT and Mathematics. Before that, I have predominantly (but not exclusively) worked in IT and that has often involved teaching colleagues how to use technology (especially in the 90s). I recall being asked (as a senior high school student) to teach the teachers at my school how to use a piece of software in the early 90s. I’ve also worked as a tutor at university teaching IT. Helping others learn technology has always been part of my life.

Where do you currently teach, what are you teaching and to what Grades?

I currently teach at a comprehensive government high school in Albury NSW. I have always worked in the public system, and have taught at a variety of schools from south-west Sydney to the western edge of NSW.

How often do you use published texts, learning resources and teacher guides for your classroom? Why do you choose to use them?

As a mathematics teacher, textbooks are invaluable as a reusable question bank resource. Even these days, repetition is a critical part of developing mathematical skills and fully worked solutions and examples underpin the teacher-assisted learning. By also providing alternative voices in how the material is explained, textbooks and other published material give the student the chance to explore other ways of understanding the same content.

What features of an educational learning resource do you look out for? Why?

As a technology-based teacher, I am particularly keen on digital resources. I don’t mind being required to own a physical copy in order to access the digital, although the time-limited subscription model to digital access is problematic. Being able to upload a task to Google Classroom (for internal use only, of course) can be very helpful. It is particularly useful for teachers to have an electronic copy they can access at home (for preparation of work). I’m always on the look-out for publishers who offer an electronic-only site licence arrangement at a reasonable price. In my technology classes, I would ideally like to be paperless and this would assist … but so far the options aren’t that good.

What’s the most valuable thing about a high quality resource to you in your planning and classroom?

Flexibility and currency. Teachers are constantly trying to innovate, and this means being able to use textbooks, or electronic versions, or additional resources that can be on screen or printed. There is no single solution in this mixed-mode education era, and being adaptable is the most helpful. In technology, the world is changing quickly that if we’re to pay for a subscription model for a textbook then we should be seeing that text updated more often.

What resources do you really value and what aspects work for you and your students?

In Mathematics the texts that have differentiated learning – easy, medium and hard questions that are colour coded in the same exercise set – are invaluable for being able to give differentiated work to students in the same class without them directly being labelled as “dumb” or “smart”. In Technology there are often ‘core’ and ‘option’ strands so texts that assist the teacher in developing an integrated program are incredible. This is the thing: course ‘units’ in schools do not always match the textbook chapters (and certainly don’t match the order). Texts that have more, and more narrowly defined, topics (rather than a few broad categories) are easier to mix-and-match in a program and will be more appealing to teachers.

How do students respond to high quality learning resources in your experience? To what extent can a good resource shift how engaged a student can be? Have you witnessed this happening with a particular student?

In my subject area, it’s hard to find any pre-published resource that ‘engages’. Mathematics texts are useful and change a student’s engagement if it provides the right level of support at the right time. Examples on the page (interspersed with the question in the exercise) assist more than a series of examples three pages earlier. I have heard and seen students react against the latter sort of text after they’ve become used to the former: “where are the examples?” has been asked more than once when dealing with a less interlaced resource.

Nominations open for the inaugural Mike Horsley Award

Mike Horsley Award

At this year’s Educational Publishing Awards the first Mike Horsley Award will be presented to an individual who has shown dedication and excellence in their contribution to the Australian educational publishing sector.

The Mike Horsley Award recognises outstanding service to the Australian Educational Publishing Industry (primary-secondary-tertiary) by an individual from within its ranks. The award honours Educational Publishing Awards founder, the late Professor Mike Horsley.

Nominations are now open for the inaugural Mike Horsley Award, the winner of which will be announced on 4 September, at the 2019 EPAAs. The individual will be selected by the Schools & Education and Tertiary & Professional Publishing Committees of the Australian Publishers Association.

Nominations can be made via this form and close on 9 August 2019. 

 

About Professor Mike Horsley

Professor Mike Horsley in 1994 commenced the Educational Publishing Awards with the vision to promote and celebrate research, innovation and excellence in Australian educational publishing. He believed that Australian learning resources are a critical feature of the education landscape and a key influencer of student learning outcomes.

Starting his career as a secondary school teacher, Mike became president of the Economics and Business Studies Teachers of NSW, and went on to become deputy director of a UNESCO/UNDP/IOE regional vocational education curriculum project in the 11 countries of the South Pacific. With Ni-Vanuatu partners he established a new business school in Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu and was a long time resident of Samoa and Fiji. Between 1991-2001 he was the director of the Diploma in Education at the University of Sydney, and subsequently became foundation director of the Master of Teaching; the world’s first case based teacher education program. This led to appointments on Board of Studies Curriculum Committees and to the Review of Teacher Education in NSW, which prepared the path for the NSW Institute of Teachers.

For almost 10 years Mike conducted learning and homework centres for Sydney’s Islander (Samoan, Tongan, Fijian) communities. He was a world authority on homework research and in 2012 Reforming Homework, jointly authored by Richard Walker from the University of Sydney, was published by Palgrave Macmillan.