Teacher standing in front of her students at school

Preparing Students With Disabilities To Return To School

This is the second article in our series of educator insights. In this second article, Leader of Learning Support, Kate Macpherson talks about how she’s preparing vulnerable students to return to school.

Many countries worldwide are beginning to reduce restrictions. They are starting to open up their town and cities to some semblance of the life they knew before covid-19. This includes schools. 

Our students have not stepped foot inside their school gates for a couple of months. Other countries will be longer. When my state government announced the return to school timeline, I asked my students to give me an emoji rating of how they felt. Their responses included ???????, and some a whole combination of these!! These responses were from my year 9 class and none of them have a disability.

Let’s Talk About Students On The Autism Spectrum

Since the announcement, I’ve had a few phone calls with families who have a child with a disability. The parents’ reaction has led me to wonder – how do we prepare a student with a disability to return to school? Especially students on the Autism spectrum. Many who have already struggled with all the changes occurring in their life, and that’s not including what is happening in the world at the moment. Change is not easy for these students. 

Some of the concerns raised in my conversations include:

  • I’m not looking forward to seeing my classmates
  • I’m worried about the workload when I return
  • What will I do without my iPad at school?
  • I’m nervous about seeing everyone again – I like being home 
  • I don’t want to wear my school uniform again
  • I don’t know what to expect when I return
  • I don’t want to go back to school, I like learning from home

So, how do we prepare our most vulnerable students at this time? 

Let’s Start Slowly

  1. Find out from your students what they are worried and excited about – it’s always important to focus on the positives!
  2. Normalize your students emotions, especially their fears of the unknown. As their teachers, we also have our own fears and worries about what is to come and how school will look and work.
  3. Ensure all staff who have contact with this student are aware of these feelings so they can respond appropriately for their subject. Have a common response so as not to confuse the student in these preparations.
  4. Be willing to talk about their return to school – don’t be afraid to have these conversations with your students.
  5. It is best to gradually build up their return to your classroom. Seek their feedback about what they liked about your subject or class during remote learning, and ask them to suggest ways it could work in the physical environment.
  6. Plant little seeds about changes your school is making due to social distancing guidelines and personal protection measures.
  7. Support your parents as well as the student – this is difficult for them as well!
  8. Encourage parents to gradually build up the transition back to face to face learning
    • Start putting on the school uniform gradually, adding one item each couple of days until they are wearing their full uniform in the last couple of days of remote learning
    • Slowly reestablish bedtime and morning routines that they would be expected to follow once back at school – a lot of my students are rolling out of bed a few minutes before their morning homeroom!
    • Start to bring back some of the pre-lockdown norms and expectations at home such as limiting screen time, (difficult when we are expecting them to still work on their computer during the school day, but this refers to the fun screen time).
    • Discuss the differences and slowly ease back on the fun screen time.

I do not know exactly what our return to school will look like at this stage, but I do know that there are many families and students who need our support to make it as smooth as we possibly can in such a time of uncertainty. I am aiming to keep them informed and to slowly build up their positive mindsets and willingness to cope with, yet another, change!

Educator Insights Blog Series

There isn’t enough known about best practice is the blended learning space at K-12. In fact, most of the research and best practice information out there is in higher education, with a sprinkling in secondary.

We want to change that!

That’s why Makematic is looking for new educators to contribute to our blog. We’re looking for K-12 educators to share their insights on:

  1. Teaching in the online world
  2. Strategies to help educators build activities and engage learners in blended environments
  3. Strategies and activities on how to use video and web-conferencing tools

I’d Like To Contribute What Do I Need To Do?

Email [email protected] with the subject line “Educator Insights Blog” to pitch us your idea!

This needs only to be a couple of sentences summarising what you’d like to write about. If you’re feeling really inspired why not give it a title too!

Image of Gianna and Ryan talking

Let’s Talk Lighting: Makematic Behind-The-Scenes Episode 4

Thank goodness for Zoom. This vlog is not sponsored by Zoom.

In this new normal that everyone around the world is experiencing, making a vlog about the company, live-action shoots, events and office things is quite hard to do when you’re stuck inside and have been for the past two months. 

So we find new ways. 

