Awards help select resources for your school

Finding the best learning resources for your school is a task that requires a complex range of skills and connections with various and specific stakeholders. Teacher librarians have these skills and work hard to pair the right learning materials for their teachers and students.

The Educational Publishing Awards of Australia can be a great way to connect with the latest trends and innovative offerings from Australian publishers, who collectively produce roughly 2000 new titles per year. The Awards, known as the EPAAs (said Eeepars), are built on the principles of education research and innovation, and showcase the titles launched to the education market in the previous year.

An important aspect of the EPAAs, which relies on the participation of teacher librarians, is the Publisher of the Year survey. The survey collects valuable information about publishers’ product quality, field services, company services, marketing and innovation. Data is analysed and the publisher voted as “the best” is celebrated at the Awards ceremony. This information is used to improve the industry for the benefit of teachers and students.

One teacher librarian who has followed the EPAAs for a long time and completes the survey each year is Tasmanian based, Dr Jillian Abell. Dr Abell says she uses the Awards as a way to get a good overview of current new resources.

“The EPAAs are invaluable to teachers in their selection and evaluation of recommended resources,” Abell says. “In addition, as a teacher librarian, I followed the Awards to learn more about reputable trends in educational publishing for each of the disciplines/key learning areas and age-appropriate learning materials. I would purchase as many as I could, and certainly disseminate the information to staff.  For example, it is always a trusted way to get an overview of new resourcing, such as peer-reviewed materials to support First Nations.”

Understanding what a teacher librarian does is helpful for Australian publishers. Dr Abell explains, “Teacher librarians develop extensive cross-curriculum knowledge and expertise for the skilful selection and evaluation of resources to be purchased across all educational levels and areas of learning support. They are experienced with identifying reputable and new works of interest through authors’ reviews, editors’ notes and Australian publishers’ blurbs. They understand the market trends, publication costs and quality of the digital or multi-modal resources. They can predict how a resource might be used by teachers and students and the wider school community.”

On the relationships between educators and publishers: “The collaboration and valued connections are well-developed over time through publishers’ generosity in showcasing and invitations to educators to be part of an awards process. After all, this process is an important part of teachers and teacher librarians meeting many of their Australian professional teaching standards (AITSL) and engaging with each other to select and use appropriate resources and participate in professional learning networks,” Dr Abell says.

2020 was certainly a disruptive year for the education sector, but while educational publishers responded to the pandemic by opening up access to resources to transition learning online, new resources were also finalised and made available.

The Educational Publisher Awards of Australia 2021 will showcase these resources from 2020.

The EPAA event will be held on 9 September 2021.

The Publisher of the Year survey, where book prizes are on offer, will open in late May.

Dr Jillian Abell AALIA, FACE, FACEL is President, Network of Educational Associations of Tasmania (NEAT); Director, Australian Professional Teaching Association (APTA); Chair, Tasmania Branch of the Australian College of Educators (ACE).

Educational Publisher Awards of Australia logo

 

Find out more about the awards here.

Sign up for updates here.

The healing power of picture books

In the latest SCIS Publisher Spotlight, Anouska Jones, Publisher at EK Books, explores the healing power of picture books.

Book: Go Away worry monster

At EK Books, our motto is “Books with heart on issues that matter”. Our goal is to create picture books that will not only entertain but also equip our readers with tools to navigate modern life.

Primarily aimed at the 4 to 8 year age group, our list includes books on everything from coping with the loss of a pet (Saying Goodbye to Barkley) to dealing with anxiety (Go Away, Worry Monster!). We sometimes deal with tough subjects, so our books are often written and illustrated by passionate children’s book creators who have another professional life as a counsellor, psychologist, teacher or art therapist. They know first-hand how quickly a child can shut down if they feel they are being analysed or assessed. They realise that picture books can be a way to open the door of communication, spark conversation and facilitate healing.

Showing young readers that they are not alone

By reading a story about another child going through the same experience as them, young children realise that they are not alone. Other kids have felt sad or struggled to make friends. Other kids have lost a parent or have a grandparent with dementia. Other kids have worried about starting school or trying something new. And if those children (or characters in the book) have made it through the experience, then so can our young reader.

Paul Russell is one of EK’s authors and a primary school teacher. He is dyslexic and struggled hugely at school, always feeling like he was “the dumb one” until one teacher changed his life. This lived experience inspired him to write My Storee, about a boy who loves to write but who loses his creative spark when all the teachers seem to see are his spelling mistakes. It’s a fun-filled story with glorious illustrations and it’s seen Paul receive letter after letter from dyslexic children who feel heard in his story.

Opening the door to tough conversations

Picture books are also a way to gently explore subjects that might otherwise be too difficult for a child to speak up about. At the End of Holyrood Lane won the 2019 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for Book of the Year in Australia and New Zealand, for its portrayal of domestic violence. The violence within the family is only depicted through the metaphor of a storm from which the girl runs and hides. One day she seeks shelter instead, depicted as a person holding a protective umbrella, and from then on the storms don’t rage over her anymore.

Interestingly, children with no experience of domestic violence often don’t see the shadowy face in the storm clouds. They interpret the book as a straightforward story about a girl’s fear of storms. But for those children who do know what it’s like to live in a violent home, the book helps them to start the conversation with a trusted adult.

Providing everyday comfort and building emotional resilience

Healing doesn’t always need to be on such a large scale. Sometimes the simple act of settling down with a picture book can help to calm a child after a stressful day. As they become absorbed in the rhythm of the words and the detail in the illustrations, the child’s breathing regulates and emotions are soothed. Reading a picture book together is also a gentle way for a parent or teacher to reconnect with a child after an emotional upset.

