Our Publications Coordinator, James Styring, offers his take on MaWSIG in Birmingham.

We are putting links to support materials, blogs and reports at the bottom of this page; please let us know if you have anything you would like us to add.


More than eighty delegates came to this year’s PCE ‘Print vs digital: is it really a competition?’ The day kicked off with Ceri Jones asking whether the supposed gulf between digital and print delivery really makes much difference in terms of classroom outcomes. Ceri’s conclusion: digital and print are not black and white but more a shade of grey, ‘the same but different’.

Genevieve White spoke engagingly about how to digitise a print course. In particular, for self-study materials, how can digital make up for the absence of the teacher? How can digital ensure a lesson flows?

Katherine Bilsborough, talking about writing for primary, pointed out that we are not digital writers so much as materials writers who are writing in a digital age. Print vs digital isn’t a black and white divide so much as a black and white chessboard that writers move across, flitting between media. Katherine identified five key areas to get right when writing for primary: primary content, illustration (though photos are increasingly common), appropriateness (no PARSNIPS), simple instructions, and key ingredients such as stories, cross-curricular content, culture that students can relate to, plus rhymes, chants and songs.

Fiona Mauchline opened our eyes to writing for the PlayStation generation. ELT writers think they know which ‘umbrella topics’ matter to secondary students. But given a list of 30 such topics, it was hard to pick out the ones that students actually hate doing. Fiona’s student focus group had no desire to talk about:

• video games and fashion (hopelessly dated by the time a book is published);

• YouTubers who do crazy things, travel to exotic locations and eating weird food such as insects (all stuff that students will never do);

• aspects of ‘family’ (too personal and might leave them exposed in their responses).

The big surprise was that teenage boys do want to read and talk about hairstyles.

Mostly when material exists in print and digital formats, the digital product comes after the print book. Damian Williams talked about his experience of going the other way. He has a successful ebook (a DELTA teacher trainer manual) which he turned into a print book for use as a set text at colleges. Damian discussed the merits of print on demand vs traditional offset printing, using a designer to make it look nice pages vs DIY, and much more.

The last talk was Sue Kay on ‘Fifty ways not to turn your editor grey’. These included editorial tips, keyboard shortcuts, how (and when) to use the en-rule, tech tips, but more than anything else how to employ positive and thoughtful communication to best maintain the author–editor relationship.

The PCE Day ended with a panel discussion chaired by MaWSIG Coordinator, Rachael Roberts. On the panel were Katherine Bilsborough, Damian Williams, Jo Sayers (MaWSIG Tech Coordinator) and Debra Williams (an expert in digital classrooms). The questions (Do you think writers will have more or less freedom to be creative in the future? and Why have we not moved on from drag and drop? to name but two) and answers are expertly captured by award-winning blogger Lizzie Pinard on her blog.

SIG Day and Open Forum 2016

The SIG Day was also a great success, thanks to the many excellent speakers who came together under the MaWSIG umbrella. Our Open Forum was extremely well attended, with around ninety members and non-members turning up to hear about what the SIG has been doing and what our future plans are. CUP, DELTA Publishing, ELT Teacher 2 Writer, Graham Allcott, Helbling, Macmillan and OUP all contributed fantastic raffle prizes.

At the Open Forum we had a short presentation from Moundir AlAmrani, winner of the OUP/MaWSIG scholarship. Moundir was given the tricky task of producing a piece of material which took a fresh approach to the topic of the environment. MaWSIG, and our co-sponsor OUP, are delighted to have enabled Moundir to come to IATEFL from Morocco.


Sue Kay’s Fifty Tips are on the ELT Teacher 2 Writer website.

Lizzie Pinard’s excellent blog of our PCE starts here (there are four parts).

Super-blogger Sandy Millin very graciously defers to Lizzie for an account of the PCE but adds notes (and links to Christina Rebuffet-Broadus’s wonderful sketchnotes) on her blog.

Information about Damian Williams’ book is at the round.

You can also search the MaWSIG hashtag on Twitter and look at our Facebook page for more information.