Thursday, October 10, 2013

Educational Publishing and the Future: CONTEC 2013

I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in a panel discussion around the future needs of educational publishing at the CONTEC conference in Frankfurt, Germany. There seems to be much conversation around the future of textbooks and worries regarding the digital landscape. Publishers are unsure of which direction to focus and are working to define the needs of the constantly changing educational market. Schilling, a publishing management consultant company, has produced a white paper focused on the educational publishing market. Schilling conducted qualitative interviews asking for the most important challenges facing educational publishers in the coming years. There are four general, value-creating areas: didactics, market focus, technology, and politics.
As an educator, my contribution to the discussion revolved around the importance of didactics. Valuable content that reflects the current pedagogy must continue to be the focus with the acknowledgment that this content must be distributed in new ways. All four areas are important to both sectors, publishing and education, and in order for both to be successful, there needs to be greater collaboration and conversation between the two. New business models are needed in publishing with new workforce skills as well as new concepts for strategic positioning within the market. Educators and students, as the end users, should be seen as valuable sources of creativity and innovation as they move forward to design new solutions. What we don't want, is a substitution of current textbook materials being "upgraded" to digital formats. Today's students have very different needs that are not met by our traditional textbook approach.

Hewlett-Packard, a sponsor of the conference, presented on the still necessary need for printed materials, but with their own Blended Learning hybrid model. They are proposing a content management system in which teachers design customized textbooks, which are then tagged with interactive content through apps such as Aurasma. Information and student learning data could than feed back into a learning management system that would then drive changes to content, allowing more individualization. Student textbooks could be printed as required and even customized for individual students based on their needs. An interesting prototype, and one worth further investigation. 

Frankfurt, Germany
A model of blending old with new.
It still comes down to what is best for students. We, publishers, educators, and political leaders, must never lose sight of the end target, student learning. Greater empathy between all parties will lead to better solutions. In all of my conversations around the topic, I never heard a developer or publisher discuss any information they had gathered from teachers or better yet, students. The best way to meet the new demands of the current market? Ask the right people.

Contributed by Kami Thordarson, Innovative Strategies Coach

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