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World Book Day 6th March 2014

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If you work in publishing, or you have children, you cannot miss the fact that today is World Book Day!

With events all over the country in bookshops, schools & libraries World Book Day is big news!

As an avid reader and lover of all things book, it surprises and saddens me how many people do not read for pleasure and Oxford University Press’s Books Beyond Bedtime report highlights this fact.

It revealed that many parents stop reading with their children from the age of 7 – when experts believe that just 10 minutes a day can make a dramatic difference to their educational attainment.

With Reading for Pleasure at the heart of the new National Curriculum introduced this term, this nationwide research involving nearly 1000 parents and school children aged 6 – 11  found 44% of 7-year-olds are rarely or never read to at home. This is despite the fact that nearly half of ‘reluctant readers’ of this age said they would enjoy reading more if their parents read with them.

According to Unesco (the United Nations agency which promotes knowledge), the biggest single indicator of whether a child is going to thrive at school and in work is whether or not they read for pleasure. Young people who read outside of class are 13 times more likely to read above the expected level for their age.

So if your not in fancy dress today, or taking part in a promotional activity, why don’t you make a nice hot drink and curl up with a good book?!

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Posted by on March 6, 2014 in design news, illustration news

 

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Bookmachine everywhere!

Bookmachine Everywhere took place last night in
London, Oxford, Brighton, New York & Toronto.

Much to my own personal disappointment there was no Eurovision style link up, so no chance to wave (slightly off cue) and to hold up banners for our friends and Bookmachine colleagues across the pond.

There was however, at the Oxford event, a chance to eat delicious corporate branded cupcakes supplied by this months sponsor and winner of the Bookmachine.me banner image competition, yours truly, HL Studios.

The following images are what happens when an event that would clearly benefit from a buffet has cakes (you were warned!):

DSC_0356DSC_0355DSC_0362DSC_0360DSC_0357DSC_0359DSC_0366DSC_0358DSC_0361DSC_0365BM Logo

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in duck tales

 

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Is it time for an overhaul of GCSEs?

GCSEs have been in the headlines over the past few weeks as a row over whether candidates were too harshly graded in their English GCSE continues. The fiasco has refocused the spotlight on what the future holds for the qualification.

GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) were first sat in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1988, replacing O-levels and CSEs. This summer – for the first time in the qualifications’ 24 year history – there was a fall in the proportion of GCSEs awarded an A*-C grade. There was also a fall in the proportion of pupils receiving the top A* and A grades.

Earlier this year, Education Secretary Michael Gove said England’s exam system needed to be changed to restore rigour. The Chief Inspector of Schools in England, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has called for an an overhaul of the GCSE examination system but others are not so sure.

The BBC News website asked some key opinion-formers in the world of education what they think is the best way forward for assessment at age 16.

Two-tier system?

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, says a debate needs to be had about the purpose of post-16 assessment before any changes are made.

GCSE has been a very successful qualification catering for a very wide range of pupils. But the many recent changes to it – exemplified by the current problems with the GCSE English exam – show we need a full review of how any qualification at 16 operates.

The first thing to do is to ask what is wrong with GCSEs and then look at the options to replace it – if we need more rigour, do we need a new qualification or do we just need tighter criteria?

The biggest issue is that there has not been a debate about what the curriculum should look like for these young people, particularly with the raising of the participation age to 18.

We don’t want a return to a two-tier system and so I think any future plans will need to be based on a suite of qualifications catering for the many different pathways that students might want to follow. We don’t want to end up with one qualification that tries to be all things for all people.

Bring back O-levels?

Nick Seaton, secretary of the Campaign for Real Education wants to see a return to rigorous academic exams for the most able and more practical exams for the less gifted.

GCSEs haven’t been very successful since their introduction because it’s impossible to have a single exam to cater for all abilities and there have been problems regarding their veracity.

We would very much like to bring back O-levels in this country. International GCSEs are very popular overseas, so why not give schools here the chance to use them? Society needs all sorts of people, some academic and some practical, so we should build on everyone’s strengths and abilities. By a single system of exams, you narrow everyone’s choice and try and make everyone the same which seems ridiculous.

We do need to have some form to assessment at 16 as it is a key stage in youngsters’ lives when they need to have mastered the general, before specialising in things.

Too many Lego blocks?

Dr Kevin Stannard, director of learning at the Girls Day School Trust, believes GCSEs could be slimmed down to allow pupils to cover more subjects.

GCSEs are far too assessment driven, the hoops are too obvious and encourage teaching to the test. They are too chunky and require a certain number of recommended hours, so schools can only fit a limited number into the curriculum.

What if GCSEs weren’t all the same size? What if they were smaller and we could do more? Like Lego bricks, you can only build so many, and they don’t all have to be the same size. We shouldn’t regard GCSEs as a given.

