5 Educational Kids Shows On Netflix

I was recently writing a series of scripts here at MakeMatic on computer code.
It’s a tricky subject to tell a visual story around and, I admit, I found it difficult at times.
Yet inspiration came from an unlikely source – gangsta rap legend Snoop Dogg.
There we were, my 4-year-old son Patrick and I, casually watching Netflix on a Saturday morning when up popped Snoop in the form of an Operating System.
The show was StoryBots, a multi-award-winning Netflix original series billed as a “digital learning programme for elementary-age children”.
StoryBots sees a cast of animated characters learn new things from A list celebrities in character, and the opening episode of season two was entitled “How Do Computers Work?”
It featured Snoop explaining input, output and processing – exactly the concepts I was struggling with at work!
It got me thinking: what other educational kids shows are great for kids and adults?
Here’s a list of my favourite five currently available on Netflix UK.

STORYBOTS

 
No subject is too complex, nor too random, for the StoryBots and their celebrity friends to tackle. “Why Can’t I Eat Dessert All The Time?” “How Does Night Happen?” “How Do Ears Hear?” Questions posed by kids are answered each episode and it’s great fun watching the likes of Hollywood actor Edward Norton and comedian Wanda Sykes channel their inner educators. As far as educational entertainment goes, it doesn’t get much better.

KAZOOPS

 
“Who says the world works the way grown-ups think it should?” Co-created by composer and multi-instrumentalist Scott Langley, Kazoops follows the adventures of Monty and his pet pig Jimmy Jones. Built around songs that expertly challenge preconceptions and teach Monty about the world around him while introducing viewers to a variety of musical influences from cultures around the world, Kazoops is the perfect series for preschoolers.

ODD SQUAD

 
This live action programme is aimed at kids aged 5-8. It follows a multi-ethnic group of child detectives, the Odd Squad, as they solve problems in their community using math and basic reasoning. Episodes include “Negative Town” and “Flawed Squad” and are aimed primarily at preschool and elementary-level audience members. The programme also features a large supporting cast of characters, making it immersive for viewers as well as educational.

HORRID HENRY

 
Based on Francesca Simon’s widely popular children’s books, this show is now banned in the Henry household – the annoying incidental music would try anyone’s patience – but served its purpose in helping us to teach our own little Henry about right and wrong. The eponymous protagonist tugs everyone’s chain with his constant pranks and bullying but it’s satisfying for parents, and educational for kids, each time he receives his inevitable comeuppance.

HEY DUGGEE

 
Originally broadcast on the BBC’s Cbeebies channel, this 2D animation is beautiful to look at and wonderfully narrated by comic acter Alexander Armstrong. The loveable pooch at the centre of proceedings wins Boy Scout-style badges each time he learns about something new – how to be careful, what scarecrows do, why first aid is important et cetera – and, along with his gang of furry friends, constantly has the Henry household in fits of laughter. Any animation that punctuates a chicken laying an egg with a fart noise gets five out of five in our book.

 

Using Video For Professional Development – Why Size Matters

The pedagogical benefits of using video in education

There’s much discussion in education about the efficacy of using videos to enhance learning. With the use of videos seemingly everywhere in the digital world, is it a medium that educators should be using to complement their own professional development? Numerous studies, including several meta-analyses, confirm the effectiveness of videos to enhance learning.

But what are the video features that educators should look out for when using this medium for their own learning, or as a tool in the classroom to enhance learning effectiveness?

Short and Sweet

Short videos are more engaging than long ones. One study analysed 6.9 million video watching sessions. Those under 6 minutes were watched all the way through nearly 100% of the time. The researcher concluded that videos longer than 6 – 9 minutes in an educational setting are likely to be a wasted effort.

Cognitive Load Considerations

Videos with too much information and too many learning outcomes are ineffective. Less is more. Additionally, if the information is chunked or segmented, it’s easier to digest.

Active Learning

Videos that get viewers actively participating with the material through the use of interactive elements, questions and calls to action increase engagement.