Luckily, technology has evolved and has helped the entire company operate without being in the office. In particular, Zoom has been the MVP for Makematic even before the pandemic happened. We’re very familiar with the “Hello, can you hear me’s?” and “Sorry my wi-fi connection’s a bit dodgy” scenarios. 

Zoom in Action

This vlog – at home edition – is dedicated to lighting. I don’t have any professional equipment at home, all I’ve got are several windows at my leisure. Since I’m still filming on my smartphone with no lighting equipment, I have to make do with what I have.

I set-up a Zoom call with our Assistant Producer, Ryan Lee, who kindly spoke to me about his tips on how to get the best lighting for video calls and self-recordings because given these times of endless online calls, meetings and presentations, lighting is key. 

His best tip is to face a North or West facing window to get an even, natural and consistent light throughout your recording. 

I didn’t know which type of window I had prior to this Zoom call. So I went on my compass app on my phone and found out that I’ve got a SouthEast facing window. If you have the same type of window, watch the fourth vlog to find out how you can adjust your light 

During this new normal, I’ve found that collaboration has been key to making everything work. I’d like to thank Ryan Lee, Brian Shaw and Kevin Gillen for helping me create this vlog! 

Also, we’re hosting The Good News Broadcast competition in collaboration with SchoolRubric and Clickview (shameless plug). It’s open to students aged 11-14 and all they have to do is share their good news stories in a video that’s under 60 seconds long! So pass on the message to any siblings, nephews, nieces, cousins that you’ve got!

Stay safe and we’re going to get through this!

Watch the fourth episode of the vlog now!

Skillsumo careers videos

Making Adjustments During Remote Learning

This is the first article in our series of educator insights. In this first article, Leader of Learning Support, Kate Macpherson talks about how she’s making adjustments to support learners with language and learning disabilities.

I have taught remotely for just over four weeks now and it has been a steep learning curve! At Emmanuel College, we have had to shift our curriculum to the online and remote format with very little time to prepare. We teachers have worked harder than we ever have – and I didn’t think I could work harder than I was!

Teachers are doing their best to teach their curriculum in a remote learning environment, whilst also ensuring we continue to meet our assessment deadlines. At the same time, we need to remember that there is a human that is behind the curriculum and the computer screen. Especially those who have learning challenges and additional learning needs.

The World Has Changed A Lot

In pre-pandemic teaching, students with learning challenges and additional learning needs relied on their peers, as well as the physical classroom, to help them through their lessons. They were able to watch and observe what others were doing, to know they are on the right track, and they had the ability to seek advice from peers. They were used to looking at their teachers non-verbal cues for guidance and reassurance. Teachers could do the same. In the remote learning sphere, all these support networks are no longer possible. Our students are now sitting behind a computer screen, possibly without an adult to support them. They are largely left to complete their assigned learning alone; it’s hard for them to see what their peers are doing, they can’t easily ask their friend what the instruction was, and no longer have teacher notes on a whiteboard to remember how to do a task. They are now largely relying on what the computer screen is telling them to do. And they are struggling with this.

Teachers do not always know what is happening in the homes of their students and cannot understand fully everything that impacts their learning. We can’t see if there is an emotional toll on the student as a result of fear and anxiety related to family stressors caused by this world in which we now find ourselves. We always need to remember that behind our curriculum and computer, a human being sits there needing us to remember that they are there and, if need be, to help them.

Teachers Are Key

This is where the role of us teachers is even more paramount. We need to remember that this new learning environment is more likely harder than the one at school, and that the usual school supports are no longer in the form they once were. That’s why as teachers we need to be making adjustments for our students with disabilities more than ever before. We need to do this with greater emphasis, so that they are able to engage with learning and that they are not disadvantaged as a result of their disability. 

Below I’ve created three lists to help you make adjustments to your classes and help your students with disabilities.

