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Maramedia Publishing: maximising potential

| November 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

Maramedia Learners’ Manual
Published by: Maramedia Publishing
Reviewed by: Fiona de Villiers

After reviewing countless textbooks, one is inclined to become sceptical about their ability to excite students and teachers about the curriculum.

Too many use the same tired formats that suggest rote learning and the regurgitation of dull, overused facts. A new player on the educational publishing scene – Maramedia Publishing, based in Johannesburg – is set to change all that. The company has taken a novel and, in my opinion, necessary approach to the production of educational materials, carefully researching the role of the textbook in the teaching and learning process.

A novel approach to textbooks

Its careful investigation has resulted in what it calls a Learner’s Manual, which is part traditional textbook, part study guide and part workbook. The thinking is that there is far too much to worry about without teachers having to refer to multiple texts to provide students with exciting resources and important potential examination material. Likewise, it’s really not fair to expect students to lug around heavy bags full of prescribed books.

I reviewed a Grade 7 history manual and discovered that Maramedia has taken great care with the design. Compelling covers lead one to Maramedia’s ‘Education Manifesto’, which begins: “We believe in a future where every single child has access to the best education available because this single fact alone will change the world…” A nice touch. Another is information about the author and his credentials, and a disclaimer promising to rectify omissions and update material. A blank progress chart for pupils’ use and a well-written introduction about the purpose and value of history are also valuable inclusions.

An enthralling approach

In this CAPS-compliant manual, learners will digest four themes mandated by the national curriculum: one investigation into the kingdom of Mali and the city of Timbuktu and another about the Transatlantic slave trade will prepare learners well for a module on the colonisation of the Cape in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the last on cooperation and conflict on the frontiers of the Cape colony in the early 19th century.

Determined initially to concentrate on one of these modules, I found myself thoroughly engrossed in reading the entire manual from cover to cover. And there is much to enthral one: for one thing, the layout is simply beautiful. The large type is a sensitive nod in the direction of learners who may struggle with spatial issues or visual impairment.

Then there are the pictures – impeccably researched, sourced and acknowledged, they contribute to the stimulating design of each page in that there is a balance between black and white and colour, appropriate backgrounds and extended, relevant captions, all rendered on quality, glossy paper. Although my family roots kept me poring over the modules to do with the Cape for some time, I was very moved by the module on the slave trade and pleased to see how the manual would function in a classroom setting.

Stimulating assignments

At the start, it’s made very clear what learners can expect from each section, and assignments punctuate the text at regular intervals. In this instance, of course, all assignments are done in the manual itself, and all boast imaginative ‘out-of-the-box’ approaches to the consolidation and assessment of student knowledge and skills. At the end of the module, teachers and students can record the marks given for each assignment. At the end of the whole course, I feel certain that students will have learnt how to research a multitude of historical sources.

Don’t call them manuals

If I were to criticise – and that’s surely part of my task here – I would suggest that Maramedia change the name of the resource. ‘Manual’ sounds just too dull and dusty. I did also wonder about the teachers. While students will rejoice in having to care for just one history book, what about the poor soul who must carry a large and heavy pile of books to and fro for marking purposes? Maramedia has thought of a solution with its digital resources; and we’ll review them in the next issue.

Category: Summer 2012

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