The Personalisation Principle

A formal tone is less effective than a conversational one. Conversational tones are seen as more authentic, and it’s authenticity that’s engaging and will keep people watching and aid learning.

Rate of Speech

Videos where the presenter or voice-over artist speaks relatively quickly and with enthusiasm increase viewer engagement

Flipping the Classroom

Flipped classroom learning is more effective when the pre-class activities include video.

What This Means For Educators

So if educators are serious about their own professional development, or the engagement and motivation of their learners, understanding what works and doesn’t work with this medium is imperative.
Remember, videos that are engaging and aid learning:

– Are less than 6 minutes in length

– Consider cognitive load

– Encourage active learning

– Are conversational and authentic

Contact Tara on Twitter: @TaraWalshNinja

*In the research for this blog, more journal papers were consulted than are referenced. If you’d like a full reference list, please contact the author.

Educational Outreach Matters

The Divide Widens
Nelson Mandela once said that education is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world.
It’s therefore surprising that although we live in an age where we have greater access to information and knowledge, we still seem to be clueless when it comes to working out how to solve the problem of educational inequality.
The Cold Hard Facts

“The lack of a quality education is the most powerful form of social exclusion and prevents people from benefiting from economic growth and social progress.” Angel Gurria, OECD Secretary-General

The problem with inequality is that it’s increasing, even though between 2010 and 2012, GDP rose in most OECD countries.
Of the OECD countries where GDP increased, you might be surprised to hear that it is the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia that decreased their education budgets.
But there is hope.
Finland, Korea and Japan are spending more on education, and what is most impressive is that they are prioritising it over things like infrastructure.
Outreach Enhances Education
Education has the power to enrich a person’s life in so many ways.
And, with over 20% of a child’s learning taking place outside of the classroom, an expanding curriculum and, of course, standardised testing, educational outreach is more important than ever.
It has such an important role to play.
Even though there are many definitions of what educational outreach is, what is universal is that it has the power to:

  • Offer students the opportunity to experience things beyond what would be possible within the classroom
  • Increase awareness of initiatives and ideas that could lead to future employment opportunities
  • Provide teachers, parents and community organisations with professional learning and resources to excite, engage and inspire

Supporting Educators
Educational outreach programmes support and build the capacity of educators to make a difference in the lives of their students.
On October 4th, MakeMatic is hosting an informal meet-up to look at how the creative and digital sectors can – and do – engage with education. The meet-up takes place in Belfast’s Ormeau Baths from 6pm.

We’ll be joined by Dr. Liz Fogel speaking about her experiences of designing educational outreach programmes as former Director of Education at Disney, alongside a panel of local people: Seamus Cushley from PwC, Diane Morrow from MTech Academy Foundation and Lisa Donaldson from the TEN Education Network, who are behind exciting initiatives closer to home.
Of course, there will be plenty of food and drink, and an opportunity to check out some new projects MakeMatic are working on with companies such as Crayola.
Click here to register your interest in the event.
 

Educational Heroes: Maria Montessori

Montessori schools. Montessori toys. The Montessori method.  
All bear the name of Maria Montessori – physician, history-maker, educational pioneer.
But do you know her story?
 

ORIGINS OF AN EDUCATIONAL HERO

 
Maria Montessori was born in the gritty port-city of Ancona, Italy in 1870.
Like most of Europe at the time, Italy was a patriarchal society where women were discouraged from stepping above their station.
From an early age, however, Montessori challenged societal norms.
Aged 16, she broke gender barriers by enrolling in an all-boys technical college in Rome.
Thereafter, she continued to defy expectations by graduating in engineering – a man’s vocation.
Yet Montessori decided to continue her studies in medicine.
Despite being strongly discouraged by the faculty at the University of Rome, she became the first female physician in Italian history.
 

A PASSION FOR EDUCATION

 
So when did her passion for educational practice begin?
Montessori initially specialized in the study of children with disabilities.
As a result, she founded Casa Dei Bambinos, or The Children’s House, located in the slums of San Lorenzo.
Casa Dei Bambinos provided education for some of the poorest children in Italian society.
It was there that Montessori developed her ideas around individualized learning.

