In this vlog, we’re learning about TikTok. We know the platform; some love it, some hate it, and some refused to download the platform at the start of lockdown last year because it was a platform “for kids”. Guilty. But now, I love the platform and learn so much from it.Read More
Zooms this week have often included the words ‘there’s light at the end of the tunnel’ and it is starting to feel like that with schools re-opening in the UK and more and more people getting the vaccine. I’m also aware that in the rest of Europe it may not feel like that at all yet with cases on the rise and new lockdowns being announced. I really wish I didn’t have to write about developments in Education in light of Covid-19, but here we are for another month.
I agree with Peter Hyman, the author of this article that we can’t call children at school a ‘lost generation’. Rather, we need to reimagine school as otherwise they will be lost. Social-emotional learning and rethinking assessments will be key in this. In a similar vein, The Brookings Institute has written a report on how the educational inequalities due to Covid can be remedied and it calls for a partnership between schools and the local community.
During this period of lockdown and homeschooling, many children will have enjoyed a lot more screen time and some parents will undoubtedly be worried about this. It’s a subject I’ve written about before. At Makematic, some non-producers created a video, which educates parents about (online) games. Have a look below.
Last week was also the first time I ‘attended’ SxSWEdu. It was cancelled last year the night before my flight to Austin. There were some interesting sessions, but nothing like the actual event of course. One was on esports and its continuous (educational) appeal to tweens and teens particularly. This article explains how esports can help support and structure this age group around online safety, collaboration, communication and positive behaviour.
If you surveyed our household today, you’d find that alongside watching short-form video content, games play an important part in my two boys’ education. There is nothing different from any other 21st-century household there! I often think that if only all the curriculum learning for my 6-year-old could be delivered as one long adventure game with embedded video, how quickly the arguments would disappear! Imagine how more exciting Pythagoras Theorem would become if whilst being chased by a gang of baddies, in order to cross a canyon and avoiding certain death on the rocks below, a bridge must be built, after learning the Theorem through a series of short films or images or text or just about anything depending on the choice made by the student. It would little matter whether the area of the square whose side is the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares on the other two sides. It would be taught in a flexible and individually focused way.
During home-schooling after each “learning experience” of Twinkl “fill-in-the-box” worksheets, my son becomes fidgety and distracted and when his break comes, after an obligatory run around the garden, he often then turns to Youtube Kids and games on his iPad. In lockdown, we’ve seen that his online gaming friends (we strictly monitor his online play), and the YouTubers who talk about and show tips on his favourites (Minecraft, Roblox and Among Us), have become an important “community replacement” for his usual physical classroom friends.
When learning, he particularly enjoys maths and science but drags his feet when it comes to literacy, reading and writing. The game Among Us instantly changed all that. Because he needed to be able to quickly read and respond to what others were putting in their chat boxes, (the aim of the game being to find the baddie “among us”), our home-schooling and online literacy, reading and writing lessons suddenly became a breeze.
Many of my own school memories revolve around lunchtimes in our “computer lab” playing a bad rendition of Galaxian on one of the three 1k memory (with 16k RAM!) ZX81’s that the school owned. Later these were upgraded to 16K ZX Spectrum’s with classics such as Horace Goes Skiing. In my mid-teens, my dad was given an Acorn Electron BBC Micro Model B (a big mouthful for a small micro-computer) to help him with his work. It totally baffled him, so I dived in headfirst and immersed myself in classics such as Chuckie Egg and Snapper. In addition to becoming a very proficient gamer, it improved my reflexes – this showed in physical sports. It improved my ability to concentrate on one repetitive and ever faster task (Pac Man) for long periods. Gaming also improved my memory because many of the early platform adventure games were labyrinthine (Monty Mole). From a social perspective, I had to interact positively with my friends – there were never less than 4 or 5 of us huddled around a monitor so I learned to wait for my turn! 80s and 90s gaming appealed to my competitive nature because unlike now, where collaboration is an important feature of a lot of games, ours were all about being the best and getting the highest score.
Last month I wrote about Michael Rosen and how in an article in The Guardian, he expressed his bewilderment at an 8-year-old needing to know what a fronted adverbial is. Simon Jenkins last week took it a step further. He used to work at London’s Institute for Education, so he is qualified when he says that “English education is a citadel of blind reaction” where “the academic bias of the curriculum, prejudice against vocational study, the priority given to favoured subjects, school timetabling and the dominance of testing are passed down…. like the Ten Commandments”. The system is inflexible, cast in stone and cannot be changed. Yet senior teaching leaders are pleading for SATs, GCSEs and A levels to be abolished and the UK education system is suffering through a lack of vocational education and a method which can’t measure for example creativity, music, sport and the arts.
