Posts by Alex Christopher

Skin Deep Innovation in Tertiary Learning Resources

Personal experience and a passion for innovation through customer feedback, has led hair and beauty expert, Hayley Costa from Skin Deep Learning, to not only dive into the world of educational publishing but also win the highest honour for tertiary/vocational learning resources at the Educational Publishing Awards of Australia this year.

Skin Deep Learning’s resources look like a beauty magazine you’d pluck off the shelf at a newsagency. Yet behind the covers are the results of involved student research and creative thinking that helps trainers to teach and inspire students of hair and beauty to be more knowledgable about their craft – giving them more opportunities in their future.

The journey to being a publisher for vocational learning started for Ms Costa when she was a salon owner who employed new VET graduates. She went on to become a beauty trainer in the VET sector, later writing for resources, and also working as a Registered Training Organisation compliance officer.

“It was the culmination of these experiences that allowed me to see the gap in the market.  What I saw was a lack of resources that were engaging to the learner and gave the trainer the support they needed. So resources with a combined teacher and student focus, that worked in with compliance matters, was born in Skin Deep Learning.”

Skin Deep Learning creates learning resources that are a full assessment system for both teachers and students in the hair and beauty field. “With these resources,” Ms Costa says, “teachers can put their focus into what they do best – training and assessing – rather than spending countless hours writing training materials.

“Our learning products are a safe option for Registered Training Organisations, as they have been thoroughly audited and validated. The trainer can feel comfortable knowing their compliance needs are met.”

In the concept phase, research was conducted on graduate demographics focusing on their understanding and satisfaction of the resources that were available at the time. This was combined with Ms Costa’s personal experience as a trainer.

“I was deeply troubled as a teacher by the level of understanding and engagement by students in the theory of the subjects. These students were great on the practical side but were struggling to grasp the theory and getting them to read a textbook or black and white word-based documents was like “pulling teeth.”

“I had a pivotal moment thinking about what beauty and hairdressing students read, engage with, and enjoy. The answer was fashion magazines and social media. I wanted to develop a learning resource that was targeted in its approach, that provided the student with all of the information they needed to know, and was presented in a way that was not daunting or ‘like school’.”

“The language style is really important too. The conversational writing approach was used to  invite the student on a learning journey, and limit any intimidation potentially caused by formal language. The content emphasises the key points to students in an easy to understand way and uses real world examples that students can relate to.

“It may seem simple but there is a lot of thought and strategy into developing the magazine-style learning materials.They look like a magazine, but they have to deliver learning outcomes.

Therefore, we had to come up with a new style that is a hybrid between a magazine and textbook.”

In order to bring the resources to life, Ms Costa admits that she needed assistance.

“I needed help from a graphic designer. We sat together and worked through everything page by page. This was expensive and time consuming, but worth it, as it provided us with a set of templates and methodology. I got a few grey hairs managing all of the content and the magazine layout, but all in the day of the life of an editor!”

Since the resources were first trialled in 2014, a strong product has been recreated due to Ms Costa’s constant connection with teachers and others in the sector. “Without their encouraging remarks, and pestering me to produce more units, I may have just given up a time or two.”

Skin Deep Learning has a philosophy of continual improvement built into a customer/teacher feedback mechanism. This allows design thinking and co-creation principles to guide the development of the resources on an ongoing basis.

“We have a very active customer base. We get feedback on our resources from trainers, students, people in industry, product companies, auditors and compliance personnel. We also have an on-line community which is an additional source of vital information, as it allows trainers and students to chat with each other about assessments and ask for help or give feedback on the resources.

“It’s through these feedback channels that we gain lots of new information which helps us to continuously improve the resources.

“We have systems and processes to manage this information which results in unit updates and our annual Continuous Improvement Report.  Every year our resources improve with these multiple sources of feedback, which means all RTOs benefit from the wide range of feedback we receive.”

The resources initially took somewhere between four and nine months to create – but they are always changing and improving. It’s these systems that Ms Costa says are the greatest lesson in her venture thus far.

“I have learnt a great deal on this journey but my take home message from the last phase of business expansion was around systems and structures. They are the only way to increase productivity and keep errors and unnecessary re-work to a minimum.  I learnt that in order to meet demand, we had to publish fast, so systems and structure was pivotal. These also impact version control.”

What is next for Skin Deep Learning?  “Well we have a number of ideas that will build on the foundation we have created and further innovation in the vocational education market.  These will be outside our current markets and of course we will go for the high-volume, high-value courses. Wait and see 2019 should be another transformational year for Skin Deep Learning.”

Skin Deep Learning was awarded two awards at the 25th Educational Publishing Awards of Australia, which were judged by a panel of experts – including teachers – led by Chief Judge Associate Professor Angela Carbone, from Swinburne University.

The Educational Publisher Awards Australia showcase excellence and innovation in the field of educational publishing.

View the full list of winners.

Building an outstanding primary learning resource

Macmillan Education was the winner of the most outstanding resource for Primary school at the Educational Publishing Awards this year. They share the extent to which educators and experts were involved in developing winning resource STEM Investigations for Upper Primary.