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”

 

WHAT WAS THE METHOD?

 
In Montessori’s classroom, children were not segregated by age.
Instead, they all learned together, from each other and the teacher, who acted as a guide.
Montessori cultivated an atmosphere of freedom in her classrooms.
She focussed on intrinsic motivation rather than simply improving test scores.
But it was her observational research that would enshrine Montessori’s name in the roll call of educational heroes.
 

A TRUE INNOVATOR

 
Given freedom of choice, Montessori noticed that children veered toward practical activities and the materials she provided rather than toys.
So she implemented more practical-based learning activities and made the classroom accessible and flexible by replacing heavy furniture with child-sized tables and chairs.
Montessori also encouraged her students to come and go as they pleased – essentially dipping in and out of different areas and lessons.

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, ’The children are now working as if I did not exist’.”

 

LEAVING A LEGACY

 
The primary goal of Montessori’s program was to help each child to reach their full potential in all areas of life.
She promoted the development of social skills, emotional growth and physical coordination as well as cognitive preparation.
Her ideas were so revolutionary, in fact, that they spread throughout the Italian education system and garnered international attention.
Montessori would later rise to prominence as an advocate for women’s rights and campaigned for education for mentally ill and disabled children.
Could the Montessori Method work in your classroom?
 

Come and join us at our free Educational Outreach Event

On October 4, MakeMatic are hosting an informal meet-up at Ormeau Baths, Belfast to look at how the creative and digital sectors can – and do – engage with education.

The event starts at 6pm and we’ll be joined by Dr. Liz Fogel – speaking about her experiences of designing educational outreach programmes as former Director of Education at Disney – alongside a panel of experts including Seamus Cushley from PwC, Diane Morrow from MTech Academy Foundation and Lisa Donaldson from the TEN Education Network who are behind exciting initiatives closer to home.

Of course, there’ll be plenty of food and drink, and an opportunity to check out some new projects MakeMatic are working on with companies such as Crayola and Google.
To book your place click the link here

21st Century Skills in Action: Collaboration

In the first of a short series of posts we’ve invited our Script Editor, Lee Henry, to talk a little bit about his approach to collaboration at Makematic. Keep an eye out for contributions from other team members on creativity, communication and critical thinking
———–

In the beginning was the word, and the word was “collaboration”.
It’s common to think of the act of writing as a solitary pursuit.
One envisages novelists, short story writers, poets and playwrights locking themselves away in splendid isolation, typing or writing longhand till their heart’s content.
Before arriving at MakeMatic, where I currently work as Script Editor, I wrote for various newspapers and digital platforms.
Journalism was never a glamorous vocation, and today, it’s not even a particularly social one.
Days would go by without my exchanging a professional word with anyone – aside, perhaps, from an anxious sub-editor in search of a cover story.
Most of my interviews were conducted via telephone or email. I wrote about people’s lives and careers without ever looking them in the eye.

ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL

At MakeMatic, every word that I write is the product of some sort of collaboration.
MakeMatic HQ is a hive of activity – our corridors are populated with producers, directors, animators, sound designers and motion graphics artists.
They all play a part in the finished product; nothing is accomplished in seclusion.
Cinema, after all, is a collaborative medium.
Think of the great movies. Casablanca, The Godfather, Meet the Fockers. All were written by two or more screenwriters.

MY CREATIVE PROCESS

My process at MakeMatic generally follows a tried and tested creative path.
Step One – Before I write a word, the entire team get together to discuss what a project is and what we want each video within that project to look like.
Step Two – Next, I work with our Senior Learning Designer to break each script down into its component parts.
Step Three – I might spend a couple of hours deep diving into the subject area with our clients.
Then, and only then, do I begin to write.
But the collaboration doesn’t end there.
Clients are given a “pass” at every draft of a script – D1, D2, D3 – and I reshape with their comments in mind until we get green light to “lock”.