10 Adjustments to make to help Students with Disabilities
  1. Reduce workload expectations. Learning is hard at the best of times, but learning is even harder now. Give these humans half of what you would expect the rest of the class to do. In acknowledgement that work takes longer for them. To avoid unnecessary overload. In a deliberate effort to keep them engaged in the class and their learning. In acknowledgement that work is harder for them now.
  2. Break work down into smaller, manageable chunks.
  3. When asking the class to watch and respond to a video – set target watching times on the video with questions directly related to that section of viewing.
  4. Make sure communication to your students is deliberate and considered.
  5. Only send emails that are in bullet point format. Use numbers to provide sequence to your instructions  
  6. Be very direct, explicit and succinct in your emails – too many words become overwhelming and are unnecessary.
  7. Limit the number of platforms you are asking your students to access that lesson. The fewer platforms the better.
  8. Provide links, where possible, in your written instructions for ease of access
  9. Try to establish patterns and routines – don’t make every lesson different. These students need familiarity and consistency.
  10. PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE – give them as much positive feedback as you can. Most importantly, praise them for their efforts and for their attendance. They need your reassurance and support now more than ever. They can’t see your smile in class but they can still receive your praise in the online world. Emoji’s make this fun ?
7 Adjustments to make when holding ‘Live Sessions’

I have become a big fan of Zoom and use this each time I have my class. However, I know there are other video meeting platforms that teachers are using, so please adapt my references to Zoom to your platform.

  1. Record the live sessions with students so that students can watch it at a later time and at their own pace. This supports a range of students from those who have hearing impairments, to those who process slowly and need learning repeated.
  2. Hold personalised tutorial sessions in the breakout rooms in Zoom, or have deliberate Zoom workshops with specific students: To further explain a concept, to demonstrate how to do something, to provide small group or 1:1 support and guidance, to encourage workshop participation.
  3. Ensure a Learning Support Officer, when in your lesson, is placed in a breakout room to provide targeted support 
  4. Have students share their screen with you to show you how they are progressing with their work. I have found this so helpful. Being able to see what the student is trying to do on their computer helps me better respond to their needs.
  5. Deliberately group students in break out rooms for collaborative tasks. Make sure you are very deliberate and considered in who you are asking these students to work with.
  6. Avoid asking students to take notes in these sessions. Instead, provide them with a summary or a copy of the presentation – preferably before the session. In acknowledgement of their reading or writing disability. In acknowledgement that copying takes longer and is harder and the mental effort is better used with the actual class activity. In acknowledgement that note-taking is a skill that may be challenging
  7. Ask your students which form of communication they are most comfortable with so you can communicate with them in that way.
6 Adjustments that support Cognitive Deficits
  1. Design activities that make specific use of the accessibility tools in the Microsoft suite such as Immersive Reader. The ‘read aloud’ function and the ‘dictate’ function are particularly useful, as is the line focus. Other platforms have similar accessibility functions.
  2. Give the student an alternative activity to the rest of the class.
  3. Modify the class activity
  4. Ask your student to complete only specific sections of work – better yet, give them exactly what you want them to complete so they don’t know they are only doing a certain section.
  5. When you have a Learning Support Officer (LSO) in your class, design and plan your lesson with them in mind. Be targeted and specific with your use of the LSO.
  6. SLOW DOWN everything for these students – including your expectations of them.

Most of all, be kind to yourself. As a teacher, you are doing an amazing job at teaching remotely and you can’t be expected to replicate what you do in the classroom in the online world. But you can still remember the human behind your computer screen.

Teacher standing in front of her students

Makematic Video Case Study: Teachers Across Borders Building Educator Capacity in Cambodia

This case study showcases the work being done by non-profit Teachers Across Borders to build capacity in Cambodian Educators, and how they used Makematic’s global education professional development content to help them do it.

Overview/ About

Founded by Brian Allen (Order of Australia) in 2006, Teachers Across Borders Australia (TAB) is a not-for-profit organisation that brings volunteer Australian educators to train and empower Cambodian educators through their face to face workshops.

TAB Australia trains early career, practising teachers and leaders in the best practice educational approaches aligned with existing educational research. Their approach is one of information exchange, centred around content-specific knowledge, pedagogy, active and student-centred learning approaches with an overall theme of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Challenge/ Problem

Improving the Teacher Induction for Train the Trainer Programme

Inducting volunteer teachers is time-consuming. There can be as many as 30 educators that need to be inducted in each cohort, often across states and even continents. Cohorts of volunteers visit Cambodia twice per year. 

