ICYMI: TeachMeet SDG17

On Tuesday, 11th January 2022, Makematic hosted a TeachMeet event. The aim was to gather teachers from across the globe to discuss how we incorporate the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into our teaching. More specifically, we focused on Goal 17, which is Partnerships for the Goals.Read More

21st Century Skills text with illustration of a group of young people

21st Century Skills In ‘21, Where Are We At?

Almost 40 years since the discussion about 21st-century skills (21CS) started, where are we now and what exactly is the general consensus in 2021? Whilst there are so many frameworks and definitions out there, how do we define 21st-century skills?Read More

illustration of earth and thermometer rising. Climate education

Climate Education: What Do The Stats Say?

Joe Brindle, a volunteer for the non-profit Teach The Future has a lot to say when it comes to the lack of climate education in schools. We’ve published a blog he wrote for Teach the Future, to share some key statistics we should all be aware of.Read More

Illustration of earth and thermometer for earth day 2021

Why Earth Day 2021 Will Be The Most Important One Yet

Earth Day is less than 10 days away! Do you already have your lesson planned? Recycling your lesson plan from last year? You might want to reconsider as this year’s Earth Day might just be the most important one ever.

Read More

Our Education System Isn’t Ready For The Climate Crisis

The pandemic has exposed the flaws in the current model of education, such that we can no longer choose to ignore them.Read More

Illustration of online learning in 2021

EdTech News – January 2021

2021 has started off with homeschooling in the UK. A webinar I attended earlier this week on Lessons Learned from Covid-19, made it clear the correct term is online learning and not remote learning as there is nothing remote about it. It certainly brings us closer together in that virtual way, but it also opens up new opportunities, such as amazing guest lectures from people who would have otherwise never traveled to give a lecture. You can watch Educate’s webinar here.Read More

Animated drawing of desktop showing books and illustrating classes online

Taking European Studies and Modern Foreign Languages Online

In her first blog for Makematic, Dublin based, European Studies and Modern Foreign Languages Teacher, Victoria Malcolm talks about how she successfully took her classes online.

March 12th, 2020 – We are sent home from school with hardly enough time to think about which books we might need for a period of lockdown. After all, none of us have done this before. Teach all their classes from home. Whilst simultaneously running primary school classes for our kids, queuing everywhere for everything, learning how to keep a safe distance and minding ourselves and others in this “new normal”. 

In the weeks running up to the lockdown in my school, a huge amount of work had gone on in the background to help us make the move to online learning. We had chosen Google Classroom as our means of communication and collaboration, as many colleagues were already using this. That said, having a class set up on Google Classroom and being relatively confident using it did not in any way prepare me for the demands of online teaching. In the space of a week, we went from never having heard of Zoom to black belt proficiency as we struggled to work out how we could best provide some sort of continuity of learning for our students. Add to this the ever-increasing saga that was Calculated Grades and the worry that kept you awake at night wondering had you done everything you could to make sure that your 6th Form students received a fair, reflective grade.

Five Months Later …

Fast forward to August 2020 and we are once again consumed by thoughts of school. Are those same classrooms that we longed for in the dark days of April really safe for us to go back to? How will lockdown have affected our colleagues and our students? Will we have everyone back at school? What happens if there is an outbreak of the virus in our school? It is this last question that causes me to look back at my experience of online learning and ask myself what worked, remember – with blushing cheeks – what didn’t and think about how to incorporate this into a plan of action for the new term where online learning may, once again, play a key role in our classrooms.

Zoom Actually Works

What worked? Zoom, surprisingly. Thankfully, all the internet horror stories of suddenly finding yourself in Johnny’s bedroom, watching him eat breakfast in bed at 11am and go through his German homework at the same time weren’t borne out – in my classes at least. An online code of behaviour is, however, non-negotiable

Set basic rules of engagement for your students: 

  • Behave as you would in class, 
  • Dress appropriately, 
  • Have all the class materials you need for the lesson, 
  • Be patient and respect others. 

Webcam On or Off?

Decide from the outset whether you want cameras on or off, your own included – 

often a quick check-in at the start of the class and a quick round-up at the end is enough with cameras on but it depends on the activity. 

Here are some ways I navigated this:

  • For my Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) classes, we were building towards an online oral exam as part of the end of year assessment, so being able to see one another was important. 
  • If I was working on a grammar point, however, the cameras would be off. No need for us to see the pain etched on one another’s faces. 