We need to ask why our pupils aren’t doing a broad and balanced curriculum up to the age of 16, before they go on to specialise. It’s because there isn’t enough time in the day – if you want to do geography, you have to do geography GCSE and it takes up a certain number of periods.

At present, most curriculum time is given over to examinable subjects, and the time slots are indivisible, representing a standard GCSE-sized chunk in each case. This inevitably means that pupils have to make invidious choices between subjects, since they can’t do everything. If we reduced the number of slots, pupils could study to a similar depth but in fewer topics.

Also, why do we have a battery of tests at an age when most people haven’t finished school? We would probably find we do want to do some testing at age 16, but it’s not the exam we have currently – they’re too intrusive and too limiting.

Assess flexibly?

Bill Watkin, operational director at the Specialists Schools and Academies Trust, believes more flexible assessment would improve the current GCSE model.

Are GCSEs intended to measure a child’s capabilities at the end of his compulsory schooling? If so, and with children expected to stay in education beyond 16, is this the right time to have exams at all? Perhaps we should do away altogether with 16+ exams.

But we do not need to return to a two-tier exam. We need to improve the one we have. Children develop at different rates and different ages. They need to be free to step up or step down to suit their abilities as they develop. They cannot do this if there are two entirely different and mutually exclusive courses.

We do need to consider the different subject content, learning styles, home environments and contextual characteristics of students when designing assessment methodologies. Sometimes modular is good; sometimes coursework is good; sometimes teacher assessment is good; sometimes rote learning and terminal exams are good.

But we should not confuse the issue: flexible assessment design and rigorous standards are perfectly compatible. We do not have to revert to one assessment model in order to preserve rigour and high standards, particularly an assessment model that does not reflect the techniques and aptitudes of 21st century schooling.

Learning by doing?

Lord Baker, Chairman of the Edge Foundation, proposes a programme of studies for 14 to 18-year-olds where academic and hands-on subjects are combined.

It’s vital that schools and colleges provide education which develops practical skills and personal qualities as well as subject knowledge. This has to include opportunities to learn by doing.

This isn’t about the skills needed for a particular job. It’s about understanding how maths and English – and many other school subjects – are used at work and in adult life.

And not just that: it’s also about teamwork, solving problems and communicating with other people. Exams have to be capable of recognising all these talents.

The vast majority of young people now stay in education or training until they are 18. We don’t need a school-leaving certificate for 16-year-olds.

Instead, we need a general test at 14 to check student progress and help guide subject choices.

After that, students should combine academic and hands-on subjects and earn credits towards a high school diploma at 18.

Whatever the Government decision is on the reform of examinations, it looks like a busy time for re-prints in the publishing sector is on the cards!

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in duck tales

 

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A new world for digital educational publishers

 

Thanks to changes in the way school, university and on the job training is now delivered, there has been a substantial shift in the way that educational texts are prepared and passed to students. Increasingly, the traditional publisher who would be based around a printing works, is now having to change to accommodate the fact that coursework is now much more often delivered via DVD containing documents and software files.

There is also a shift to delivering more and more coursework via the internet, in the form of online learning.
Not only can this be more cost efficient, it also lends itself to creating new interactions, allowing pupils who are physically remote, to compete or collaborate together on coursework, completing assignments in real time.
Marking of coursework, too, can therefore be undertaken in new ways, promising further efficiency and cost
savings for educators.

So the market for digital educational publishers is growing. Such specialists are becoming more widely in demand, in order to create coursework in new formats. The new formats are no longer constrained by what can be put on the page, which with book publishing was the limit on the provision of information, and one that also limited the size and scope of illustrations. With a DVD, a software programme or a website, there is almost no limit to the space available for content to be added.

While this gives digital educational publishers the opportunity to add more and more, increasingly complex illustrations and content, there is a practical limit defined by cost rather than capacity. Simply, if it takes the digital educational publisher a long time to create data files, animations and illustrations, then costs can escalate. In practice, it remains essential to consider what information needs to be imparted, and which of these new digital media are best for imparting it, before diving in to the exciting worlds of animation, illustration software and multimedia.

As a specialist digital educational publisherHL Studios has a team of project managers, designers, page layout specialists and illustrators meaning we can handle projects for a combined digital and print output. As a result, HL Studios often ends up working in support of a more traditionally structured educational publisher. Its own software has been developed geared towards interactive whiteboards, creating a book with video, images and activities on a page.

One other major area where educational text book material has moved on, is in the way it is delivered. Today’s school children and students are as likely to carry round their school work and school books on a DVD or USB flash drive, as they are to lug around heavy printed books. And increasingly, with the advent of smartphones and greater availability of wifi, it will soon be quite normal to host files on the cloud, rather than physically carry them around. Companies such HL Studios are ready for the challenge of designing digital educational material for this new age.

 

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in design news

 

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