In the past TABs coordinators have met with volunteers individually to do a face to face induction. This is challenging as coordinators work full time. Therefore, moving the induction process online:

  1. Enables core TAB coordinator to spend more time developing partnerships, networks and resources
  2. Means a more consistent approach to induction
  3. Volunteer meetups can be done using web-conferencing tools such as Zoom or Skype.

The new induction programme currently lives on Google sites, and will soon move to the learning platform Cahoot.

Modules with videos and reflection activities are used in the induction process to prepare volunteers for their time in Cambodia. This serves the dual purpose of screening participants, inducting them and preparing them for the complex work they will be asked to carry out whilst in Cambodia. 

The focus of the video content is on the following topics:

Pedagogical approaches = what makes our approach to education in Australia something worth sharing and what features makes it distinct. Some examples of the videos they included in the professional development series include, videos created by Makematic and Participate:

  1. The Sustainable Development Goals Overview
  2. Student-led discussion
  3. Collaboration
  4. Building a Professional Learning Network
  5. Formative Assessment
  6. Reflection

Cultural understandings = things to be aware of, cultural practices to avoid and be aware of when teaching across cultures. 

Workshop specific content = things to consider as participants prepare content and consider the way they will apply principles of andragogy to their work

Results/ Impact

Teacher Induction Programme

The induction process is now a more streamlined process, and less time is now spent wasted on covering and re-covering core content. Teachers have a greater awareness of issues they may face and better plan for their workshops. In the past this has been done almost entirely without any oversight or guidance from the organisers or the executive board. Overall teachers are better prepared for the programme.

Programme Overall

“Since our inception as an organisation we have trained over 5,000 Cambodian teachers to become more confident professionals. This has included numerous teachers moving through our teacher workshops, to become ‘train the trainer’ participants and finally culminates in these inspiring and aspirational teachers running their own workshops within the program. For many of these educators this progression has also, as a bi-product of hard work and support, in places as Principals and officials within the Ministry. 

Indeed we have helped to facilitate more than 40 Khmer lead workshops and this number has grown steadily along the growth of the program. Our feedback and evaluation forms are routinely glowingly positive and constant improvement has occurred as a result of these feedback processes. Our latest and greatest achievement has been completing our last Battambang program after 13 years, as a result of reaching the level of professional development that we planned for that region. We look forward to continued work with Cambodia and other regions, both within and outside of Cambodia where this type of capacity building and development is most needed.” 

Steven Kolber, TAB


TAB plans to phase out the work they have been doing when the Khmer teachers and presenters will also start organising their own events to develop each other in an open way. In the long-term TAB may continue their work in a supportive role to allow the promotion, organisation and development of the teachers. Their “greatest goal is to become irrelevant in Cambodia as the system has developed so far that we are no longer necessary.”

TAB is willinging to consider other countries that have noted a need for the professional development of teachers. That’s because they believe in the power of committed individuals assisting others to bring about large and long lasting change.

What Do We Need To Make Online Learning Work?

TLDR; internet access, more and better content and investment in teacher professional development

It seems logical that online education might help widen access to high-quality learning. And right now – as perhaps as many as a billion young people take part in an unplanned global experiment in online learning – that logic is being put to the test.

The results of a recent trial, published last week in Science Advances, seems to back up that simple logic.

But it also raises questions about what’s required to make that logic stick.

STEM Learning in Russia

Across a randomised control trial of 325 participants in multiple sites in Russia, the study concluded that there was little difference in learning outcomes between in-person, blended and online-only instruction.

A multisite randomized controlled trial tested this model with fully online and blended instruction modalities in Russia’s online education platform. We find that online and blended instruction produce similar student learning outcomes as traditional in-person instruction at substantially lower costs.

Igor Chirikov et al,
Science Advances, 08 Apr 2020

All very promising. But the study made use of a nationwide platform (OpenEdu) that connects Russian Higher Education (HE) students to online resources from top tier universities.

That’s fine for the study, but as the current crisis has made clear, most educators can’t rely on an equivalent solution.

So there are key questions that we need to unpack if we want to apply its findings more widely. First, can everyone take part? Second, do we have the underlying content – and can the right people find it? And finally, do we have the skills to teach online?

Let’s start with access.