Private Chats and Breakout Rooms

But it’s not just the webcam, it’s the private chat function and the breakout rooms that were a game changer and is something I would love to be able to do in my real-life classroom! Here’s how:

  • At the start of class, I use the private chat function on Zoom to check-in privately on individual students. I found that a number of students who are normally very quiet in class really embraced the chat function as they felt they were able to ask questions without fear of intimidation from students who work at a faster pace. 
  • At the start of online teaching, I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the 30-minute class online. It was very demanding. However, giving students a task and putting them in breakout rooms to work on something for a timed period allowed me space to breathe and also to think about how the remainder of the class would progress once we were back together as a group. I made sure to drop in on each breakout group at least once to make sure that they were on task – they always were and I think they enjoyed the break from me as much as I did from them! I always chose the random allocation function for the breakout room, as that way, students who might not ordinarily work together in class, got the chance to do so.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom worked well, especially since not all students were able to attend live online classes or simply found them overwhelming. Here are some things I would recommend:

  • It is important to give clear, concise instructions. Don’t write essays. 
  • I got into the habit of writing a quick summary of what we had covered in class that day plus noting any work I had assigned for homework. 
  • Following feedback from my classes, I tried to put up a scheme of work for the week, including any homework exercises, on a Monday morning. That way, if anyone missed a class, the work was there for them. It also had the advantage of keeping me on top of everything and it is a written record of what we covered, including any notes posted, for when the new school year starts. 
  • In the beginning, I was frustrated when students were uploading handwritten work and I was trying to encourage them to type it. Then you realise just how much longer an assignment takes when you are doing it online. Very few of them are graduates of the Mavis Beacon School of Typing and so found that typing assignments made the whole process even longer. You can annotate a photograph of a handwritten page easily in Google Classroom so don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • As an aside, I believe that Microsoft OneNote was the absolute bomb for those schools using Microsoft Teams as their online forum. You can do all sorts of lovely things like recording verbal feedback for pieces of work, which cuts down on your workload considerably. That said, it is possible to upload audio files to Google Classroom so if you want to record yourself explaining the complexities of German word order and send it on to your students, you can! 

Keep It Simple

Overall, I kept it to these two main tools – Google Classroom and Zoom. I dipped into Quizlet once or twice for new vocab but found making new quizzes time-consuming to be honest. Colleagues had good success with pre-recorded material – voicing over PowerPoint presentations, showing worked examples via Screencastify – but I found that Google Classroom and Zoom suited my MFL classroom and, importantly, what I was comfortable and confident using.

Check This Out

Finally, I found a great visual from Online Teaching @ KIS; Do This, Not That by Alison Yang with some very simple, but very important advice...

the online classroom is not the same as the real life classroom and you cannot simply transfer your teaching from one to the other


Top Tips

  • Don’t take on too much – whether this is using new technology or taking up work to correct and, most importantly, give yourself some time off. 
  • Be available during the school day but don’t answer emails from students or parents outside of office hours unless you wish to. 
  • Don’t beat yourself up if your lesson doesn’t go as planned. Learn to laugh at yourself. Your students will find the whole experience much easier if there is not an air of palpable tension in each lesson. 

And finally, use the first few weeks back at school to show your students how to use the technology you would plan to use if we need to go back to working from home. Second time around has to be easier, right?

Image of blog author Victoria Malcolm along with her bio description
Jovita Idar teaching a group of students

Why History Class Should Change With The Times

The Battle of Hastings. Henry VIII. Rationing and the Blitz.

These are the subjects I remember learning about in history class.

Subjects that held my interest for a time but invariably left myself and my classmates scratching our heads and questioning, even then, the rationale behind an outdated syllabus.

Why, when the world outside our classroom window was experiencing such tumultuous change, were we being taught about an 11th-century tapestry?

Wouldn’t learning about recent history prepare us better to unpick the present and ultimately to help shape the future?

When Black Lives Matter demonstrators toppled a statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol earlier this month, it added impetus to a growing debate around the nature of history.

More and more people are starting to ask questions like What is history? Who writes it? Why do we celebrate some people with statues and not others?

In an open letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson, members of a group known as Black Curriculum questioned the current syllabi’s chronic lack of diversity and demanded change. 

“Learning black history should not be a choice,” they argued “but should be mandatory.”

Finally, the call to rethink what our young people are being taught in history classrooms up and down the country has gone mainstream.

And not before time.

It was only by rummaging through the well-worn offerings in our local library and secondhand bookshops that I was able to expand my knowledge of the world. 

I gorged on potted histories, hoovered up biographies and autobiographies (Michael Collins, Emmeline Pankhurst, Malcolm X, Gandhi), and became a lifelong fan of historical fiction.

What I would have done for the Internet and a bite-sized video series like Untold!

In writing these videos, which delve into the lesser-known aspects of American history, I’ve learned about the Founding Fathers and the makeup of the US Constitution, about the laws that govern modern America, about artifacts that shed light on the American experience and, crucially, about the individuals that America has tragically dined to forget and the injustices they lived with and fought against.