Finally, picture books play a vital role in developing a child’s visual literacy, helping them to recognise and understand emotions, and building empathy. And empathy, in turn, is linked with improved resilience, which is a cornerstone for good mental health.

About the author

Anouska Jones Anouska Jones is the Publisher at EK Books, the children’s picture book imprint of Exisle Publishing. Launched in 2013, this boutique imprint is home to several award-winning titles and best-selling books, and was nominated for Best Children’s Publisher of the Year, Oceania region, at Bologna Book Fair in 2019.

Instagram: @ekbooksforkids
Twitter: @EK_Books
Facebook: EK Books

Improving education through linked technology

In the latest SCIS Publisher Spotlight, Story Box Library explores innovating reading and learning with stories.

Digital learning is complementing traditional teaching methods with innovations. While classroom time is key in children’s development and learning, platforms like Story Box Library (SBL) bring stories to student’s fingertips.

Designed to be used by educators across a variety of ages and curriculum requirements, Story Box Library’s growing collection of stories and resources bring engaging learning options to any classroom.

Two children reading happily

Story Box Library’s Education Specialist Jackie Small says, “Story Box Library’s unique format of traditional storytelling presented digitally with the inclusion of support features provides educators with essential multimodal texts that convey meaning through written, spoken, visual, audio and gestural languages.”

“Resources such as SBL are essential because they meet a need for a society that has become increasingly multi-modal.”

Partnering with educators to enhance education

Saving time for educators, subscribing schools can now search SCIS to find stories from the entire Story Box Library (SBL) collection. This means all SBL titles, including storyteller images, can be downloaded and incorporated into school systems.

Along with MARC records and the corresponding ISBN numbers, SBL collections seamlessly integrate into school cataloguing systems. The SBL digital resource is now even easier to access for educators and students in Australia.

In keeping up with technological demand and developments of our changing world, SBL offers a complementary learning opportunity for educators and schools. Enhancing classroom learning and saving teachers time, teachers can engage students in a lifelong love of learning, reading and inspire curiosity, creativity and play.

Stories connect us to the rest of the world. While students discover stories in a safe, online space, their reading and literacy skills improve. Stories help children and young minds not only establish language and literacy skills but also create frameworks of the wider world, their community, friends, family, and their identity.

“Stories are thoughtfully curated based on thematic and literary value,” says Jackie.

“This makes them perfect springboards into a wonderful world of discovery and learning both in English and other key learning areas.’

Innovative classroom tools for all educators

Story Box Library’s additional expert-designed classroom resources help teachers save time in the classroom, assist in class preparation, and align with the Australian Curriculum. Designed to be used alongside story reads, and adapted seamlessly to any educator’s specific needs, SBL’s education resources make learning fun. Built-in features like playlist and search filter functions allow educators to find and save stories according to themes, topics, or their own personalised requirements.

“I like to think of our additional resources as creative seeds for educators,” Jackie says.

“They provide them with diverse and engaging ideas that provide children with opportunities to listen to, view, speak, write, create, reflect and compare texts within our library while also developing other skills such as metacognition, social skills, and critical and creative thinking.”

Based on unique themes, story structures and language features of each story, Classroom Ideas are flexible, adaptable and easily accessible for any Educator’s specific needs. Downloadable PDFs feature practical discussion questions and activity ideas aligned with curriculum areas. Stories also come with Student Task Sheets, which are grouped by themes and designed to be used independently by students. Students are provided with three task options towards meeting achievement standards via downloadable PDFs.

Recently released, SBL’s new Graphic Organisers and Thinking Tools assist students into becoming critical readers, designed to provide opportunities for deeper learning. With more in development, the first release of resources includes a Y-Chart, Character Profile, Story Map, Plot Summary, List Template, T-Chart, Venn Diagram, Menu Planner, Recipe Planner and an Interview Planner.

Connected to a world of stories

With one login, the entire school community of teachers, students and their families access to a world of diverse, high-quality stories. SBL is safe, secure and trusted by educators around the globe, and helps create curious and understanding young minds.

Story Box Library is working with partners like SCIS to inspire young minds, assist educators, and encourage a lifelong love of reading and learning.

For more information on Story Box Library, and to enquire about a school subscription, visit the Story Box Library website.

Story Box Library is a subscription based educational website, created for children to view stories by local authors and illustrators, being read aloud by engaging storytellers. With a world of stories and educational resources, it’s Storytime, Anytime!

www.storyboxlibrary.com.au| @storyboxlibrary | Story Box Library

Hooked on NZ Books: a place for young readers to join the critical conversation

Pile of books

Melissa Wastney, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura,
introduces school libraries to Hooked on NZ Books He Ao Ano, an online platform and literary community for readers aged 12-19.

The looks hook people in, but the blurb brings it home (literally, I always leave bookshops with a lot of books.)

This book deserves all of the praise it receives; it is a beautifully told, undeniably raw, and extremely emotional read…

Once I had read this I was able to understand that although New Zealand claims to be diverse and accepting, racism affects our day to day lives, whether you are able to see it or not…

– Quotes from some recent Hooked on Books reviews.

At Read NZ Te Pou Muramura we want to encourage all of us to read more, and at the same time acknowledge the social aspects of literature; how books bring us closer to each other.

In the words of American writer Patricia Hampl, ‘’If nobody talks about books, if they are not discussed or somehow contended with, literature ceases to be a conversation, ceases to be dynamic. Most of all, it ceases to be intimate. Reviewing makes of reading a participant sport, not a spectator sport.’’