Have We Fixed the Digital Divide?

The Russian STEM study assumes that all participants have internet access. A fair assumption for this study.

But just last year estimates based on US Census data suggested that up to 3 million American students (17% of the total) did not have access to the internet at home (excluding cell phone access).

Even in somewhere as well connected as Berkeley, California the rapid transition to online learning caused by Covid-19 has highlighted big issues. A public school superintendent was quoted in Wired magazine estimating that: “about 5 per cent of the district’s students lack reliable internet access at home, and about 30 per cent need devices suitable for online learning”.

And it’s obviously not just a US problem. In 2017, only around 1/3 of Indian’s could access the internet, mostly via their phones. Only 30% of those who could access it were women or girls.

If even a tiny percentage of students can’t take part then we still have work to do. In reality, that percentage isn’t tiny.

Do We Have Enough Quality Content? And Can It Be Found?

In the study, students were randomly assigned to take part in in-person tuition, blended learning or online only course content using the state-sponsored OpenEdu platform. The OpenEdu platform allows students at any higher education institution to access course content provided by some of the country’s top universities.

In many ways OpenEdu is a neatly simple solution. The entirety of the required course content (for the study) is represented. It exists in a single destination. And the content has been produced by the universities themselves.

Most education systems – particularly outside HE/FE – don’t have quite such a straightforward solution to draw on.

There’s certainly a lot of content that has been made available online recently. And, of course, we have a wide variety of platforms like Khan Academy, Udemy, Coursera, Share My Lesson, TPT, Youtube and many others.

So there is no shortage of places to find learning content.

However, the sudden rush of government webpages, list posts and Facebook groups suggest that discoverability, quality control and specificity are big issues.

Of course, not every PDF lesson plan or scanned worksheet translates to a quality online learning experience. Indeed, some subjects may be more difficult to teach and learn, online.

So do we have enough suitable and effective online resources available to meet the need?

And not just for HE students but for every grade from PK-12, and Adult learners, and in multiple languages, and addressing all the various subject areas at each of a myriad of local, state, national and international standards – all of which would need to be updated constantly.

Spoiler alert – the answer is ‘no’.

Do We Know How to Teach Online?

Interestingly the study’s authors found that; “the online course instructors from one of the country’s top engineering schools had better educational backgrounds, more research publications, and more years of teaching experience than the in-person instructors”.

In principle, this reinforces a key argument for online learning – access to the best teaching.

But for this to be a factor we have to assume that the relative expertise/experience of instructors translates into great online learning content. There are lots of reasons that this might not be the case.

Teaching online effectively goes well beyond being able to upload a recorded lecture, work Zoom or upload homework to the school’s LMS.

In a recent article in the Atlantic, veteran teacher Renee Moore puts it superbly:

… many of the teachers don’t have the skills to teach online. They all had technical training, like how to work the buttons and set up the system. But they haven’t had the pedagogical training: How do you teach your subject, like writing and reading, online? That to me is the greater concern and the biggest need right now. Teachers will have to learn on the fly how to teach online, and there will be even greater discrepancy in the quality of instruction for students.


What Should We Do?

I have four suggestions;

First, we need to keep working towards suitable internet access (and hardware) for all students. Easier said than done, but the case has been made more obvious than ever.

Second, we need to invest in the quality and suitability – and simple volume – of online resources. This will require the collective efforts of academic publishers, commercial organisations, non-profits and the education system itself. It will almost certainly include both paid and freely available (OER) resources. It will also require continued research into what actually works online.

Third, we need to build the pipes that help connect educators with those resources. The right solution won’t seek to replace the tools, platforms and repositories teachers already use but rather build interoperability between them. A highly fragmented market is an impediment to investment. If they can more easily reach educators and students, learning content creators (like us) will invest more.

Finally, we need to invest now in teacher training. Neatly, online learning might form part of the solution.

The current pandemic has made online learning very real, very quickly. And while we have myriad technical solutions to help, we have a lot of work left to do addressing the digital divide, ensuring the availability of appropriate digital resources and supporting teachers as they adopt new ways of teaching.

Now’s the time for us all to invest in making it work.

