Tuesday, 14 February 2012

free the word in school

article written for the free word centre website

Director of if:book and Free Word Associate Chris Meade explores the digital reading possibilities of the iPad and Kindle for school children.
Mr Greenwood is a wonderful teacher. His classes, which aren’t short of potentially difficult kids, are focused, fun and friendly. His classroom in Northwood Primary School is bright with evidence of its involvement in all kinds of initiatives; Paul uses new teaching resources to improve learning, not to tick boxes or satisfy his own agenda. When technical problems arise with the resources that he uses on the whiteboard and the iPads/iPods and computers which the kids handle confidently, he doesn’t panic but finds a solution whether by rebooting something or using pen and paper instead. Technology here is clearly a tool to do things better.
That sounds so simple, and yet it’s not the attitude to digital revolution if:book sees in many schools, where a gaping hole can open up in the space between technical hiccups and teacher hesitancy, into which many digital learning initiatives can fall into oblivion.
Paul Greenwood’s class is in one of the London schools where if:book is observing the use of iPads and Winged Chariot’s rather special apps of stories beautifully illustrated by artists from around Europe, for our Gulbenkian-funded research project, Stories To Touch.
With Wingedchariot’s own education experts, Norman Whitney and Ann Arscott, if:book has been observing how new media is used across the curriculum, and if:book associate Sasha Hoare filmed proceedings at Northwood, including wonderful interviews with pupils themselves, engaged in that same debate on the pros and cons of hardbacks v iPads and Kindles which seems to arise these days whenever two or more are gathered together.

Scruffy Kitty is a digital picture book available for the iPhone and iPad in five languages already with more to be added. Now Neal Hoskins, CEO of Winged Chariot and a fellow Free Word Associate, is developing this and other titles to be as useful as possible to schools, building a touch-sensitive, whiteboard-friendly web version, extending the range of languages stories can be read in, improving functionality and, with if:book, seeking the right formula for providing support, training and encouragement to build teacher confidence in using this stuff to ignite the readers of tomorrow.
These apps can be used to teach English, to give children their first encounter with a foreign language they will later study in detail, and to build a reading community in settings where many languages are spoken. Scruffy Kitty can be one story which every child in the school enjoys in their own first language. We’re off to talk to the Department for Education next. There is interest in our work, and more research and development needs to be done to find tangible evidence of the benefits of new devices and platforms on reading appetite and attainment.
In Mr Greenwood’s class the pupils appreciate all kinds of reading, and many are passionate about the app. One boy clutched the iPad I showed him to his chest and told me with fervour, “This is the future for reading. My dad said so.”

job advert

Editor of Modern Poetry in Translation

After 8 years in post the current Editors have indicated their intention to retire at the end of 2012.
This is an exciting opportunity to become the Editor and the public representative of an internationally important poetry magazine, founded by Ted Hughes and Daniel Weissbort and currently edited by David and Helen Constantine. MPT, one of very few journals specializing in the translation of poetry, has recently been awarded National Portfolio status by Arts Council England.
Proven ability in the translation of poetry and a good knowledge of poetry are essential. You need to have an informed appreciation of MPT’s work, and plenty of ideas for its development. Other essential qualifications are an excellent command of the English language, self-motivation, and the ability to deal with a great variety of people and to make and maintain good contacts in the arts world. You need strong ideas for the future of MPT, and a clear sense of how they may be carried through.
You will also need to have relevant experience in publishing, editing, proofing and copy-editing. You will work in collaboration with the Managing Editor, who is responsible for overseeing all financial and administrative matters. Editor and Managing Editor work together to ensure the bi-annual publication of MPT and of occasional pamphlets, and to hold ‘live literature’ events for their promotion. Both are answerable to the Board of Trustees, which meets quarterly.
The Editor will be self-employed and paid £13,500 per annum. The post is part-time, and could be job-shared, so joint applications for it are also acceptable.
Closing date: 25th March 2012. Interviews: Tuesday 24th April 2012, London.
Visit www.mptmagazine.com/page/jobs for more information on the job, and to download the application form.  Please email the application form to administrator@mptmagazine.com by midnight on 25th March 2012. Applicants shortlisted for interview will be contacted by 16th April 2012. Please assume you have not been successful if you do not hear from us by that date.