Building a community of readers who discuss books, and growing the next generation of critics is what Hooked on NZ Books He Ao Ano is all about.

Established four years ago by Peppercorn Press to complement their print journal NZ Review of Books, Hooked on Books is an online platform and literary community for readers aged 12-19.

Read NZ adopted the programme in 2020 and would love your help to find enthusiastic young readers to review the latest New Zealand books for us.

How does it work?

First, we match readers with new books: mostly novels, but also non-fiction, poetry and essays. Our reviewers live everywhere from Invercargill to Kaitaia.

We ask for the reviews to be emailed back within a month, and the reader gets to keep the book.

Our editor works with the reviewer to edit the piece so it’s the best it can be. This can sometimes involve a week of revisions and emails but is always an encouraging and supportive process.

We publish the final version of the review on the Hooked on NZ Books website, and share it with our wider community. The best review from each month is published on the official Read NZ website.

Read NZ CEO Juliet Blyth says the purpose of Hooked on NZ Books is to grow the audience for home-grown literature, to provide another space for young writers to be published and to nurture the next generation of critical readers in Aotearoa.

“Our reviewers have the opportunity to respond personally and critically to the latest reads while together building an online resource about NZ books and a genuine platform for their voice.

“Anyone can say that they loved or loathed a book, but it’s much harder to say why. Reviewing is important because well-argued reviews can influence what gets published and what gets read,” she says.

We at Read NZ would love your help to identify young readers and writers aged around 13 – 19 to participate.

We welcome enquiries from school librarians and teachers, but we’re also happy to work directly with young readers.

Interested reviewers can sign up on the Hooked on Books website, or contact Read NZ to get involved.

www.hookedonbooks.org.nz
www.read-nz.org

Hooked on NZ Books logo

Publisher Spotlight: Ford Street Publishing

Paul Collins is the publisher at Ford Street Publishing, an independent Melbourne publisher. He also runs Creative Net Speakers’ Agency and is the author of over 140 books for children and young adults. In our first Publisher Spotlight for 2021, Paul contemplates over 45 years as a publisher and author.

The publishing and writing industry has changed a lot since I entered it in 1975.

In the early ’80s, I published Australia’s first high adventure fantasy novels from a small office attached to a secondhand bookshop. I even typeset books on a hulking IBM machine that had dials to tell you when to go to the next line. One dial was colour-coded, the other had numerals. If a line ended on, say, yellow and the number 8, I would type y8 at the end of the line. When I’d finished a page of such rows, I’d hit a button, and the page would print out ‘justified’. The tricky part was that the dial might land between yellow and blue. Type a b when it should’ve been a y, and that line would be out of whack.

To save typing out the entire page again – there might be five lines incorrectly spaced – we would type out the lines, cut them out and paste them over the printed page (I tell students that’s where cut and paste comes from). If there were typos – they could be many – we’d type out the word and paste that over the typo. Tricky to get straight, so sometimes we’d type a few words out so the line would be easier to superimpose over the error/s.

I mention the above because today designers with InDesign can do all that for you and it comes out (mostly!) perfect. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, we had to re-type the entire manuscript on a machine like the above. And that was costly. An 80,000-word novel would cost around $1,000 to get typed – a stack of money back then.

So current technology saves both time and money. But it also makes us work faster and harder. In the decades I mentioned (and into the ’90s) I might have received ten letters a week. People used to be careful and say everything they needed to in those letters because it would be two weeks before expecting to receive a reply. It’s just too easy to dash off an email without thinking. My ten letters (that’s a maximum guess) are now 40 emails in a day. If I count all the spam etc., I get two dozen emails before midday. So time is no longer on our side. My modest effort in the decades mentioned was so simple. I’d give the printer the laid-out sheets of text and, voilà!, it would come back as a printed book. I would have the stock delivered to the distributor. I’d send out review copies, and that was it. Nowadays, social media can easily be a job in itself, and all the digital and print-on-demand (POD) platforms would fill another job. Admin and reading email could well give another person a job.

One of the upsides is that the internet is a great leveller. I’ve always been a micro-press. That is a one-person show. Needless to say, I’ve had small distributors that don’t have the market penetration of the bigger distributors. The internet puts Ford Street’s website up against even the biggest publishers’ sites. With their great SEO, major publishers may come first in search engine results, but we’re still there beside them. Brick-and-mortar shops only have limited space on their shelves. Understandably, they’ll take the big-name authors over lesser-known authors. So this means you’ll be lucky to see Ford Street titles in many bookshops – but on the net, you’ll see all of Ford Street’s books and every other micro press’s books. So too, with digital publishing. I see no reason why smaller presses shouldn’t be rubbing shoulders with the major publishers’ digital books when it comes to distribution and display.

It’s funny how people have the perception that if a micro-press publishes a book, it can’t be any good. ‘Hey, if it were good a bigger publisher would’ve published it.’ Right? Wrong. In recent years this micro-press won the Gold INKY award, the Family Therapist’s Award and the big one, the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Picture Book of the Year award.

Book: I NEED a Parrot BY CHRIS MCKIMMIE
Author and illustrator Chris McKimmie won the 2020 Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Picture Book of the Year award with I NEED a Parrot!

What do I like about being a micro-press?

It means I choose what I publish, and if I find a promising but unpolished manuscript I can choose to work with the author and hopefully turn it into a gem. This kind of editorial nurturing was more common to publishing in the past, but it seems to me that this rarely happens within most large publishing houses now, driven as they are by marketing teams and strong competition to sell ‘units’. A-list authors have to come from somewhere, though. A-list authors rise from B-lists. Knock out the B-list and exactly where the A-listers are supposed to come from?

