The editor's view
• What is it all about? [current comment]
It's a serious business, education. We want to support you in a wide range of subjects, and give all abilities an equal chance. All of the tabs across the top of the screen let you support your students to the best of their abilities, whatever that ability might be. So we give you books, videos, powerpoints, interactive presentations, page reads, audio eavesdrops and a huge range of teacher printables, lesson plans and more. Three quarters of a million files more, in fact.
But on the home page we try to engage as well. The home page is where we have a bit of fun, so there is a new curious question each day, which links through to an answer and then to one of our search screens. It's a good way of getting used to how powerful the search screens really are. Below are sample books and videos. At the top of each category are new books and videos, and down the bottom some popular ones so that people browsing to the site can see what we do.
Down the side we have added quick link tabs to make it simpler for students to navigate to subjects (although I still suggest they are told to use the search). But the tabs at the top don't change at all. They are the 'workhorse' links of the site. So when you want to get serious, use the tabs or get students to use the safe, internal search, and when you want something to start the day, just click on the curious question. The curious question is not there just by chance, and the questions are not random. They are there to encourage students to ask about the world around them, and in particular science, environment, and wellbeing. This is one place where we can introduce concepts of wellbeing and caring for the environment most easily without it being structured. You can also use it every day to talk about world issues.
• Please can we see what is new in videos? And what is new in deals?
We have changed some things, so you can see new books and videos on the home page. We have some megadeals that change daily. To find them use the shopping dropdown menu and choose deals. Mostly they are cross-over deals between your membership charge and book buying, so when your membership comes up for renewal, you might be able buy books to offset part of the cost. You can do it anytime you see a deal that is good for you, of course. The home screen will also default to the video listing after about 45 seconds as a reminder to watch the latest movies.
• Buddies and activities and top strip weekly themes
There has been an increasing response to our free posters (which after each week go into the search, if you wondered where they were). And we are spending more and more effort on all aspects of wellbeing, from creating first aid videos, and all the time we are trying to be all-embracing, so that students work together for a change and are not in isolation mode in front of phones and tablets. So that is how we have planned the theme. Every poster is printable on a single sheet of paper and has ideas and guidance. Copies can be distributed, or you can have a buddies wall where group results can be pinned on to the appropriate poster. Anyway, I am sure you will figure out what is best for you. But in every case they are part of the curriculum.
• The videos that you can scheme for
We seem to be piling on the videos at the moment. The drone videos are spectacular, with more coming each week. But we are also adding videos from overseas, and especially the two most important countries of China and the U.S. They are only grudgingly in the geography curriculum, but these are the two countries that are shaping the world, and we ought to see what their world is like if we are to do the best by our students. So have a look at how packed Shanghai and Hong Kong are, and see how China compares to the U.S. videos we do on a regular basis.
• December's view [archive]
• Keeping abreast of change
One of the nice things about being a small company is that we can experiment with designs. It is something you can do on a digital platform that you cannot do in print. Most of it goes on behind the scenes, and you may not really notice. But browsers are always changing behind the scenes, too, and we have to try to keep up with them, and that might result in changes of layout and function from time to time. This screen is one of them. Just to tease you into finding all the changes, can you spot changing features on this home screen? Just empty caches, click our logo top left, and stare at the screen for about thirty seconds. Hint: more than one thing changes.
• The age of cost-effective responsive books
Some of the opportunities from increased browser functionality are really helpful. If you are a long-term member of the platform, you will have seen the way that the books have steadily become more responsive. Now – with the latest transformation a month or two ago – they do not need to load fully to get going, nor do they just flip, but pages can be enlarged and dragged (fabulous for whiteboards), and every book can be searched (the search bar is top right on the book page). On vertically-held tablets and phones the books are displayed one full page at a time and are a joy to read. Swipe to move on. Best opened in tabs, so you can go back to the home screen and keep the book window open, too.
As a result of these improvements, books have become much more useful and flexible. Of course, given the state of school financial affairs, and the possible worsening due to Brexit, or not as the case may be, our digital platform provides by far the most economical way to let staff have books and other materials to use at home and on whiteboards and also students to use with their parents at home. As publishers of printed books we are not trying to see the demise of things you hold in the hand, but we all have to do the best with the finances available. It's why all publishers have cut back on new books. On the other hand, we produce new digital books every week because the capital cost (and so risk) is so much lower, to say nothing of response time.
A few years ago I would not have thought books would become so quickly useful. But our books (with their full colour pictures) are now the most common way people browse at home, on bus and on train. Just work it out for yourself: divide your membership cost by 900 (books) to see how cheap the books alone now are, to say nothing of videos, worksheets and all the rest.
• Drones with a useful view
If you look at our newest videos you will see that we have started to get drone views. Want to fly over Edinburgh Castle while telling its history, want to see a lighthouse flash out its message on the Dorset coast, want to visit a walled Tudor town in Shropshire, want to see what Hampton Court or Canary Wharf or Dartmoor are like? No problem. Our licensed pilot doesn't get in anyone's way, but is helping us to deliver a clear perspective all over the country. Check them out for yourself in our new clips link on the home page. There are many more to come.
• Binge-watch our videos?
No, I don't really expect you to do that. But with people now browsing from video to video online on the major on-line video platforms, we wanted to have the same kind of facility ourselves, to help you to see quickly what the new videos are that we have added, as well as a few all-time favourites. If you watch the ones under the '1500 more' tab on the home screen, currently you could binge for 4 hours solid – and that is for watching less than 100 of our 1500 videos! To start either click '1500 more' or 'must-see' video' and then look above the video to see the navigation and go left or right to others, or click the page symbol to go to a list. And remember you don't always have to come back to this page to see them because we put them in appropriate search pages and subject lists. It's just there to give you a shortcut to what is new. And to binge!
• We need you as champions
I also want to tell you about how to explain to colleagues how to use the new platform. If you are reading this, you are probably already one of our champions, so here is how to spread the word to even reluctant staff members. Get them to have a look at the teaser 'Curious Question' that changes each day on the home screen. Then get them to click through it to a simple answer and click through again to one of our search pages. Scrolling down the page to the bottom and they should quickly see how easy it all is and how it moves to links and books as well as videos right off the page. So the next time they want something, they might well be more persuaded to try a search for themselves. And we keep our membership prices stable by adding to our membership base, so if you have friends in another school, do tell them about us, as the more the members, the less likely it is that prices have to rise.
And if you have a comment, do let us know; it makes our day when you get in touch: e-mail email@example.com or start a help desk ticket.
(Editor:Dr Brian Knapp)
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