EPAAs Q&A with Colin Ho

August 18, 2020

With the Educational Publishing Awards Australia (EPAAs) fast approaching on Thursday 3 September, we spoke to Colin Ho, Campaign and Digital Content Producer at the Australian Publishers Association (APA), about the upcoming digital event and the value of quality learning resources.

How have the EPAAs evolved over their 27-year history?

The Educational Publishing Awards Australia (EPAAs) have maintained their focus on celebrating excellence and innovation in the creation of resources for students and teachers. This was something the founder of the awards, Professor Mike Horsley, championed from the first ceremony in 1993.

A number of the award categories have changed over time to reflect curriculum and pedagogy shifts, but the greatest evolution has mirrored technology and its use in teaching. Educational resources may once have been more traditional paper textbooks, readers and teacher resources, but now they cover print books, games, cards, audio, TV series, films, digital and other online products – some products use a combination.

With the most recent changes to online classrooms with the pandemic, digital and online product creation is likely an area that will continue to be innovated. It’s this dedication to serving the needs of teaching and students that makes Australian educational resources so well-regarded across the globe.

What can you tell us about this year’s shortlist?

One hundred high-quality entries were received this year from across Australia. The numbers were a little lower than usual but the judges were not surprised given COVID-19. Restrictions meant that for the first time ever, judging was done completely remotely, which presented some challenges (such as how to review a submission in print). However, a thorough and robust discussion was had online to determine the shortlist and winners across twenty categories.

We can say the shortlist reflects educational publishers’ passion for creating innovative learning resources – ones that nail the hybrid nature of learning these days, between print, online, digital and other learning options. The EPAA organising committee are very grateful to all our judges – many of whom are practising teachers – for the incredible amount of time and effort they gave to considering each entry, especially when so many other things were going on for the education sector at the same time!

How have you found the experience of organising an online event?

The Australian Publishers Assocation (APA) had a good experience preparing the Australian Book Industry Awards for an online event earlier this year, and generally we have been grateful to have a good lead time to prepare the online event for the EPAAs.

It’s still a lot of work and learning on the fly, with changes to the restrictions and numbers of infections impacting plans as we speak! When we think in comparison to how quickly teachers and schools across the country had to pivot from face-to-face learning to online delivery, it is truly mind-boggling how much they faced. It goes to show (again) how incredibly dedicated and hardworking the Australian teaching community is and we’re really proud to partner with them.

The kinds of storytelling and collaborations that have come from the format change have been very exciting. It’s still early days, but we’re seeing these events turn into broadcasts complemented by crowd-sourced footage, people watching it together remotely, social media activity and Zoom parties.

It’s great to have these events become more accessible, where people could potentially tune in from all over the world. But we do miss the sense of physical connection and just being in the same room as your industry friends, peers and guests.

Quality educational resources have never been more important than in this year of remote learning. How vital is our educational publishing sector to the future of teaching and learning?

Educational publishers have quickly responded to the needs of teachers and schools in the fast advent of COVID-19. They have also opened up their offerings directly to parents and carers who were all of a sudden burdened with home-schooling. A number of the APA’s educational publisher members were able to convert their offerings to online versions and speedily make them available – often at a reduced rate and free of charge to alleviate some stresses.

The pandemic has highlighted how important quality learning resources and technologies are in delivering excellent classroom experiences. Educational publishers have been at the leading edge of learning technologies, curriculum requirements and educational research. And with their longstanding relationships with teachers and schools – plus access to quality, educated authors and publishing staff – there is no doubt about how vital they are. Their light-footedness, as demonstrated in the early phases of the pandemic, has shown that their role in the education system is crucial for facing challenges, now and into the future.

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