For me, every author/illustrator is on my A-list.

I do not have to appease a marketing team.

The challenges

Distribution. Publishers who distribute other publishers’ books present their books first. So if a bookseller runs out of time or their budget is gone, lesser-known publishers may not be represented in bookshops.

Competition from high-discount book stores. Major publishers mostly dominate sales to high discount stores. Books sold in places like K-Mart are often sold as loss leaders to draw in customers. Regardless, the more books you print, the cheaper the cost per book. No matter that they’re sold at a 70% discount, big sales are still profitable.

Cashflow. Creatives, printers, designers, editors, scanners are all paid upfront. But from the moment a book goes to all the above, to the moment it brings in money, can be eight months to a year. So if you’re a micro-press publishing 15 books, that’s a lot of money tied up before you can expect recompense.

Lack of staff. A micro-press owner needs to be a jack-of-all trades.

Export (distribution problems).

Inability (time/money) to visit major book fairs: Bologna, London and Frankfurt.

Speaking as an author … what are the challenges?

Low pay. Most authors, like me, have manuscripts lying about that took up to a year to write but have never been published. So that’s no pay for a year’s work. But that’s all part of the gig.

You have no benefits such as sick pay, holiday pay, an employer’s super scheme.

Isolation. COVID-19 has shown that solitary life doesn’t suit everyone.

Contracts. Agents don’t usually send out manuscripts. Some charge 15% commission of their authors’ ELR/PLR/CAL income.

And the benefits?

Self-employed, no travelling to work.

ELR/PLR/CAL/workshops for helpful advice.

Most people don’t realise that authors/illustrators generally make more money from school/library/festival visits than they do from their actual writing. An 80,000-word novel can take up to a year to write. The average advance might be $4,000. Spread that out on an hourly basis, and you’ll see creatives are working on a low wage. But then take into account royalties, PLR/ELR/CAL and presentations in various venues, and it works out pretty well.

Like many authors, my way around financial shortcomings is to have several jobs. It certainly makes my life varied!

– Paul Collins

Image credit
Book cover supplied by Ford Street Publishing.

Stay tuned! We have more great articles aimed at promoting the importance of the published word scheduled for 2021. 

Landmark resource for schools: Our Land, Our Stories

The Australian Publishers Association’s Alex Christopher talks to Cengage publisher, Simone Calderwood, to learn more about the landmark series Our Land, Our Stories, how it was developed and its reception in the classroom.  

Perspectives from Australian Indigenous peoples on topics such as the Stolen Generations, the Frontier Wars and racial stereotyping are now available to be experienced in primary school classrooms across the country through a new resource — developed in partnership with Nelson Cengage and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). The resource, titled Our Land, Our Stories, features contributions from leading Indigenous writers such as Bruce Pascoe and Lisa Fuller and incorporates stories written by children and their families from communities across Australia.

“Our Land, Our Stories is a whole-school, primary school series that explores Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures.  It includes rare and historically important photographs, artwork and audio-visual resources from AIATSIS’s vast collection. It comprises three sets of resources for lower, middle and upper primary. All components link explicitly to the Australian Curriculum and the Cross-Curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories and more specifically, to Country/Place, Culture and Peoples.

Components of the landmark resource package, Our Land, Our Stories
Components of the landmark resource package, Our Land, Our Stories

“The series components include: three teacher resource books, nine big books and 45 cards for each stage of lower, middle and upper primary. QR codes are included and these enable both students and educators to watch videos, see photographs and most importantly, hear language that further extends students’ understanding of a specific topic. Each teacher resource book also includes a copy of The Little Red Yellow Black book written by Bruce Pascoe and AIATSIS.

“Our Land, Our Stories was in development for about three and a half years and the idea for the series came about through AIATSIS reaching out to Nelson Cengage as they wanted to have a visible presence in the primary educational space. Nelson Cengage were thrilled to work in partnership with AIATSIS as we knew that this government organisation is the caretaker of an amazing database of significant photographs, artworks and audio visual materials that we could include in the series. We also knew that the partnership with AIATSIS would also lend authenticity to the series as they were involved in every element of its production, checking every work for accuracy and ensuring that the content was culturally appropriate and persons depicted were represented accurately.

“We wanted to create a resource that aligned with the Australian Curriculum but also enabled educators to see how the cross-curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures could be applied to every learning area in the Australian Curriculum, not just Humanities and Social Sciences. The intention of the series is to represent the voices of First Nations peoples from all across Australia, from remote, regional and urban areas, to celebrate contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and address prevailing misconceptions.

The resource is aimed at both Indigenous and non-indigenous students – for indigenous students, they can read these books and cards and see themselves reflected in the stories. For non-indigenous students, it is an opportunity for them to read about the importance of Country and cultures to First Nations peoples and to find out about the significant achievements and contributions of many Indigenous people. The teacher’s books empower educators to teach about First Nations peoples, cultures and histories with confidence and throughout the teacher’s books, the various protocols and discussion points are outlined and explored. And we haven’t shied away from those topics at the upper primary level that some educators may wish to explore with students but may not know how to do so – the books and cards look at our history from an Indigenous perspective and explore many sensitive topics.

“The writing process was an interesting one! As the publisher, I really wanted to ensure that we had a vast range of authors from all over Australia as traditionally many resources such as this have tended to focus on stories from peoples from the Northern Territory – but I wanted this series to be broader. For the lower primary big book stories, we commissioned three children and their families to write the stories and these three children come from very different places. Josie and her family are from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait and myself and an AIATSIS photographer, spent a week with Josie and her family. We then travelled to a remote area in Western Australia to Yilka Country to hear Orlando’s story and finally we travelled to the Sunshine Coast and spent time with Shae and her community to hear her story.

