Frank van Amerongen (1950) is managing director and publisher at ThiemeMeulenhoff, one of the mayor educational publishing houses in the Netherlands. In his early professional years he was a teacher in primary education and also an author for textbooks and translator of non-fiction reference books for young children. In the early eighties he started his career as a publisher. He was a nonfiction publisher at Tirion publishers for a short time, but his roots are deep into the educational publishing field, both for the primary and de secondary school market. Frank is the concept engineer behind many well known teaching methods published by amongst others Malmberg, where he worked for almost 10 years, and ThiemeMeulenhoff.
Frank van Amerongen @ The Unbound Book Conference photo cc by-sa Sebastiaan ter Burg
The gap between the teachers and pupils
One of the main topics of this talk by Frank van Amerong was about the gap between teachers and pupils when it comes to using Information and Communication Technology. The world of the teachers and pupils is totally different. This can not only be attributed to the way in which both use technology but this gap exists also because the educational system itself is changing. He stresses that this gap is only increasing in the future.
The main issues with the educational system
He went on to outline the main issues with the Dutch educational system and innovation, which are as follows. First of all, the results are not as good as they used to be, the skills that we use in the 21st century are not fully integrated in the educational system yet. The delivered content in the book is not as good as discovering or experiencing the content itself. Additionally, research has shown that boys and girls are different, their learning skills and the way that they obtain knowledge is inherently different. Van Amerongen states that our educational system is not addressing this difference. The educational system is based primarily on text but the pupils today no longer read. Van Amerongen states that another issues is that we know a lot about our brain and how we learn but not all of this knowledge is applied in education. Other issues in the Dutch educational system are that in the future there will be a lack of teachers and that there is no urge to pay more for education.
The future of educational publishing
To make the problems even bigger, new internet possibilities are increasing by the day. The educational publishers still publish books because that is what the teachers want. But what we need to do is gather information about who is using our content, it is all about profiling, sharable content and it is also about the delivering device itself. This device, according to van Amerong, will be different in the future. School book content can be distributed in whatever way that is demanded. Frank van Amerong stressed here that the content of the book is not confined to the book itself, something that was addressed multiple times at this conference. What he sees as schoolbooks are also, for instance, a smartboard with the learning material displayed on it (a picture, video or text). Or possibly Augmented Reality in the near future, that can be seen as a school book as well. Furthermore, Frank van Amerong, stressed that the publishing industry will not be the basic content providers in the future.
The publishing industry is not going to be a major content source for learners, but will be the broker and system integrator between teachers, students and content.
To conclude: from content supplier to service provider
To conclude, a shift can be seen from content supplier to service provider when it comes to educational publishers. The digital revolution, according to Frank van Amerong, is really about shift from providing content to providing a service. Van Amerong stated that “the publishing industry is not going to be a major content source for learners, but will be the broker and system integrator between teachers, students and content”. In the future, the books are no longer the issue, but the learning management systems are. The gap between the teachers and the learners will continue to grow and how are we going to deal with this issue? He concluded with the statement that educational publishing will be an industry that is oriented towards providing a service. The publishers as well as the teachers should “support learning environments to help the community of learners to communicate, create, publish, collaborate, teach and learn from each other.”
PDF of presentation available here: Reinventing Educational Publishing