A lot has happened in the publishing sector in the past 12 months, and a lot has happened in the education sector too, so if you’re an education publisher who’s working in both sectors you probably feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz being tossed around in a cyclone. We can only hope that 2014 will bring a degree of certainty into education and into publishing.
My hopes for the future of New Zealand’s education system were raised in July this year at the annual Nethui. Nethui – for those of you not familiar with it, is a three day conference that brings together organisations and individuals involved in Internet issues in New Zealand. The speech that shone out from all of the sessions I attended was given by a school principal. Not just any school principal, but Russell Burt – principal of Point England Primary in east Auckland and Convenor of the Manaiakalani School cluster. This cluster of schools is committed to growing digital citizenship for children in the Tamaki Community. Russell has been an educator for over 30 years and at Nethui spoke vehemently and passionately about “re-tooling schools”
By re-tooling he was referring to how schools can be re-engineered with Internet-based technologies to make learning more engaging and empowering. It is a challenging time for New Zealand schools to be attempting to embrace the adoption of digital everything. Education is a sector that is comfortable being analogue and is literally built – by which I mean the bricks and mortar – to deliver the outcomes it is mandated to achieve within four square walls that are focussed on display space for paper. Succeeding to bring about this degree of change in any sector requires leaders, champions, funding and determination. Succeeding to change the education sector requires all of this in bucket loads.
And where do publishers fit in to this evolving environment? How do you continue to compete in a world where content consumers think that Google can answer everything and that professionally produced material should be priced at close to zero? You can do that by being closer than ever to your customers and by constantly reviewing who your customers actually are. Are they individual teachers or Team Leaders or the librarian or the Head of Department or the curriculum lead in a cluster? Will the implementation of the Network for Learning (I’m assuming you all know what the N4L is?) change who you need to target? Do you need to change HOW you approach your customers? Maybe your social media presence needs to be stronger and the feedback you get from social media used for both further marketing and product development?
These challenges are not unique to publishing. They’re symptomatic of a world in which we now look online for everything and the very same world in which copyright is regularly a dirty word.
That leads me into an update on a particular matter that has been consuming most of my time and a lot of CLNZ’s resources in 2013 – our case against Universities New Zealand at the Copyright Tribunal. This time last year we were still optimistic that our months of meetings with the negotiating team from the universities would finally bear fruit and we would have a new license in place for the 2013 academic year and beyond. Our optimism was misplaced and the entrenched position of the universities left us with no option but to take the matter to the Tribunal. While the case proceeds, the universities continue to access your content at the old licence rate and this will now also carry over into 2014. There are some lessons to learn from our experience as we proceed with this case. Copyright is like the third cousin twice removed in the family that is Intellectual Property. If you want to be paid for and enforce your rights in a registered patent – you’ll find very little argument from the general consumer and a court system that will help you. If you’re the owner of a registered Trademark and your rights have been breached – same answer. But if you’re a copyright owner of creative content like books, movies and music – people who want to use your product are more often than not reluctant to pay for it at a price that’s fair and if you want to try to enforce your rights, it’s a long hard road through the so-called justice system. How do we try to overcome this negativity and reluctance? Well we’re starting at the top with the government and key members of the other political parties. In conjunction with PANZ, CLNZ is having a comprehensive report prepared on the economic value of the book sector in New Zealand. The stats from this report will be combined with those from the music, film & TV and games sectors to draw a picture of the New Zealand creative industries that will demonstrate the importance of creativity to the New Zealand economy. This is one way to help the whole sector to secure investment and a legislative framework that supports future growth from our creative industries.
I’d like to end with a short quote from Point England Principal, Russell Burt:
“When essential aspects of learning are amalgamated and new media are used for the reception and delivery modes, the learner experience is completely different. It is more than possible to develop new learner agency, efficacy and leadership in learning. This journey to genuine citizenship will have three major hallmarks:
- ubiquity – anywhere, anytime, any pace, any people learning
- agency – the power to act -informed/empowered/enabled learners
- connectedness – edgeless education, connected minds”
So that’s what the leader of a cluster of the lowest decile schools in New Zealand is aspiring to – is that what you as publishers of quality New Zealand education content are aspiring to?