“I also reached out to a number of different writers around the country and was thrilled that writers such as Bruce Pascoe, Professor Gary Foley, Shelley Ware, Lisa Fuller, Elder Carolyn Briggs, Professor John Maynard. Nayuka Gorrie and so many more were able to contribute to the series.

“Our Land, Our Stories has now been available for about a year and educators have embraced it wholeheartedly and often exclaim that there is nothing like it in the educational marketplace. It has been very successful as educators realise the many ways that it can be used in the classroom and the components can be used from lower to upper primary, even in secondary school classrooms.

“I feel immensely proud to have been part of this series as I truly believe it has the potential to change how people think about our history. It also enables students to understand that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are diverse, rich and multi-faceted. “The winning of the two EPAA awards was a wonderful acknowledgment of Our Land, Our Stories by the Australian Educational Publishing Industry!”

Organised by the Australian Publishers Association (APA), the prestigious annual Educational Publishing Awards reward excellence and innovation in the industry. The event offers colleagues and industry professionals the opportunity to network and celebrate achievements. Awards are judged by a panel of peers, and each year teachers and booksellers vote for the coveted Publisher of the Year award.

Digital content curation: How to do it right!

Written by Dr Kay Oddone 

COVID-19 has transformed daily life in a matter of weeks.

We are working from home, communicating online and wondering when everything will go back to normal.

One of the few positive aspects of this pandemic has been the almost overwhelming outpouring of online resources, strategies and tools that have been shared at an intense rate among educators in Facebook groups, via Twitter and through countless other digital networks.

Teachers the world over are scrambling to adjust to a new reality where face-to-face classrooms do not exist. Transitioning to online learning is challenging at any time, and for everyone, however many have been asked to adopt a whole new way of teaching over a period of days (and sometimes even hours).

As teacher librarians, our job has always been to curate resources and to generate usable collections of credible and useful sites and tools to support the teachers at our school. Now, more than ever, content curation has become a focal point. Teacher librarians are trained to quickly and effectively critically analyse and evaluate learning materials in a way that teachers may not. That being the case, it is more vital than ever before to assist them to navigate the tsunami of information flooding every communication channel by creating curated content.

As teacher librarians, our job has always been to curate resources and to generate usable collections of credible and useful sites and tools to support the teachers at our school.

How do we curate content?

There are many tools available that enable us to quickly compile lists of digital resources. You can read about how to select the best tool for the job here: linkinglearning.com.au/choosing-a-curation-tool.

Using these tools effectively requires skills in ‘content curation’. Traditionally, the term ‘curator’ refers to someone who looks after objects in a museum exhibition. A popular definition of content curation is the act of selecting and collating digital content and organising it so that it may be better used to meet a particular need. Beth Kanter has an excellent primer on content curation, where she hastens to point out that curation is not simply an aggregation of links; it is a process of strategic collection, where what is left out is just as important as what is included. It is also an editorial process, where context-specific knowledge is added to each digital resource, and then delivered via a tool that best suits the needs of the identified audience.

This sounds more complex than it is. It simply means finding quality digital content, evaluating it for a particular purpose, adding extra information for those most likely to use this context for that particular purpose, and sharing it with those users via the most suitable platform.

 

How do we avoid the pitfalls?

One vital difference between curation in the past and dealing with digital content is the sheer amount of information, and the need to avoid filter bubbles and the temptation to simply collect everything. Joyce Seitzinger describes some of the traits to avoid when curating very succinctly, in her presentation, ‘When educators become curators’.

 

She describes these traits as follows:

The hoarder: One who collects everything indiscriminately, who doesn’t organise their content, and who doesn’t share — this is really closer to simple aggregation than curation.

The scrooge: One who similarly hoards their information — although they may organise their collection, they don’t share either — one of the key purposes of educational content curation!

The tabloid (or National Enquirer): One who indiscriminately collates everything together, and generously shares this aggregation, whether others want/need it or not!

The robot: One who uses tools to share automatically, with no context-related additions or value-adding — in this case, the curation is really no better than providing a list of Google search results.

Avoiding these pitfalls is what differentiates the effective content curator from those simply ‘collecting’ content.

What are the benefits?

Aside from creating a resource that will be gratefully received by an overwhelmed teacher, a curated collection has many long-lasting benefits that far outweigh simply listing sites or gathering countless links.

A curated collection has many long-lasting benefits that far outweigh simply listing sites or gathering countless links.

Firstly, with so much content being generated daily on social media, resources not curated could easily never be found again. When content is officially published, details such as the title, author’s name, subject headings, ISBN etc (ie the metadata) are attached — either printed on the item or electronically attached. This makes it easy to find and re-find.

User-created content may not have this type of metadata and, if it does, it might not be meaningful for searching. It might be a photograph with no title, a recipe for chilli that someone has shared on Tumblr with the hashtags ‘#yummy’ and ‘#dinnernextmonday’, or a list of sites posted in a Facebook conversation. Curating these resources and adding meaningful annotations and tags will mean that they can be searched for time and time again.

Secondly, while effective searching will return a lot of content, Google will simply not find everything. You may be searching for an item that is sitting somewhere Google doesn’t access — not only lots of social media content but also sites that require a login, like a journal database or library catalogue. You may have seen it once — briefly appearing on your Twitter stream, perhaps when the author published it — but this is the only time you will see it unless you go directly back to that source. Curating useful items makes them discoverable by all of your library users! Even if you can’t link directly to the source within the database, linking to the paywall gives you enough information to access it again if you decide that you really need it.