Online Video within a Classroom

How Online Video Can Revitalise Your Classroom

Online video is needed more than ever within the classroom. By educating students through innovative methods, educators can continue to inspire.

The UK has an average world rank of 15 ⅓ across reading, mathematics and science according to the PISA 2018 summary, however, the USA is 29 ⅔! Some may regard these as respectable scores but surely, we can do better?

Educators are struggling to connect to this new ‘generation z’ of students. The curriculum needs a shake-up and I’ll hopefully explain some, potential ideas to help re-engage the modern-day student while having a look at what new tools we can utilise.

Learning styles have vastly changed

McCrindle Research summarises Generation Z’s disconnect with traditional classroom settings best stating “traditional classrooms were constructed to keep distractions out, keep the students in and keep them facing the teacher.” However, modern-day classrooms should be reconfigured and rewired to accommodate new students, new technologies and new learning styles.

“It is easy to be critical of a generation that focuses on screen time more than conversations; virtual social circles rather than real social circles. These individuals and many others are experiencing depression at ever-increasing rates and are as comfortable in the digital world as they are in the virtual world. However, to paint these students in a negative light would be greatly reducing the impact of their value, creativity, and ability to be thoughtfully-minded young scholars” elaborates WCET Frontiers.

According to UpFront Analytics, Gen Z shuns conformity and traditional however relate to storytelling and visual displays. Video is the perfect platform for delivering such content and most likely, the major influence for Gen Z to state this preference. This use of an iPad or Smartphone can aid all three of the VAK learning types for students:

  • Visuals
    • Linguistical = Kindle, Blog sites, Twitter
    • Spatial = Video-streaming sites (e.g. Makematic, YouTube, TikTok), Instagram and Pinterest
  • Auditory
    • Music/Audio = Audible, Voice recordings/note-taking, Podcasts
  • Kinesthetic
    • Movement – Adobe Sketch, Use of keyboard or tablet to transfer V/A information.
    • Tactile – Interactive quizzes and engaging, educational games.

Rise in ADHD culture?

Gen Z picks up information far-faster than any generation prior, they are natural multi-taskers after all. They strive to work in tech and influencers are their role models. According to SXSW, Gen Z’s attention span is roughly eight seconds compared to the 12-second span for millennials. Some may regard this as ADHD culture however such toxic categorising only continues to isolate the future generation away from educators and further into influencers – mutual trust needs to be re-established.

Shortform video and online sites are powerful tools that these internet-natives are drawn to. Combining them with education may seem like an arduous task that could disconnect them due to ‘pandering’. However, it can work as I will showcase below.

Bill Wurtz is an American singer-songwriter and online video creator who went viral back in 2016 for his interesting take on the ‘History of Japan‘. The video provides a highly-saturated, bursts of infographic-based information with auditory, music tracks.

The comments alone prove this video is working – it’s engaging and revolutionary educational content can learn from such methods of engagement.

Procrastination is the major stumbling block when incorporating these elements. Firstly, it needs to be redefined. I know from first-hand experience listening to music while working on a project doesn’t detract from the work produced, it can help focus the brain and quiet the dopamine-craving release from completing an online video.

Educators must open-mindedly allow input from this generation about content that works for them. I understand it will take a compromise from both sides to work practically in any nationwide curriculum but the standard exam-system just doesn’t work any longer.

Video can be engaging, educational and no longer should be seen as a ‘relief tool’ for educators to take a break from mundane learning. Incorporating them into a hybrid alongside student engagement and a better understanding of VAK learning styles and providing alternatives for each type of user is the way to a fairer, more engaged educationally society.

4 Things You Need To Know About Post Millennials And Their Relationship With Technology

This is our first in a series of blogs about post-millennials, their relationship with technology their main attributes, likes and aspirations.Read More

The Best Ed-Videos Have 4 Things In Common

There are millions of ‘educational’ videos on the Internet, but we all know that not all educational videos are created equal. With a whopping 80 – 90% of educators using curriculum relevant video content as part of their repertoire, it’s important to know what to look for when choosing videos for impact and engagement. So when looking for educational videos to use in the classroom or at home, here are 4 things that you need to look for.

