21 October 08 | Chad W. Post

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. (And this is one of the most serious ones I wrote.)

Today’s EPP (Educational Publishing Pavilion) panel on “Global Innovations and Market Opportunites,” blended together two of the primary focuses running throughout this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair events: educational publishing and digital initiatives. (I’ll be writing about a number of e-publishing panels later this week . . .) This particular panel featured three CEOs who are utilizing emerging technologies to improve the educational content they’re producing.

The event opened with an intro by Dr. Hugh Roome from Scholastic International in which he pointed to four key markets that will become more and more important to educational publishers over the next five years: 1) developing online courses and materials for a variety of students, both in traditional schools and those being home-schooled, 2) English language training for the world, 3) school-to-work programs to teach immediately relevant skills, and 4) working with Ministries of Education in developing countries to incorporate solid, inexpensive educational programs into their poorer schools.

Each of the panelists presented a new technology (or new way to use technology) that would assist in the creation of educational materials designed to reach one of the markets/opportunities Dr. Roome mentioned.

Sudhir Singh Dungarpur from Q2A Media (Hall 8.0 J 954) presented information about the “Interactive Whiteboard,” a multimedia enhanced whiteboard that can be used in classrooms to better engage and interact with students. Although he didn’t have a whiteboard there (it is on display at their stand, which is (Hall 8.0 J 954), it sounded pretty cool. Teachers can edit and load lessons that contain a variety of flash media, learning quizzes, and other interactive activities, encouraging students to “do” things in class. (This “doing” was very important to Sudhir–according to a study he cited, we remember 10% of what we read, 30 per cent of what we say, and 90 per cent of what we see, say, and do. It was interesting, although scary to me, how visual-heavy these new teaching technologies are. Books are being replaced in schools by podcasts and flash animation . . . though if it helps kids learn, it’s definitely a good thing.) The first phase of this project is ready to be deployed, and over 300 schools in Europe will be using these in the near future. And apparently, American schools are receiving large grants to purchase these as well. Of all three presentations, this seemed like the most game-changing technology, altering the way classes can be taught.

The DNL e-book format was the focus of Adam Schmidt’s (DNAML Pty. Ltd., 8.0 L 977) presentation. DNL is a particular e-book format that works on PCs and will soon be Mac-compatible. At this time, it wouldn’t really work with an e-reader because it too is very media/flash heavy. (Maybe in the future . . . It would seem to make most sense to have these books available on iPhones. . . .) The format was pretty nice, contained all the bells and whistles you might expect, and was DRM protected on their server. (This was a huge selling point of his, something that helped his pitch with HarperCollins, but something that I’m personally not keen on. Kids illegally download math books is the least of our problems . . . Kidding of course.) You can also buy the book within the book, which is a very cool function. There wasn’t much info about how easy/difficult it is to create these books, which would’ve been interesting to find out about, especially in contrast to Sophie, a free, very usuable e-book programme.

Finally, Rachelle Cracchiolo from Teacher Created Materials in California (Hall 8.0 O 907) talked about the immense popularity of the podcasts they’ve made available on their website. Although they’ve mainly used these as a marketing tool, she saw a huge growth possibility in providing English as a Second Language content and materials for staff development and teacher training. The basic message: people dig iPods and are willing to listen to things they normally wouldn’t find the time to read and study. Sort of co-opting the Apple cool for educational purposes–not a new idea, but one that could be implemented more widely and in more situations.

Although I’m a trade publisher who loves fiction, this panel was interesting to me in the way it demonstrated how different types of publishers are preparing for the future of publishing and learning.

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