Finally, digital curation allows you to ‘make hay while the sun shines’ and to take advantage of the wonderful sharing that is happening by giving you the opportunity to create a resource that will continue to support teachers even after calm has been restored.

Digital content curation goes beyond a simple save and is far more than just collecting. It is when we strategically select an item to be added to a collection, which is being compiled for a specific purpose. Collecting is additive but, interestingly, curation is subtractive — what you leave out is almost more important than what you include. A great way to think about collection and curation is described by Frank Chimero in his post about sorting a mass.

Consider collection as a bowl of loose pearls and curation as a pearl necklace. Collection is like a bowl of pearls. The individual pearls may be of great value, but they are pretty useless just gathered together in the bowl. Curation is what happens when particular pearls are selected from the bowl, and strung into a beautiful necklace. The pearls now have a purpose — they have been carefully selected and added to the necklace in a particular order. The necklace, which has fewer pearls than the bowl, but which can be publicly admired and worn, is worth more than the sum of its parts.

When we curate content, we add an annotation to each item, to explain to others why this piece was chosen, and how it fits within the collection. This makes the individual items more meaningful for others and brings the collection together as a whole resource.

When you have a collection of random links, the individual items may be useful, but the list itself means nothing. A carefully curated collection is a resource that stands alone. It can be useful to you — when you go back to these resources, your annotation will remind you of why you saved it and how it will be useful — and it will be of value to others if they are seeking an overview/introduction/entry into a topic. Creating a curated collection also makes a group of resources easily shareable and useable — it will ‘travel’ with you as it will (more often than not) exist online, and be publicly accessible to you and others whenever you need it.

Applying curation principles also allows us to create a resource that a teacher can pick up and use with confidence, as they know that the links included have been carefully selected to suit their teaching context.

I’ve written a lot on curation over the years, and the reason is that I believe that as our collections morph into a digital-physical hybrid, curation will become just as, if not more important than collection development. It will allow us as teacher librarians to remix physical and digital resources to become accessible to our community in new ways. COVID-19 has transformed the world in so many ways, but for teacher librarians, it has offered us an amazing opportunity to show everyone not only what value we can add, but also that students (and teachers) need school libraries! Now more than ever!

COVID-19 has transformed the world in so many ways, but for teacher librarians, it has offered us an amazing opportunity to show everyone not only what value we can add, but also that students (and teachers) need school libraries! Now more than ever!

A word about content curation and copyright

Creative Commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) Flickr photo shared by Austin Kleon

Although curation is not ‘theft’, all of the tips that Austin Kleon shares in his book, Steal like an artist — itself a treatise on reusing online content ethically — apply to ethical content curation.

Always link directly back to the source when curating. This is automatically taken care of when you use a curation tool such as elink. However, I believe that it is good practice that if you find a site that references a great idea or image, rather than simply linking to that site, take the trouble to go back to the original creator’s publication of that idea, and link to there. An example:

A popular blog shares a post about a great resource they have discovered, which is created by a third party. Rather than linking to the blog post when curating the link about the great resource, take the time to go back to the third party’s original post and curate this link. Therefore, the creator gets correct attribution, rather than the blogger who wrote about it.

This is particularly important when curating from pages that include articles like ‘10 great tools for x’ — these are aggregations themselves of original work and not the original creation.

Copyright is all about protecting the income of the creator; therefore, ensure that nothing you publish in a curated list directs users away from the original, particularly if the original is a source of income for that creator. Always ensure that you attribute or reference where you sourced the original content from (again, something most content curation tools do automatically, but good to remember) and, wherever possible, ensure there is no way that users of your collections might mistake others’ work for your own.

Curating widely from various sources, rather than wholesale replication of others’ work on your own pages is also good practice, not only to avoid the risk of plagiarism but also to ensure you are providing a resource with a breadth of perspectives and information.

How are you curating resources that you discover? Let’s keep the discussion going!

Updated 6 April 2020.

Dr Kay Oddone is an educator who has spent over twenty years working in Primary, Secondary and Tertiary contexts. As Head of Libraries at Australian International School in Singapore, she leads the four school libraries on the campus, and is also the Secondary School Teacher Librarian, supporting over 1000 students and approximately 250 staff. She is passionate about digital literacies, critical digital pedagogies and open educational practices, and has published research on how teachers enhance their professional learning through online personal learning networks. 

Kay loves reading, nerding out online and travelling, and spends her free time walking her Jack Russell, Ruby, and discovering restaurants in her new neighbourhood. She can be found on Twitter @KayOddone and blogs at www.linkinglearning.com.au

Free your inner writer: Strategies for writing engaging journal articles

Dr Hilary Hughes, Adjunct Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education, QUT, offers advice for librarians seeking to write impactful and engaging articles for a professional journal.

Introduction

Most of us have an inner writer that we promise to let free ‘one day’ – why not today? As you plan your school library program, a key goal could be: write at least one article for a journal like Connections or the SCIS Blog.

This article considers the problem of how to write an impactful and engaging article for a professional journal? It offers library staff encouragement and practical strategies for setting out on the writing track. After highlighting the personal and professional benefits of writing for publication, it explains how to write articles that provide insight and enjoyment for readers. It also provides a simple model for a clearly structured article.

Benefits of writing for a journal

Writing for a journal brings many benefits, both personal and professional. As a creative outlet, writing can boost your own wellbeing and the greater good of school libraries. You can make a lasting impact by authoring an article that opens a window on contemporary school libraries. Through your article you can report and explain current professional practices, highlight positive outcomes, debate challenges, and perhaps influence further innovation (Buzzeo, 2011; Hibner & Kelly, 2017). You can demonstrate how librarians are energetic, forward-looking, thoughtful, socially-minded professionals (and help banish the tired stereotypes!)