LISTEN TO THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD

At which point, I’ll pass scripts onto a producer, who will read them through with an animator, who will work their visual magic and pass them onto an audio designer…
So many cogs in the creative wheel but all intrinsic to the success of the written word.
I have each member of the team in my head as I type.
Opening lines should begin with the object – otherwise, our animators have nothing to work with.
Assonance or alliteration should be avoided because treating repetitive vowels or consonants can drive audio designers crazy.
And, most importantly, each section of a script (or stanza, as I geekily refer to them) must be informative – otherwise our audience will go away empty-handed.

TAKE MY ADVICE, DEAR WRITER

So, what advice would I have for aspiring bite-sized educational screenwriters?

  • Don’t be precious – know that your scripts are likely to go through several iterations before they make it to the screen.
  • Be open to the idea that other people’s creative opinions count.
  • And learn to take on constructive criticism with a smile, not a frown – divas are likely to be written out of history faster than they can type “once upon a time”.

Connect with Lee on Twitter at @leejhenry

first day at school

Do you remember your first day at school?

It’s that time of year again: back to school time.

This week, when Makematic Script Editor Lee Henry dropped his 4-year-old son off at school to begin Primary 1. The memory of his own first day came flooding back.

Lights. Camera. Action!

Thanks to BBC Northern Ireland, I haven’t been able to forget my first day at school.It was broadcast to the nation.

I was 5-years-old and the cameras were there to capture every momentous moment as All-Children’s Integrated Primary School officially opened on 2nd September, 1986.

There were my classmates arriving with their parents. There were my new teachers interviewed in the playground.

And there, with class in session, was me – dropping my pencil onto the floor and bumping my head on the desk as I attempted to pick it up

Cue howls of laughter from my assembled aunts and uncles as we watched the news later that evening.

Thankfully, the recording has since gone missing.

Integrated Education. What’s It Good For?

In a society historically divided along socio-religious lines, All-Children’s was the very first school in Northern Ireland to welcome both Catholic and Protestant students.

I, along with around twenty other pupils, were among its first intake.

There were kids with Irish names and kids with British names.  The question was: would we get along? Would integrated education actually work?

Of course we all got along fine, and of course integrated education worked and still does.

Kids aren’t born fearing otherness – they pick it up from their parents, from the media, from other people. They can learn to value inclusivity and multiculturalism too. That begins in the classroom.

Blazing a Trail

Looking back, I was aware, even at such a young age, that my new classmates and I were part of something special.

All-Children’s is now a state-of-the-art educational facility that many of my family members have attended.

But back then, its founders were blazing a trail. Understandably, some parents were wary of sending their children to school with the children of those people they feared the most.

Integrated education in Northern Ireland has still got some way to go before it becomes the norm here. But I’m proud that my parents – one Catholic, one Protestant – were brave enough to agree to a new approach to learning.

Because of them, I send my son to an integrated school too. I hope he will follow suit.

First Day Nerves

So, how did I feel on that first day at school?

Excited. Uncertain. Nervous. But good teachers help with that. And classmates too.The cameras, however, I could have lived without.

What do you remember about your first day at school?

The Science of Successful Learning

‘Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning’

Book Review –  ‘Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning’: Roger Brown, Henry Rosdiger III, Mark McDaniel

Does it stick or come unstuck?

I just want to start by saying that I love a good pedagogical text, especially if there are really useful takeaways and practical tips that I can use straight away. So, when I heard about ‘Make It Stick’ by Brown, Rosdiger and McDaniel, I’m not lying when I tell you that I was very excited. Yes, it’s sad, but very very true. If that wasn’t enough, when I read the words,

“A great deal of what we think we know about how to learn is taken on faith and based on intuition but does not hold up under empirical research,”

in the first chapter of the book, I was well and truly hooked.

Who would this book appeal to?

Educators – face to face or online, curriculum and instructional designers, coaches, tutors, parents, and even students.

So what’s the book about?

This book analyses empirical research by cognitive scientists to try and understand how learning works.