I’ve written before about VARK Modalities, (Visual, Aural, Read/Write, and Kinaesthetic sensory modalities that are used for learning information.) Fleming and Mills (1992) suggested that there were four learning modalities and that by appealing to particular learning modalities with certain students, there are improvements in overall learning attainment. What I think Simon Jenkins in his article has really touched upon is that the current system of education in England is completely ignorant to the fact that children have complex and individual learning needs. All human beings are different and react differently to different mixes of learning media and external stimulus. Just because a few kids like filling in Twinkl worksheets, it doesn’t mean that they all do or indeed all should do.
I have yet to see the effect the current UK education establishment will have on my youngest who is only 3 although I dread to think. What I do know is that we have given him access to a wide range of digital touchpoints from the moment he was aware of them. With no formal teaching, just parental encouragement, educational apps and of course Youtube Kids, he can count and recognise numbers to 20, as well as all the letters of the alphabet. He has started recognising and reading smaller words, and all of this has been done without any contact with a formal education method. Just an iPad and a couple of subscriptions and two overseeing parents.
My eldest who is in year one at primary school, lockdown aside, is already challenged by the way in which he must learn. For the child who is a digital native, filling in worksheets is not the most thrilling of tasks. Watching Bear Grylls’ You V The Wild on Netflix and being able to choose the choices that Bear makes on a wilderness adventure (even if it means making him ill by instructing him to eat bear poo), is the level at which the bar has been set. Being able to hunt through the maze within Among Us and then collaborate (under adult supervision) with his online “friends” to work out who is the baddie among them is where it’s at. Creating a world of his own in Minecraft (he wants to be an architect) is what it’s all about. When he needs to know how to add up, or subtract, or multiply, he needs to check a fact or find a story or have a basic grammar lesson then there’s always Youtube Kids, with literally thousands of videos in short-sharp segments on whatever he needs to know. These are precise and perfect for his developing post-millennial brain to digest. When he wants the answer to any question, just like you or I, he talks to Google.
With March 8th set as the mass-return to school, once again my son and his classmates will have to switch-off and power down in the classroom. Once again, they will make the trek to that hallowed place of 36 chairs and desks, all facing the front, where the outside world will be shut out and forgotten. A path of learning well-trodden by you and I and our parents and grandparents will be the order of the day.
The world is an ever-changing and evolving place. It seems though it is as if we’re stuck in a time warp when it comes to ensuring that what and how we’re teaching our kids is relevant to the lives that they’re going experience which will be vastly different to our own. If the Wright brothers were taken to a modern airport and shown the latest Airbus jet, whilst they’d probably recognise it straight off for what it is, they would be astonished and would marvel at how much things had changed. If Thomas Edison were shown the latest laser light-show, whilst understanding that it was several massive steps from his incandescent electric light, he would realise that the technology was entirely different.
Upon entering a typical 21st-century classroom, I wonder if James Pillans would feel the same?
During my placement with Makematic, I was tasked to produce a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) video on the benefits of gaming and the life skills it provides. After the initial planning, when I was faced with the task of editing a minute-long video I didn’t think much of it. However as the team and I planned the video’s content I started to get worried. The thought of trying to fit so much information about the benefits of gaming and the life skills it provides into 60-seconds was quite daunting.
Personally, I love long-form content. I’m the person who will almost never watch YouTube videos that are under 15 minutes and prefers hour-long content that I can have on in the background. And while I have made short-form content before in school and university, 60-seconds was definitely pushing what I was familiar with.
However, once we had refined our script as much as possible and I started editing, I realised that it wasn’t as difficult as I was psyching myself up to believe it was because we had done the hard part while we were scripting. And as I watched the footage back I realised just how useful short-form content can be. The restrictions of only having 60-seconds to include as much information as you can while not bombarding a viewer with too much to take in means that you end up refining your points down to the bare minimum, and most interesting information possible. And this – if done right – inevitably makes for better content because it’s all of the best bits.
Our topic being gaming meant that I could use transitions and music to play into that aspect. The team and I knew that we wanted to start off with an old-school PSA style video in black and white, somewhat mocking the “serious” tone, but I wasn’t sure how to then transition into the rest of the video which would be in colour without it being a typical crossfade which wouldn’t work. After discussing it with Ryan, one of the producers, I realised that feeding into the gaming nature of the video would help in this case and so I tried out a bunch of different glitch effects to transition the clips. I think it has worked really well, not only practically, but stylistically as well I feel like it compliments the video contents really well.
Massive thank you to young people involved in the video: Niamh Brooking, Justin Pornasdoro and Chloe Shaw!
If you haven’t yet, check out our CSR video on the benefits of gaming.