Written by highly qualified teaching professionals, aligned with the national curriculum, tested by teachers, edited by science experts, and praised by teacher-users, the learning resource was declared “a stand out” by the judges of the Educational Publishing Awards.

Commissioning Editor for the Primary School Division at Macmillan Education Georgina Garner says, “Macmillan partners with educators and experts that specialise in the subjects they publish. We engaged experienced STEM educators to author and consult on this product.

“Specific research and concept development for the learning resource began in 2016 and the product was published March 2018.

“The resource was developed to cover Australian Curriculum (and certain state curriculum) objectives in Maths, Science and Technology,” Ms Garner shares. “Each investigation idea, such as designing an earth-quake resistant building or designing a lighting and sound system for a school disco, is clearly linked to objectives in these subject areas, as teachers need to know what goal they are working towards to assess success and to plan their teaching time effectively. The author team who created the inquiry ideas are all current or former educators.

The Educational Publishing Award judges chose the STEM learning resource as its innovative set of investigation cards focused on real-world problems, in which students are guided to follow a five-step Stanford University Design Thinking model to apply STEM knowledge and skills.

 

When asked why she thinks they were chosen as a stand out by the judges, Ms Garner says it’s down to addressing the two audiences in the one product. “STEM Investigations for Upper Primary has a highly comprehensive Teacher Resource Book. It provides everything a primary school teacher needs in one place in a logical order with an accessible design – from teacher PD, planning, quality questions and activities, apps, video links etcetera.”

For students she says, “It addresses real world problems and gives them an opportunity to explore solutions to those problems which could ultimately make an impact in their local communities. There are 20 challenges but there are an endless number of potential solutions.”

The lead author on the project was Charlotte Forward who holds a PhD (exploring student understanding of Science vocabulary), has a Master of Teaching, and is in the classroom full-time. Prior to this project she was involved in a pilot STEM program, High Possibility Classrooms, with Dr. Jane Hunter from the University of Technology Sydney and Independent Schools Victoria.

The editing process for the resource followed standard processes and quality control markers with an in-house editorial lead, supported by the managing and commissioning editor.

“A freelance editor with a strong science background was used consistently across the series.” Ms Garner explains. “And several touchpoints with authors and the publishing team were added into the review process.” Macmillan Education drew on a number of education consultants for feedback at key points in the process.

While STEM education is not yet reflected in its own curricula, the subject is highly valued by several governments around the world due to links with future economic prospects and employment opportunities. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that “changing 1 per cent of Australia’s workforce into STEM-related roles would add $57.4 billion to GDP.”**

Ms Garner explains, “The Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda was announced in December 2015 outlining a number of initiatives designed to increase the participation of all school students and the wider community in STEM and improve their digital literacy. This was backed with four-year funding from 2016.”

Macmillan Education has received very positive feedback from teachers who have used STEM Investigations for Upper Primary so far. Bruce Armstrong, Science teacher at Karoo Public School said in a review published in Science Teachers’ Association of Victoria Inc. Journal:

“STEM Investigations for Upper Primary will equip any classroom teacher with an exciting variety of possible projects and the necessary tools to make the investigations highly engaging and productive, even if they have little experience in facilitating STEM investigations.”

A curriculum leader in Victoria says, “I have purchased both upper and middle packs through Macmillan as I was drawn to the incorporation of the d-school design thinking model. This is a real point of different from other resources I have seen, which generally focus on toys, rather than the thinking. The kit that you (Macmillan Education) have put out is the best one I have seen so far.”

This successful resource has been built in collaboration with the specific outcome of giving teachers everything they need to inspire and encourage STEM skills and thinking in their classrooms. Akin to the goal of STEM in problem solving, Ms Garner says, “All successful educational publishing meets a need. If a resource helps the teacher better meet a student need, then the resource will have longevity.”

 

**(PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), A Smart Move: future-proofing Australia’s workforce by growing skills in STEM (2015)).

Many thanks to Georgina Garner and Alexandra Harper from Macmillan Education. 

2018 WINNERS ANNOUNCED FOR AUSTRALIAN EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHING AWARDS

The connection between Australian educators and publishers, who create learning resources for the classroom, was last week celebrated at the Educational Publishing Awards of Australia in Melbourne.

Twenty-three winners were announced across three broad categories of primary, secondary and tertiary education.

The big winners of the evening were PLD – a learning and literacy organisation and Oxford University Press (OUP) who were awarded Primary and Secondary Publisher of the Year respectively, as voted by Australian teachers.

Director of PLD Diana Rigg was thrilled that her organisation won the award being the first time they were nominated. “We create tools for primary educators to enhance literacy development in young children and we’re so grateful to be recognised by teachers across the country,” Ms Rigg said.

Daniel Aspinall from OUP was really proud of his workplace being named Secondary Publisher of the Year for the second year in a row. “What we do is for teachers and students and to better education in Australia overall. It’s a team effort, we work with many people to bring resources to the classroom and we’re really pleased with the award,” he said.