The catchphrase ‘publish or perish’ indicates the importance of writing for the sustainability of the profession and your own career, whether in schools or higher education (Schaberg, 2016). Library staff are often abuzz with creative ideas and make significant contributions to student learning and wellbeing, yet so often these seem to go unnoticed. By writing about your innovative library programs and services, and their positive outcomes, you raise general awareness of the value of the librarian role and offer models for other librarians to follow.

Good journal articles get people thinking and talking. They can be a powerful form of advocacy that showcases school library activities and their benefits for students and the whole school community.

From a personal perspective: “Publishing is proof that you take your profession seriously, that you give it time and thought, and that you are an active and engaged participant in your profession” (Buzzeo, 2011, p. 13). Through journal articles, you can reach a wide audience beyond your immediate school. They allow you to value–add work you’ve already done, for example by reworking a university assignment, report or workshop presentation. Through your writing, you may become known as an expert on a particular topic(s). Building a professional profile in this way may broaden your employment options and lead to invitations to speak at conferences or present workshops (Rankin, 2018).

The process of writing articles supports your professional development. It can provide a focus for reflection on your librarian practice and improve your ability and confidence to argue a convincing proposal. Writing is also a great basis for collaboration. Depending on the topic, you might write with other library staff, teaching colleagues, parents, academics or even students. The sharing of different information and viewpoints through collaborative writing could expand awareness of school libraries with co-authors beyond the library community.

Laptop and notepad

Write for insight and delight

Having set your writing resolution, what will you write about? Like a novelist, you can explore your experience and what is happening around you. No two librarians or libraries are the same, so you have plenty of material to draw upon which could include:

  • The design, implementation and evaluation of an innovative school library program
  • Evidence-based library practice – findings and implications
  • Selection and implementation of a new library management system
  • (Re)design of the library – process and outcomes

Aim to provide your readers with insight and delight, so that they gain new information or understanding, as well as enjoyment, from your article. The trick is to make the content interesting and relevant. An effective article goes beyond describing what you did and how to why you did it and ways it could be applied in other school contexts. The inclusion of real-life examples, vivid small stories or pithy quotes capture readers’ attention, while practical tips or a practice framework help them see the applicability of your findings. Well-presented photos and diagrams can further enliven a written piece.

A catchy title is great for grabbing readers’ interest, especially if it teases a little while still conveying the essence of the content. That is why Trent Dalton’s ‘Boy swallows universe’ (2018) is such a clever title. Closer to librarian territory, these two Connections article titles exemplify reader-enticing titles: ‘Even better than the real thing? Virtual and augmented reality in the school library’ and ‘Ten easy tips to be a library rockstar’. You can also be creative with section headings, as long as they are also indicative of the section content.

A well-signposted structure for the whole piece and clearly expressed line of argument is important for holding readers’ attention beyond the title and introduction. Like an inquiry learning project, it is generally effective to build the argument around an explicit question or problem statement. Developing an article outline before the writing begins helps maintain focus on the problem. Take care also to bookend the discussion with an interesting and informative introduction that sets the scene and indicates the purpose of the article, and a strong conclusion that explicitly summarises the main points and resolves the argument. Where possible, end the article on a high note to inspire readers. For example, this article concludes by proposing that: “As highlighted, writing journal articles can be an enjoyable creative activity that is personally and professionally rewarding”, rather than saying something similarly accurate but more negative like “Writing journal articles is challenging and producing publishable articles requires a great deal of hard work”.

Help readers navigate the article by presenting a brief overview of the content in the introduction that indicates the main sections or points covered. Meaningful section headings are also useful guides to the unfolding argument. Let each paragraph address one (only) main idea introduced with a topic sentence, i.e. a sentence that clearly signals what the paragraph is about. (For sample topic sentences, see the first sentence of this paragraph and the following one).

Judicious use of the literature adds weight to the article’s argument. A few well-chosen references, integrated into the discussion to support key points, generally have more impact than a string of ‘possibly relevant’ citations that tend to interrupt the flow. It is more meaningful to lead sentences with a concept rather than a citation. For example: “A library as incubator is a great opportunity for the space to facilitate learning by students and teachers that reflect their passions and interests” (South, 2017) is more compelling than would be: According to South (2017), “A library as incubator is …”. For professional and academic writing, accurate and consistent referencing is a hallmark of authoritative writing.   

For a journal like Connections, aim for a professional-scholarly tone. As a rule of thumb, avoid highfaluting academic jargon, especially if you are uncertain what particular terms mean. A clear and lively style, with short(-ish) logically linked sentences, is generally more effective for conveying new or complex ideas. For clarity and immediacy, active voice, first or third person, is generally preferable to passive voice, e.g.: The teacher-librarian (or I) conducted a survey, rather than A survey was conducted; The leadership team decided to fund the project, rather than It was decided to fund the project.

Some of the resources referenced below provide more extensive guidance of relevance to librarians about the writing process, including choosing and communicating with a journal, deciding the topic and crafting the title (de Castro,  2009; Hibner & Kelly, 2017; Murray, 2013; Rankin, 2018).

Free your inner writer

Now it is time to get creative! Rest assured that writing comes more easily to some people than others and always improves with practice. Try to think of it as a fun activity, as an opportunity to share and communicate with others, not as a daunting or dreary solitary task. You might find it helpful to set up a reciprocal arrangement with a critical friend or trusted colleague to read and provide constructive feedback on each other’s work, as suggestions rather than corrections (Dawson, 2017).