Bite-sized Content Reigns Supreme

The shorter the video the better. Any video over 6 minutes in an educational setting is too long. Videos up to 6 minutes in length help viewers retain information, improve motivation and performance, support the viewers sense of autonomy, facilitate self-directed learning and engage learners in blended and online working environments. 

Informal Language And Conversational Tone

Look for narrators and presenters who speak quickly, enthusiastically and informally. A conversational style encourages viewers to develop a relationship or partnership with the narrator. This in turn increases viewer engagement.

Active Learning or Interactivity

Guiding questions and calls to action increase active learning. Interactivity is another version of active learning. This includes being able to control movement whilst watching the video. Examples of this include selecting important sections to review as well as having the ability to move backwards if desired.

Cognitive Load Principles

Videos that use the cognitive load theory of multimedia learning can engage viewers, increase their retention and their ability to transfer new knowledge. But what exactly are these principles? There are four that you probably won’t be unfamiliar with – signalling, segmenting, weeding and matching modality. I’ve summarised them below.

Signaling. The use of symbols and graphics to highlight important information. For example key words are highlighted on screen or colours change to emphasise relationships.

Segmenting. The chunking of information to help viewers to engage with small pieces of information. For example the inclusion of chapters to click the video forward.

Weeding. The elimination of interesting but extraneous information from the video. In other words, information that does not contribute to the learning goal of the video is absent. For example videos with a lack of complex backgrounds or music have used weeding.

Matching modality. The process of using both audio/verbal with visuals to convey new information. For example narrated animations or tutorials that illustrate or explain concepts or ideas.

So whilst you are sifting through the multitude of trashy content out there, I’m hoping that this guide will make it easier to find the video gems to engage and empower those you teach.

Check out the videos we’ve created using the principles described above here.

International Day of Democracy

Have Young People Given Up On Democracy?

This year’s theme for the International Day for Democracy is participation.

In the spirit of the day and theme, I’d like to explore what democracy means in 2019 and whether young people really have given up on it.

Democracy 101

If you search for synonyms to describe democracy you’ll get words like equality, freedom, justice, egalitarianism, emancipation and suffrage. But at its heart, it’s really about people, participation and inclusion. The cornerstone of a peaceful, stable and just society.

The right to vote or suffrage is one of the elements of our democratic system that we take for granted. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that universal suffrage didn’t exist. Many people were excluded from voting, such as working-class men, women and indigenous people.

Fast forward to 2019, and all men and women over the age of 18 have the right to vote in democracies around the world.

Despite this young people are exercising their right to vote less and less. If we look at who participated in the last elections in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. The lowest number of voters came from 18 to 30-year-olds.

Even in Australia where voting is compulsory, young people were the ones who stayed away. Opting to incur a $20 fine instead.

But are young people really giving up on democracy? 

Young People Are Participating

One of the cornerstones of a democracy is the right to participate in the democratic process. 

Whilst young people seem to be shunning voting in elections, they are participating in other ways, through their activism.

Activism has long been associated with young people. Yet recent history has associated activism with university students and violence. Such as the anti-war and civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s and 70s.

In contrast, today activism is more often associated with young people under the age of 18. From the climate strikers, to those who have been participating in the March for Our Lives demonstrations, more and more young people are trying to influence change through positive social activism. And its technology that they are using to rally the troops.

They’re using hashtags, video blogging and Indymedia to post broadcasts about events and activities, and to get in touch with other activists. It’s impressive.

Harnessing The Power And Passion Of Youth

It’s through civics and citizenship education that educators can tap into this passion for change.

As a former humanities teacher, I’ve taught civics and citizenship education. Hands down the best classes were active, problem or project-focused.

I ran class elections with real polling booths and ballot boxes, and community projects where students came up with implementable solutions to community problems.

Did my students meet curriculum outcomes? Yes. 

Did my students acquire key 21st-century skills? Yes. 

Did I have classroom management issues? No. 

Was it a lot of work? At first yes, but then it became my modus operandi. 

I’m not writing about this to blow my own trumpet, but merely to highlight ways in which it can and should be taught.

Making civics and citizenship education active and problem/solution-focused. Leveraging technology and giving young people the freedom to explore issues that mean something to them. Can and will help us develop more caring, informed and active global citizens.

What’s not to like about that?

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