Modern Poetry in Translation
The Queen's College

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

cat nav - guest blog by jos carlyle

Like many lovers of the written word, I became curious about the possibilities of touchscreen devices such as the iPhone and the iPad as they were launched in 2007 and 2010. 

It quickly became clear that the interactive features of these devices would change how readers experience literature in profound and far-reaching ways. The iPad in particular would allow storytellers to meld narrative, music, song and fine art into something that would simply revolutionise the reading experience.

We incorporated Persian Cat Press as a publishing company in October 2010, aiming to create the kind of beautiful, immersive and absorbing stories that can only be fully realised with the help of touchscreen devices. We call them iStories. 

We hit the ground running, simultaneously working on five app projects in our first year of operation:
The Gift, a gently allegorical picture book for children aged four and older.

A bright and busy picture book entitled Owls Don’t Growl that supports a number of development models for pre-school children.

Solarized, a smart, high-energy adult graphic novel set in a sunny, dystopian Manchester, told in 12 installments over three years.

The Tale of Brin & Bent and Minno Marylebone, The Ballet, a powerful and thought-provoking interactive multi-media expansion of a Jonathan Cape graphic (published in summer 2012).

And the stylish, informative and free-to-download Cat-Nav discovery app.

It was a punishing schedule at times, especially given the wildly differing subject matter and style of each project, but we felt we had a unique opportunity to make a big impression. There was no time to waste.

I've been writing picture books and graphic novels for years, and with these kinds of narratives you have to decide which elements of the story will be told via the text, which will be told via the artwork - and how the two combine.

This was an extremely useful insight when I began to write interactively. It was a natural progression to further separate the narrative into interactions, movements and sound too.

We wanted The Gift to have a heartwarming narrative told with lyrical language. We wanted it to look beautiful too – and we wanted to use the iPad and iPhone’s capabilities to reinforce these attributes.  

Dan Mynard’s artwork, for example, was rendered in a series of oil on canvas pieces, but it remains wonderfully warm and vivid because it’s displayed on the high-resolution screens of the iPad and iPhone.

The similarly handcrafted soundtrack put together by CMI Music Group provides a unique emotional counterpoint for the narrative of The Gift, allowing us to quicken and slow the pace as needed.

It took a lot of time and energy to successfully plan and coordinate the teams and individuals who worked on the original artwork, soundtrack, typography and narration for The Gift, as well as production of the app itself.

When you're commissioning this kind of high-level work, you can't always wait until every element is complete before you begin to build the framework into which they’re going to be placed. But delivering the various elements piecemeal can make it hard to stay true to the original vision.

We thought we had a pretty good idea of all the stages there would be in producing a high-level app like The Gift – but we underestimated. We got where we wanted to get to, but it took a little longer than anticipated.

Quality control took up an enormous amount of time. When you're producing a picture book app for children of this age group (4+), getting the details exactly right is crucial. Parents expect the very best – and we aim not to disappoint.

We have a culture of honesty and openness at Persian Cat Press, and we’re happy to share our insights and experiences with other companies.

This is in stark contrast to what often seems like a very insular traditional publishing industry – which is a little puzzling because from our perspective it appears that the publishing industry has as much to learn about book apps as anyone.

Our open approach has more in common with the kind of culture found in more technologically focused concerns, such as game developers. Information sharing is what keeps this culture at the forefront of change, and it makes sense to us to follow that example.

Many of us involved in narrative apps seem to be running into the same kind of difficulties in terms of pricing, visibility and so on, but very few people seem to be talking to each other. Isn’t the evolution of a mature, value-led book app market in everyone’s interest?

Maybe the big fish feel they have nothing to learn from start-ups like Persian Cat Press. We would disagree with them.

UK publishers and developers like Nosy Crow, Us Two, Tabella, Argant, and yes, Persian Cat Press have a lot to teach many of the big publishing houses – maybe even such leading digital lights as Faber and Faber, Random House and Harper Collins. We certainly know how much we can learn from them. 

Happily, The Gift is now in the App Store and selling well. We’ve been delighted at the warmth of the response to our work.

As a result of making The Gift we've worked hard to refine the production process for our second picture book Owls Don't Growl, which will be published this summer. So far it’s working like clockwork.

No matter how smoothly a project may run, though, there is always more to learn. That’s fine with us. We love what we do, and we learn fast.

You can find more information on Persian Cat Press here [http://www.persiancatpress.com]