Getting your teaching materials published

The author of some excellent Yacapaca assessments (who has asked me not to name him, for the moment) recently asked to pass my eye over a very complete set of offline teaching materials he had also created. He said:

…over the last few years I have sweated blood on producing a whole set of these for [curriculum reference removed]. I think that they have got potential [for commercial publication], however, that is my opinion and could have some bias!!

Does this sound like you? Many teachers have invested a great deal of time and effort into materials that they would love to see published, and to make money from. At Chalkface we receive two or three such manuscripts per week and, I have to warn you, we reject them all. Like nearly all educational publishers, we only publish materials we have planned and commissioned ourselves.

The mistake many teachers make is to give up at that point. A better strategy is to re-think where the true value lies. It is not actually in what you have written, but in you. The materials you have written are a manifest expression of your ideas, and of your ability to organise them. That skill is marketable in many different ways. Three examples:

  • Writing fees from publisher-initiated projects
  • Running INSET courses
  • Boosting your CV: head teachers love having famous authors on their staffs!

You can use the materials you have created to establish your reputation as a writer and educator. Focus on getting other teachers talking about how useful your materials are in the classroom. Listen to feedback, and spend time tweaking and developing them until they really are foolproof resources that can compete with any textbook out there.

Just get your materials out there; there are lots of ways to do it. Make them free. Promote them every way you can think of. Make sure everyone knows who the author is, and how to contact you. It will take time – several years of diligent effort probably – but in the end your reputation will be established. That established reputation , will, if you want it to, boost your income significantly.

How to add images to quiz questions

A teacher emailed me this question a few days ago:

I have managed to upload some some pictures as a zip. I can see them in the image library, and as thumbnails in a popup. However, if I try and drag them into my question, all I get is a new window with the image in it.

This is a common request, so I thought you might appreciate me sharing the answer with you.

The drag and drop method only works in Firefox. Try as we might, we could never get Internet Explorer to do it right. Here is the more reliable way.

  1. Right-click on the image and select “properties”.
  2. Find and copy the complete URL of the image.
  3. Now paste that into the image field in the question.

New solution coming soon Update: implemented Sept 2008

For the past six months we have been working on a completely new way to create and edit questions. I shall introduce it in the Masterclass on July 4th, and after that invite a few authors to beta-test it prior to the full roll-out in September.

To whet your appetite, here are some of the features…

  • Image drag and drop that works everywhere (of course)
  • Attach sounds to questions or responses
  • Duplicate and adapt existing questions

…and here’s a screencast:

The return of "I am Clever"



Update 2013: the I Am Clever materials have now been permanently retired. Thanks for your interest. I am Clever

Back in 1999 we thought it would be a pretty cool experiment to add an online component to Chalkface packs. Students could do homeworks or extension activities online, and have them emailed back to the teacher. So we created a website called that encapsulated these ideas in a set of nice little web forms, and linked it to the lesson plans of a couple of dozen Chalkface packs.

Nobody used it. As far as I could tell, it got absolute zero usage for two years. Discouraged, we let the system fall into abeyance and concentrated on other projects. And then, about two years ago, we started getting a trickle of complaints from teachers who still had those packs and were now ready to try out the web homeworks.

It wasn’t really practical to resuscitate the old site, so instead, my colleague Victoria has spent the last couple of weeks moving the assignments across to Yacapaca. If you are a Yacapaca member, you will find them here.

Some assignments had to be abandoned, generally because they contained too many dead links.

Technically, they work really nicely now. They are easy to set and easy to mark. The activities themselves are a bit variable. The staff who were writing them in 1999 were themselves inexperienced in using the web, and sometimes it shows. If they prove popular this time around, we will put some energy into improving them.

Take a look, and let me know what you think.

Applied GCSEs Update

The Applied GCSEs in Business and ICT were a huge hit when we introduced them 2002. Recently, they have languished somewhat as they have moved from the old Paperless School platform to Yacapaca. Now, the move is complete, and I’d like to update you with the resultant changes:


Price reduction
I have reduced the cost from £25.00 per student to just £9.95 per student. The development costs are all paid off, and I would rather see the two courses continue to be used than worry about squeezing the last drop of profit out of them. The photocopy master course packs will now be sold separately.

Find the courses on Yacapaca (requires login)

Which versions to use
The Paperless School version will be discontinued over the Summer Hols. If you are locked into that and not experiencing problems, there is no reason to change until then.

The ePortfolio Pilot Project is being wound up now, but tasks assigned within it are quite safe until August. If you are already delivering through Yacapaca, I recommend you move to the integrated tasks right away; they simply work better, and have much easier marking.

Business Encyclopedia Glossary…
…is finally fixed. In the end we did the decent thing and rewrote the program from scratch.

The message board…
…has been permanently scrapped. That is one feature that never lived up to expectations.

Access controls
I am determined to keep everthing on Yacapaca absolutely free, which means that access to the course activities is free. We do still need to charge something for these courses, so to controll access we are putting password protection on the Business and ICT Encyclopedias. If you are a current customer, you will shortly be receiving an email with your password details for this.

Chalkface website updated

We are updating the Chalkface website today. It’s a little chaotic, as these things always are, but the wrinkles are slowly disappearing. If you are just browsing round the site, you probably won’t notice any difference but underneath it has been completely rebuilt. For the technically-minded, we have dumped Plone in favour of Django, and moved the blog to WordPress.

These are the new features we have got as a result:

  • Faster. Much faster
  • Better search. More of each product record is searched, and the results are more intelligently ranked.
    Improved credit-card processing. We have dropped PayPal in favour of Protx, which works particularly well with British banks. Protx is simple, reliable and secure.
  • More-trustworthy book reviews. My first job in the morning used to be to delete the inappropriate and unhelful graffiti left by spammers and VI-formers overnight. They are now blocked, but instead we will write to every genuine purchaser of each book and ask them to rate it and write a short review. This way, you know you are seeing reviews from real users. Incidentally, our policy remains that remove reviews that are completely uninformative, and keep the rest – whether they are positive or negative in tone.