What I like about it
  • I love that it is science and evidence based. So many educational texts are anecdotal, and whilst they have some interesting insights, they’re not always practical in other contexts

  • It dispels myths and provides some real practical applications to improve teaching practice

  • It’s easy to read and not overly academic. The language that is used is accessible to everyone who would have an interest in the subject

What I don’t like about it

Personally the anecdotes grate on me. In my opinion, there are way too many. I’m not saying that anecdotes don’t have a place, it’s just there are just too many in this book. That said, the anecdotes are what may make this text appealing to a wider audience.

Key Takeaways
  • We are poor judges of when we are learning well and when we’re not

  • Rereading text and massed practice of a skill or new knowledge are by far the preferred study strategies of all learners, but they’re among the least productive
  • Retrieval practice – recalling facts or concepts or events from memory – is a far more effective learning strategy that review by re-reading.
  • When you space out practice, retrieval is harder, but the effort produces longer lasting learning. That’s because learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful
  • There is no empirical evidence to support the popular notion that people learn better when they do so in their preferred learning style
Top 3 Practical Applications
  • Create desirable learning difficulties. Failing and finding tasks difficult will help learning and understanding

  • Use active learning methods. Retrieval, elaboration, reflection and generative practices should be used in the classroom as often as you can

  • Provide constructive feedback regularly and teach your students how to deliver feedback to each other

On a final note, I would definitely recommend reading this book even if it’s only to reiterate that what you are doing is right. There are many useful applications, great notes and additional reading for you to delve further into areas that you find particularly interesting.

Everyone is talking about bite-sized learning. Does it actually work? (Part 2)

In the previous blog post I talked about what empirical research tells us about the effectiveness of bite-sized learning. In this article I’ll look at what the critics have to say and how you can apply bite-sized principles in the classroom, or in your own professional development.
Now it’s time to hear from the critics …

The critics have said many things about bite-sized learning. In summary, critics have said it’s a cheapskate fad to cut time, reduce training budgets, is often delivered badly, lacks context and very few studies have evaluated its effectiveness.
Whilst in some contexts the criticisms above are valid; a bite-sized approach to professional development and teaching can aid motivation, engagement and retention. Although bite-size learning is less effective when learning complex skills, processes, or behaviours, that doesn’t mean that bite-sized approaches can’t be used as a part of that learning.

So, where do you start?

When looking at bite-sized learning we need to start by looking at where it has worked, and replicate the approach in our context. Where does it work best?

Bite-sized learning works best when it’s used with other learning in a blended approach, and when learners have autonomy over what they are learning.
Over to you

Whether you engage in bite-sized learning as part of your own professional learning journey, or you embrace bite-sized learning principles into your teaching practice, what’s important to remember are the following:

  1. Bite-sized learning needs rigorous planning. It’s not about cutting up a module into bits and pieces and delivering it that way. It’s about clear ideas and concepts explained in easily digestible chunks.
  2. Bite-sized learning experiences can take many forms, including: videos, articles, infographics, activities,  games or microblogging.
  3. A blended learning approach is the best way to implement bite-sized learning design into your classroom. Blended approaches work best for professional development too.
Bite-sized Learning Uncovered: Microblogging

Have you ever considered using microblogging platforms like Yammer, Slack or Twitter in your classroom or for professional development?

Here’s how one company used microblogging …

A multinational organisation in the ICT sector used Yammer as the platform to deliver bite-sized learning units from subject matter and knowledge experts to those within their organisation. They found success in using it to disseminate information to all departments to ensure they are on the same page.  

Are you on Twitter?

Twitter is my favourite micro-blogging site for professional development. Now, I’m not going to lie, I avoided Twitter like the plague until about 6 weeks ago. Now I’m on it, I wish it hadn’t taken me so long! I’d read a lot of bad press about it, and yes, if you follow certain individuals you will definitely see things you wish you hadn’t. But you can make choices about what you want to see and who you want to engage with. Not only have I increased my professional network, all around the world, I have been introduced to such a lot of really useful bite-sized resources, many of which I have shared via Twitter and to my other networks as well. What’s not to like about that?
Not sure how to get started on Twitter? Watch this video and you’ll be as hooked on Twitter as I am.