We’ve rolled into February, but for many of us, it’s just a continuation of the same theme – lockdown. We may have even lost our sense of humour sometime during the first lockdown, which if we read this article is a bad thing, especially for those of us who are homeschooling. Appropriate and positive humour is consistently rated as one of the most desirable qualities in a teacher and greatly affects students’ learning.
From the importance of humour in the classroom/ living room/ kitchen to the importance of empathy. A new study has revealed that encouraging empathy with school-aged children greatly improves their creativity. Furthermore, it can also improve students’ overall engagement with learning. The study encourages children to solve real-world problems by thinking about the perspective and feelings of others.
Finally, two articles which focus more on the business side of learning. This article puts learning after Covid in perspective and questions whether digital learning will be ‘the new normal’. Will schools continue their digitally enhanced approach? Investors in EdTech seem to think so, but where does this leave the digital divide and student engagement amongst other things? Contrary to what some may believe EdTech valuations still aren’t sky-rocketing, but investors are seeing more exit opportunities. To read more, go here.
In this month’s employee spotlight, we’re highlighting one of our many, talented producers Aine Carlin! Aine is one of the O.G. producers at Makematic. She’s been working at the company since it began in 2016 and has been involved in multiple projects. We caught up with her this month to talk about her role at Makematic!
How did you get your job at Makematic?
I saw the job advert and thought ‘this sounds brilliant – it would be perfect for my friend’ so I forwarded it on. I guess I thought I wasn’t qualified enough. Luckily he persuaded me otherwise. I applied for the job and was called in for an interview. It was perfect timing. I was getting tired of jumping between temporary positions, between my work as a lecturer at the local college and working on film/TV sets. It was also the perfect job, I loved the mixture of education and production. Looking back now I don’t know why I doubted my suitability for the role.
On a day-to-day basis, what are your responsibilities and priorities?
I’m across every stage of production, from the creative concepts to the finishing touches. No day is the same – just how I like it!
How do producers collaborate with other teams within the company?
I kind of see myself as the middle person. I schedule, gather, and distribute the information for each department so that they can do their magic.
Are you working on any big projects?
I’m currently on the Untold Series at the moment which is a Historical series for older teenagers. I’m learning cool stuff every day and the content is great to work on!
What’s an important lesson you’ve learned while working at Makematic?
Too many to name. But if I have to say one, I’d say that I totally understand what Mark Twain was on about when he said: “Find a job that you enjoy and you won’t have to work a day in your life”.
Aine has worked on several projects for Makematic! This includes Participate, Skillsumo, and Macmillan. Right now she’s working on our growing collection of American history and civics videos Untold. Check out the Untold trailer below.
If there is anything we have learned in the past year, it’s that video is no longer a nice-to-have but has become instead an essential part of the educational content blend at whatever level of education we examine.
Pre-schoolers were already hooked on Youtube sensations Blippi and Ryan’s World, but now at every age group, right up to university and beyond, video is playing a crucial role in keeping the world’s education systems going.
I recently had a discussion with a university who have woken up overnight to the fact that “simply pointing a camera at a lecturer in a lecture theatre, just isn’t going to cut it” in a world where we are surrounded 24/7 by info and motion graphics hand-in-hand with full-frame animation. The admission was that if a student is paying many thousands of pounds each year for an education that they cannot physically experience, then the virtual experience must be near perfect, broadcast-quality, with creative input from those who are used to getting a learning objective, explained and absorbed in a precise way and short amount of time using video as the medium.
In our house, we’re once again locked down. Having now spent almost a third of his life locked down and unable to do many of the things we took for granted before, my 3-year-old son watches lots of first-person Youtube videos of people having fun at the world’s best water parks which are scattered around the globe. He loves the videos, and we can’t wait for the day that we’re able to take him to a real water park just to see the look on his face.
My 6-year-old son is working hard on schoolwork at home. His teachers, realising that short-form video is one of the best ways of getting children of his age to remember a point, have been highly creative.
Every day we have a strict timetable which includes a 30-minute class Zoom check-in. On top of that, he has a 1:1 session with his teacher once a week and a weekly online Zoom assembly with his year and the year above. All other lessons are covered by a series of video presentations of no more than about 6 or 7 minutes in length.
He has three teachers, and each teacher daily produces their own literacy and writing, maths, history and science lessons which are more often than not themselves talking over a PowerPoint which may or may not include some video footage.
We have learned that 6 or 7 minutes is often too long! We must stop and start in order to pick up important learning facts. In a world where children are watching two- and three-minute Youtube Kids’ shorts, anything double the length of that which does not have a high production value is tough for a 6-year-old to digest.