People like African American Civil Rights leader Bayard Rustin, the man who organised the March on Washington, whose impact on the movement is overshadowed by the legacy of his friend and mentor, Martin Luther King Jr, because Bayard was gay and his colleagues were ashamed.

People like Jovita Idar, a Mexican American educator turned journalist, who used her pen to expose the violence and discrimination that generations of her people had been subjected to in a country that ostensibly prides itself on being a nation of immigrants.

People like Jim Thorpe, arguably America’s greatest ever sportsman – a double Olympic gold medalist turned professional baseball, football and basketball player – whose name is not as well known today as the likes of Babe Ruth because America was, and perhaps still is, not prepared to idolise a Native American.

The videos that make up the Untold collection are tools that any teacher can use in their classroom and every student can learn from.

It was a privilege to script them and it’s a joy to see them now, going out into the world, after so many of the Makematic team – our producers, animators and sound designer – brought their talents to bear to make these videos the best they can be.

Why?

Because the time that I spent researching and writing these videos taught me much – and perhaps more importantly, reinforced some of the beliefs that I already have.

That history should be accessible to everyone. That it should not be tainted by ideology. And that it should speak truth to power.

I hope that the young people who watch the Untold videos come to agree –because only when we truly understand where we’ve come from can we hope to pave the way to a better future.

Adults and students meeting online

The Good News Broadcast Winners

Over the last couple of months, we’ve been running a competition with SchoolRubric and Clickview called The Good News Competition.

We challenged 11 – 14 years around the world to create a video that reported on good news or inspirational stories.

We had entries from the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, India and Australia.

The truth is, it was very hard to choose a winner. But we managed to nail it down to the following videos.

We recommend you have the volume up so you hear all of the great things they have to say!

First Prize – Beau Starkey

Beau from will be donating his $250 cash prize to Greenpeace, and receive a Clickview licence for his entire school, as well as a number of additional prizes from SchoolRubric and Makematic.

Second Prize – Andrejs Monako

Andrejs will be donating his $150 prize to Little Heartbeats.

Third Prize – Ruby Vennemeyer

Ruby will be donating her $50 prize to the Dyslexia Association .

We will definitely be organising competitions like these again in future, so watch this space!

Untold: Stories You Won’t Learn About In A Textbook

Stories you won’t learn about in a textbook

Watch the first two Untold episodes here

Perhaps now, more than ever, our history is a vital and very present part of the world around us. So it’s hugely important that young people feel a part of that conversation and can see themselves reflected in our shared past.

Untold is a free collection of short, compelling, history videos and animations designed to engage new audiences in a new conversation and

  • shine a light on the stories that don’t always make it into the classroom
  • and question what we think we know about those that do.

Not everything worth knowing exists inside the cover of our history textbooks. Untold is here to fill in the gaps and bring new stories to life.

This is a project of the Driving Force Institute for Public Engagement. Produced and distributed by Makematic with the USC Center for Engagement-Driven Global Education

Untold will feature three series which is broken down below.

America Explained

Easy-to-understand, descriptive videos that will break down complex topics and events from throughout America’s history from both sides and offer a present parallel for your students to extrapolate on. Topics will range from Impeachment to the NRA to Global Warming to even How Prostitution Built The Wild West and much, much more!

The Significance of 1619 is now live and it delves into the three significant & infamous events that forever defined America as we know it. These include the establishment of the Virginia General Assembly, the arrival of Englishwomen, and the first officially documented trading of African slaves from Angola.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Nikole Hannah-Jones who wrote the New York Times’ 1619 Project examines the impact of 1619 in further detail and relates it back to America’s own historical and cultural development. You can watch this now in 1619: The Legacy of Slavery in America.

The Museum of Artifacts That Made America

This series takes place in a fully, virtual reality, fantasy museum of real historical American objects! Each film explains the historical relevance and detail of the object, whilst providing an informative context.

Did you know? Hip hop was born in the Bronx of New York City back in the 1970s? Now a staple of mainstream music but back then, this pioneering work was thanks to DJ Kool Herc’s Turntable. You can find out more about how they came to be as the first video to be released for our Artifacts That Made America series.

Hidden Histories

A series of full-frame animations that tell the stories of important historical Americans whose stories are not widely known. The viewer will learn about each icon’s life and major achievements and the impact they had on American society.

One example is Jovita Idar, the story of a Mexican-American teacher turned journalist who used her voice to speak out about oppression and discrimination facing her people. We hope you’ll watch this fascinating tale of bravery and freedom of speech!

For more information about Untold visit the website at untoldhistory.org

Follow the Untold social media page on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @UntoldEdu, for video updates and additional resources

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