There is no right or wrong way to do the writing. Some people find it helpful to get into the habit of writing for half an hour each day at the same time, whereas others prefer longer periods when the mood takes them. If you find it hard to get going at the start of a writing session, try a few minutes of ‘free writing’, jotting down whatever comes into your head, to get the creative juices flowing (University of Richmond Writing Centre, n.d.). If you are still feeling ‘blocked’, allow yourself some time-out and try again later. Forcing yourself to write is generally counter-productive and unnecessarily frustrating.

Conclusion

This article has offered library staff well-proven strategies for writing impactful and reader-enticing journal articles. The key suggestion is to present intended readers with a clearly expressed and logically structured response to a well-defined question or problem statement. As highlighted, writing journal articles can be an enjoyable creative activity that is personally and professionally rewarding.

Learn more about how to write for SCIS at scis.edublogs.org/write-for-scis

A version of this article was first published in Scan, an online journal for educators: https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/professional-learning/scan/past-issues/vol-38,-2019/free-your-inner-writer-strategies-for-writing-engaging-journal-articles
References

Community working together

Reflecting on Lyndall Ley’s call to do more for Indigenous communities across Australia, Paula Morrison reports on the achievements of her community in helping to rejuvenate the language of the local Gumbaynggirr people.

In 1986, five Gumbaynggirr elders who had been relocated off country, joined forces to begin the task of language revival for their children and grandchildren. In 2019, the International Year of Indigenous Languages this group, which has developed into the Muurrbay Aboriginal Language & Culture Co-operative, has much to celebrate.

Portrait of Gary Williams
Gary Williams, CEO of Muurrbay (younger man in photo is also portrait of Gary)

Recordings of fluent language speakers had been made in the 1960s and 70s. Along with manuscripts of anthropology student, Gerhardt Laves, who collected phonetic transcriptions in the late 1920s and early 1930s, much material required painstaking analysis by the group, in consultation with community, and the expertise of linguists. Gradually, from these early word lists and little bits of recorded language, structures began to emerge, pronunciations refined, and dictionaries and grammars could be produced. Borrowing from traditional forms, words have had to be created to address new concepts.  Now my school library greets students at the door with a sign: Darruyay yilaaming Janda-bibaa Baamgala which, literally translated, welcomes them to the ‘paper gather room’. Gary Williams, CEO of Muurrbay, says that although traditional stories had been told to him since his childhood, English language could only contain ’the bones’ of the story. In their original Gumbaynggirr language, details appeared that had previously been lost. For example, the word for ‘dawn’, bambuuda, literally means ‘in the soft’ part of the day, which adds to the atmosphere of the rising sun.

In 1997 Muurrbay became a Registered Training Organisation, focused on learning, research, and teaching. Adult classes commenced, and Gumbaynggirr also began to be taught in two Bowraville schools: St Mary’s Primary, and Bowraville Central. Over time, adults who studied through Muurrbay took the language program into more schools.  This year over 28 schools, both government and private, offer Gumbaynggirr language classes to all students, and hundreds of adults have completed language courses. Several students have studied Gumbaynggirr for their Higher School Certificate. Gumbaynggirr is now being spoken as part of daily life, and is routinely used for texting. As the language use has grown, so has a sense of belonging and identity within the community. School language teachers report that students take the language home to teach their families.

Now my school library greets students at the door with a sign: Darruyay yilaaming Janda-bibaa Baamgala which, literally translated, welcomes them to the ‘paper gather room’.

Muurrbay has been so successful in revitalizing language that in 2004 their role expanded to become a Regional Language Centre. Their experience has enabled them to lead other language groups through the ‘Many Rivers’ Project, which offers strategic, project planning, linguistic, and IT support, as well as teaching expertise to six other language groups along the New South Wales coast who are engaged in their own language revitalisation projects. To date, Muurrbay has published over 20 titles to support teaching and language, and is currently working on a joint project with Sydney University for students to access Muurrbay’s language programs in an online setting.

Awareness of the revitalisation has spread throughout the wider community. Gary Williams presents a regular language segment on local ABC radio, and is often approached by locals who’ve learned a word or two. A Business Advisory Committee approached the Nambucca Council with the recommendation that all road signage be dual language, and this proposal was unanimously passed as policy in March, 2019. All new road signs, and those being replaced will now be in English and Gumbaynggirr. Library spaces are utilised for community language classes and story time sessions with elders.

At Nambucca Heads High School, a ‘Junior Lands Council’ was formed in 2011. Students, both indigenous and non, began with projects such as creating metal letterboxes and park benches, and then restored a vacant area of land into a park with a level playing field, orchard, children’s playground, and gazebo. The park was recently dedicated to the memory of a student with a sculpture garden designed and created by students, whose enterprise was rewarded with funding from other agencies as a joint project.

As the revitalisation of the Gumbaynggirr language continues, opportunities for employment increase, and further entrepreneurial ideas emerge as possibilities. Gary Williams reports a profound effect upon the community, with an increased sense of pride and personal identity.

Paula Morrison
Teacher-Librarian
Nambucca Heads High School

This article was originally published in Volume 40, Issue 5/6 of INCITE, which can be found at https://www.alia.org.au/sites/default/files/documents/INCITE%20May-June%202019.pdf. INCITE is the Member magazine of the Australian Library and Information Association.

Making the implicit explicit: reactions to chemistry report writing and collaborative learning

Jessica Cross, science teacher at Southland Boys High School, shares her recent experience collaborating with her school librarian to develop students’ science literacy skills.

Image by Senga White, Senga’s Space (CC BY-NC-SA)

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