Tara Walsh – Senior Learning Designer

Connect with Tara on Twitter:@TaraWalshNinja 

Everyone is talking about bite-sized learning. Does it actually work? (Part 1)

Everyone in the education and professional learning space seems to have jumped on the bite-sized bandwagon. But is bite-sized learning a fad, or does it have have teeth?
Let’s start with the basics.

What does bite-sized learning actually mean?

In a nutshell, it’s learning that is delivered in bite-sized pieces.  Bite-sized learning is easy to consume and takes many forms. For example, watching a video, can be considered bite-sized if it aims to achieve specific objectives and outcomes, and manages to achieve this in a short amount of time.

Better knowledge retention. How?

Bite-sized learning approaches use what cognitive psychologists call chunking to aid retention. This is a strategy of breaking down information into chunks (bite-sized) pieces so that the brain can easily digest it. In fact, we use chunking everyday. Do you remember how you learned your telephone number? You probably used chunking to do it.
Chunking uses what we know about our brains memory and exploits it. The brain can only digest 7 plus or minus 2 pieces of information at any one time in the short term memory. That means that if it’s not transferred to the long term memory, it disappears, never to return again.

But does it work?

Now if you scroll the internet you’ll see a myriad of articles extolling the virtues of the bite-sized phenomenon, but most, and I have to stress this, most of what you read is opinion and does not in any way reference empirical research. Sometimes the articles refer to some study conducted by a consultant, and of course the sample sizes and methodology are never explained. I’m not saying such research doesn’t have its place, but I’m only interested in empirical peer reviewed studies and research conducted by professional organisations like the CIPD or a relevant government body.
The first thing that you need to know is that there isn’t a plethora of studies that have been conducted. Given that bite-sized learning is a new trend, this is not surprising.
The other thing to note is that most of the learning in this area refers to micro-learning, which for the purposes of this blog article we will lump together with bite-sized learning. Why? Because the terms are often used interchangeably, and have similar objectives. I’ll look at the differences between the two in a future post.

Here’s what the research says:

Bite-sized learning:

Caveat emptor

The studies that have been linked to the points above are only a handful of the studies that have been conducted.* 
However, despite the small body of research, bite-sized learning approaches can work.

Join the conversation

How have you used bite-sized learning for your own professional development or in the classroom? Share what you’ve done on the blog thread @MakeMatic

In the next post, I’ll share with what the critics have to say about bite-sized learning. I’ll also give you some practical tips and tricks to enhance your classroom practice, and advice on ways bite-size learning can enhance your professional learning.
About the Author
Tara Walsh is the senior learning designer at MakeMatic. She’s been working in secondary, tertiary and learning and development for nearly 20 years and is passionate about dispelling myths about professional development trends. She’s also addicted to coffee, is a crazy cat lady and ninja in her spare time.

Connect with Tara on Twitter:@TaraWalshNinja or LInkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/tarawalsheducator/
*In the research for this blog, more journal papers were consulted than are referenced. If you’d like a full reference list, please contact the author.

We've Launched a New Programme with Belfast City Council

We are excited to announce our new initiative with Belfast City Council and the Urban Villages programme.
The Urban Digital Futures programme will provide online professional learning for 900+ teachers across 38 schools in Belfast and Derry-Londonderry. Each teacher will have access to over 12hrs of professional development content focused on technology, innovation and design. In addition, we’ll be hosting a series of face-to-face workshops to support exciting student digital media projects.
Councillor Mairéad O’Donnell, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee said:

“This is a very exciting opportunity to develop digital capacity in our schools and communities, and to give young people a deeper insight into the importance of digital technologies to our economy – given the huge growth potential that our creative industries and IT sectors hold.

Linsey Farrell, Director of the Urban Villages Initiative commented:

“This project will connect schools and young people across Belfast and Derry~Londonderry and build the capacity of teachers and local groups to help young people achieve their full potential. It will help inspire the next generation of creative entrepreneurs and strengthen partnerships between schools and local communities.”

Here’s a little more info on eligibility for schools.