Keynote speaker for the event, TV presenter and primary school teacher, Shelley Ware, shared with more than 200 individuals in attendance her personal story of needing quality, engaging texts as a young person with literacy difficulties, and as a teacher, and as a parent of a child with similar reading difficulties that she faced.

In her speech, Ms Ware reinforced teachers’ love of good educational resources and the joy teachers feel when a new package arrives from publishers sharing new materials.

Ms Ware also shared her journey in becoming an educational resource author — starting with being asked to prepare ten lessons for Sunshine Classics’ Teachers Notes, which was shortly updated to 130 lessons.

Along with Shelley Ware, awards were presented by Adam Suckling from the Copyright Agency who were the major sponsors of the event, as well as President of the Australian Publishers Association and Schools Director of Oxford University Press, Lee Walker.

Award winners were selected by a panel of judges led by Associate Professor Angela Carbone from Swinburne University.

Images from the event can be sourced here.

View the full list of winners. 

Today we celebrate 25 years of educational publishing in Australia

More than 200 educators and educational publishers will come together at The Arts Centre in Melbourne tonight to toast another year of making high-standard educational materials for Australia’s roughly four million school students, and also Tertiary and TAFE/vocational learners.

The combined efforts of educators and educational publishers will be celebrated in the 25th Educational Publishing Awards of Australia on Thursday 20 September 2018.

Keynote speaker at the awards, TV presenter and primary school teacher, Shelley Ware knows doubly well how involved and crucial educational learning resources are, having authored Teacher Notes for literacy and regularly chosen learning materials for her classroom.

“Good educational resources engage students. Teachers fully rely on them, and they are a part of the big picture to inspire students to have a lifelong passion to read and learn,” Ms Ware said.

“As a writer I learnt so much about the valuable role of and immense skill of editors and also the timelines in the publishing process, and as a teacher I look for good quality, interesting, children-friendly texts – they’re vital for the classroom,” Ms Ware continued.

In the hands of hardworking educators across the nation but often overlooked, learning resources are a critical component for an active and engaged classroom. Good educational resources make the lives of teachers easier, and are created by switched on and connected educational publishers.

Schools and Educational Publishing representative on the Australian Publishers Association’s Board, Brendan Bolton said, “Many educational publishing staff previously worked as teachers, and publishers always consult classroom educators to inform the development of a new product. Publishers work closely with curriculum bodies to produce relevant and timely resources as well.

“Learning resources can take anywhere from 18 months to 3 years to create”, Bolton said, “and when we do our job well, it’s great to know we’re helping teachers do the important work of bringing their classrooms to life.”

Twenty-three awards will be presented across primary, secondary and tertiary education.

See you all tonight from 5.30pm!

Getting to know keynote speaker Shelley Ware

Keynote speaker Shelley Ware is perhaps best known for her work on the SBS footy show, Marngrook, yet she’s an experienced and practising primary school teacher based in Victoria and is author of the educational resource, Teaching Notes for Sunshine Classics.

Shelley spoke with us recently about her love for teaching, her experience in writing and working with editors and publishers, and the importance of learning resources being quickly engaging for students.

Shelley Ware, EPAA 2018 key note speaker

You’ve noted that from a young age you wanted to be a teacher. What was the genesis of this career goal? 

Yes, I have always wanted to be a teacher. My father Bob Ware valued education and the pathways it created in your life. My mother Jan Ware went back to study nursing in her late 30s so education has always been important to me because of their inspiration and thinking.

In your experience, to what extent do teachers rely on good-quality texts in the classroom?
Good quality, interesting, children-friendly texts are vital for the classroom. You want to engross students and help develop their love for reading. Teachers fully rely on good-quality texts; they are a part of the big picture to engage students to have a lifelong passion to read and learn.

What was the process like in developing Teaching Notes for publication? How did you tackle research, writing and editing it?
We treated Teaching Notes as a resource teachers could pick up and use without having to read the text beforehand and do any preparation. A teacher’s day is so busy and we wanted to make life easier for them. We developed a tool to help a time-pressured teacher get the most out of their busy planning and reading sessions.

What insights did you get about educational publishing in writing Teaching Notes for Sunshine Books?
I learnt about publishing deadlines and how quickly publishers want your work! And also about the amazing support and skills editors have. I very much appreciated them!

You were a literacy program coordinator for four years. What can you tell us about literacy and the role good books and resources play in schools today?

The books I chose as a literacy program coordinator needed to engage my students quickly and they loved the books I picked out for them. If I chose a book that didn’t engage them it was sent to the back of the pile never to be used again, only in case of emergencies. Easy to read, colourful, well laid out and well written books are essential.

What would you say is the role of educational publishing in an innovative classroom?
Educational publishing has a responsibilty role is to engage learners of all ages and levels. The publisher has an obligation to listen to the students and teachers about what their needs are.

In an article you’re mentioned to have said that you love Aussie Rules because of the opportunities it gives people, which is often said of education as well. Are they the same in any other ways?

I love the opportunities education gives people! I wouldn’t have the life I have without education playing a huge role. Football and education are both exciting, exhilarating and with you for the long haul. Always by your side giving you a focus and passion in your life that keeps your soul alive.

Learn more about Shelley Ware.