Our teachers are turning video around too. After carefully checking that all children had access to a mobile phone with a camera, my son’s class have had several assignments where they have had to make videos of themselves making something in the garden or playing with an old toy and comparing it to a new one or making a video of a new dance routine. My son has really enjoyed doing these things and then watching those of his classmates which are posted online.
My son and his school are not alone in their increased use of video content. Kaltura, a video cloud platform in the US, research and write a remarkably interesting report each year entitled The State of Education in Video.
This year’s report carries no surprises. Schools are currently using up to 8 different formats to deliver lessons! There is no hard and fast rule as to which works best, but it is really important to make sure that there is a proportion of video in the content mix because 84% of those professionals interviewed across a wide range of teaching age groups see video having a positive impact on student satisfaction. 73% are seeing that it is increasing individual educational attainment.
Nearly half of students are now creating video for classes and there is definitely not going to be a return to the status quo with 27% thinking that education now needs a complete rethink from the ground up.
Given that Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen in an article this week challenges Gavin Williamson that Michael Gove, not really known for being good at anything other than a clever politician, should perhaps not have been the person to decide upon what was best for a UK school’s curriculum which he was under his tenure as Education Minister. Rosen’s example is that a UK schoolchild aged 11 needs to know what a fronted adverbial is, something Rosen himself doesn’t know and hasn’t needed to know in all of his years as an award-winning writer. Confused? I was but a quick search on Youtube and I now know what adverbials are all about!
Whilst teachers are battling to keep our children educated, they are dealing with a very unwieldy curriculum and a massive lack of resources. Not only is there a huge physical distance between teachers and kids, but there is also a large gap between what teachers need to keep the attention of their classes and what teachers actually have.
There is no doubt that immersive, pedagogically sound, educational short-form video content is now more important than ever. Teachers are plugging the gap in missing resources whilst frantically trying to make sure their classes stay on track. Parents are struggling with unwieldy platforms which themselves have bugs as well as old generic worksheet-based content which needs printing. Remember printers?!
In 2021, with no real end to the pandemic in sight and the chop and change repetitive cycle of home learning/school learning/home learning/school learning, now more than ever before is the time for educational curriculum and content providers alike to step up to the plate and put budgets in place to make sure that our children and young adults receive the content mix that they so badly need and deserve.
The history that doesn’t make it into the textbooks are the best stories to tell.
It’s a new year and not much has changed in the world. We’re still in a global pandemic, we’re still at home and we’re still washing our hands. But somethings have changed. The US has a new President and Vice President, there are vaccines being administered every day around the world, and a lot of new Untold videos are being released.
In this vlog, I’m talking about History; the history class, why history matters, and the American history and civics series Untold. Without giving too much away, I say the word ‘history’ more than 20 times, just in case you don’t know what this vlog is about.
There was a lot to unpack in this vlog. History class for me and from what I can remember was fun. I remember learning that The Battle of Hastings happened in 1066. I also remember the year very clearly because of the Hastings Direct advertisement. Henry VII’s rhyme about how his wives; died, divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. When you think about it, it’s a very grim way to remember how people died.
One of the things that I point out about learning history is from a book called “Answering Why” by Mark Perna who states that you have a lot of students who don’t want to learn something unless they know why they need to know it. This is definitely something to think about when learning not just history, but other topics in school too. That’s an entire video topic altogether, but if you’re interested, here is a blog about 3 things I wish they taught us in secondary school.
In this episode, I dive deep into the different series of Untold, which has grown since we started publishing videos for the series back in July. You can watch the entire series for free at untoldhistory.org. New videos released every Wednesday!
It’s a new year with a new vlog, but the same situation as last year and I don’t think that will change anytime soon. Happy New Year! Watch episode 10 below:
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 travelled to give a lecture. You can watch Educate’s webinar here.
At Makematic, we’re continuing to do our best to support those teaching and learning from home with great educational content. For all the teachers out there, you can have a look at our Teaching Online Masterclass course, which justifiably puts pedagogy right at the heart. Our first Masterclass was a huge success, so we’re now in the process of creating a second one and we can’t wait to share it with you in Spring.
The second ongoing project I wanted to highlight is our Untold History collection. Especially, after this week’s events in Washington and Georgia, there isn’t a better time than now to educate children about America’s incredible history through stories about people, artefacts and events that perhaps aren’t that well known. These videos are sure to engage students and could be a great starting point for a debate. Visit https://untoldhistory.org/ to watch the videos.
Finally, a story that was written during the first lockdown, but is even more apt now. There’s a huge immediate need for Social-Emotional Learning not just in the classroom, but also in the workplace and at home. There should be a greater focus on adult’s and children’s health and well-being in all that we do.
Wishing you all the best for 2021.