How to Win Over Industry Partners to Support Your Classroom Projects

Most schools will build relationships with local companies for work experience and classroom talks. But how do you establish these relationships if they don’t already exist? And what if you have a grander project that you need local companies to get involved in?
Over the last few years, I’ve worked with dozens of companies from Seagate to Microsoft to develop educational outreach initiatives. For the most part, companies want to support educational initiatives – particularly in their local communities – but establishing those relationships might seem daunting.
Here are a few tips:
1 – Understand “why”
There are lots of reasons companies support local schools and educational initiatives. They may have a formal corporate social responsibility programme. They might like to invest in the local workforce of tomorrow. Or it could be a great way for them to provide their staff with new opportunities and a chance to give back to their local community. Of course, they might just want to get an article in the local paper or some great pics for the staff newsletter.
Understanding why a company might want to work with you is an important starting point. Try looking for similar initiatives that they may have been involved with in the past as a guide to what they might engage with in the future.
And of course, take some time to consider what you can offer them. Will you book a photographer from the local paper? Can you write up a short case study for them to use internally?
2 – Start with a good idea
This may sound obvious, but an innovative and exciting idea will get more attention from potential industry partners. Once you have a good idea, look for companies with an obvious alignment to that idea. For example, if you’ve developing a 3D printing project, try to find local manufacturing firms that use 3D printing to prototype their ideas.
3 – Be clear
Make sure your “ask” is clear. Companies get approached all. the. time. to get involved in various initiatives – if it’s not super clear exactly what you’re asking them to do, don’t expect them to come asking for more info.
I’d suggest writing a succinct, (max one page) document that explains what you’d like to do and exactly how they would be involved. Remember that the more ambitious your project, the more likely that there’ll need to be some management sign-off – providing clear documentation makes it easier for your potential partners to communicate and “sell” your ideas internally.
4 – Value their time
Staff time has a monetary value. It might seem simple to ask a company to send a few staff members out to do a talk at a school, but that probably equates to hundreds of dollars of costs. Do whatever you can to minimise staff time costs. For example, could that class talk be done via Skype?
5 – Consider scale
Getting collaborations with schools right is a challenge for many companies and requires an investment of time, energy and resources. Consider how you might help potential partners get more “return on their investment” by creating opportunities for successful projects to scale up.
6 – Make it easy & fun
One of the biggest challenges that companies face is getting their staff involved. People are busy. Volunteering outside of work means time away from pressing projects and looming deadlines – so it might not always be top of the priority list. At the very least you should try to make the process as easy as you can and look for ways to make it fun. Do be as flexible as possible with things like dates and times. Do not treat an invited guest as a substitute teacher!
7 – Talk to the right people
Some, particularly larger, companies may have a person responsible for corporate social responsibility programmes or community engagement. If not, someone from PR/marketing is a good shout if your project will generate some publicity. HR is a good choice if you need lots of staff volunteers.
But no matter who you contact, having an extra “in” will help. Is there a member of staff that’s a former student at your school? Does anyone sit on the PTA or have a kid in your class? If you can find an “in”, ask them to introduce you to the most appropriate person to talk to, ideally with a CC’d email.
8 – If at first …
No matter how good your idea or how well thought through your approach, sometime it just not a good fit. Don’t take it personally, there are lots of reasons that might be outside your control. The best bet is to try and build relationships with more than one company at a time and avoid putting all your proverbial eggs in one basket.
9 – Remember you’re not the only one
Do keep in mind that teachers from across your city are probably reaching out too. Be patient.
10 – Cultivate good relationships
When you do strike up a useful partnership, investing time and energy into building and maintaining it is essential. Make sure to thank people for their help. Invite them to events at the school, and send them updates on how the project – and kids – are progressing. I still get lovely invites from schools I worked with years ago. One even sent a little plaque as a”thank you” for doing a talk.
As a final thought, people like working with people they trust. Establishing strong working relationships with local companies – relationships where everyone benefits – makes it so much more likely that those companies will happily jump on board with your next big idea. Or better yet, start bringing you projects for your class and students to get involved in.
 

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