Introducing Makematic’s Thought Leadership Series – BrandED

There are many brands in the education space. But why are they there, what are they doing and what do the people that work for them care about? These are the questions that we’ll explore in Makematic’s new thought leadership series, BrandED.

What Is BrandED?

BrandED is a thought leadership series that lifts the lid on what brands are doing in education. Twice a month, we’ll be releasing interviews with education leaders who work for brands and non-profits all over the world.

There are three things unite those we interview. Firstly everyone we interview is in education. Secondly all interviewees work with a brand doing interesting things in the education space. Finally, the brand is helping educators and parents develop young people into 21st century global citizens.

Episode One

This week is World Space Week. In honour of this important week, our first interview is with Educator Professional Development Specialist, Brandon Rodriguez from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Released on Wednesday, Brandon will talk about: what JPL are doing in the education space, the importance of and biggest challenges to STEM education, the value of teacher professional development and how to inspire and motivate the next generation of learners.

Who’s Next?

So, who else will feature this year?

I’m not going to lie, Eamon Kerrigan the series producer and I loved meeting and interviewing this incredible bunch of people. Hearing about the work they are doing for the organisations they represent is inspiring. It’s easy to feel invigorated when you hear them talk about the things their organisation is doing in the education space.

I only hope you enjoy watching the interviews as much as Eamon and I have enjoyed the process of getting them ready for you to view.

Visit https://watch.makematic.com/ to check out our videos and animations.

Free Careers and Employability Resource

Watch Free Here

Skillsumo is an exciting new careers and employability skills resource for teachers, students and families. Produced in partnership with employers, this evolving catalogue of bitesize videos includes: inspirational career pathway interviews with young professionals and animated explainers exploring the 21st-century skills young people need to succeed. 

Skillsumo contains 100+ bite-sized videos and animations. The videos are designed to ensure school and college leavers have the crucial foundational skills to ready them for the world of work.

What’s Included?

The bite-sized videos will be added to each month across five main themes: Work Inspiration, Pathways, 21st Century Skills, FutureProof and Professional Development. 

Work Inspiration: Animated interviews and profiles of young people in exciting careers.

Pathways: Informative explainer videos exploring alternative work pathways,  such as apprenticeships, into key growth sectors and industries.

21st Century Skills: Explorations of important transferable skills based on the World Economic Forum’s “The Future of Jobs” reports.

FutureProof: Exciting snapshots of the changing world of work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Professional Development: CEIAG professional development course content for educators.

Why Careers And Skills?

The videos align with the Gatsby Benchmarks for effective careers provision.

They can be used to:

  1. Support curriculum-linked learning opportunities,
  2. Help young people to understand the world of work, and the key 21st-century skills that are relevant for the workplace, and
  3. Develop a stable, well-resourced programme of careers education and guidance. 

Sign Up Here For The Free Resource

https://watch.makematic.com/skillsumo

The Multimedia Learner - Part Two

The Multimedia Learner – Part Two

In part one of this three-part blog series, I talked about Sesame Street and how it pioneered informal curriculum-linked and pedagogically sound short-form video as a way of capturing the limited attention spans of early learners.

In this second instalment, I want to progress this theme to look at the education sector and the mass-market reference points that influence the way in which knowledge is imparted and consumed today.

The Internet Takes Hold

The en masse introduction of both the Internet and personal computers into our homes from the year 2000 onward meant that by as early as 2007 (when 61% of UK households had Internet access) many were already espousing the importance of a “blended” multimedia approach to learning.

This meant that by the time I found myself leading a team focused on producing immersive digital products at a global educational publisher, I had started hearing concerning comments from school kids such as “I have to power down in the classroom”.

Although myself and my team (along with our wider colleagues across the company), were doing the majority of our work online, as a business we weren’t making the connection between mass-market trends that were influencing other sectors in the way we were designing, say, a new maths curriculum course or an ELT course for teenagers. We were print-focused. They were not.

No Technology In The Classroom

Without a doubt, at that time the educational establishment (all the way up to governmental level) were very slow to react when it came to allocating the huge budgets needed to bring education systems up to date via the widespread introduction of technology into the classroom.

Many educational content providers saw “digital” as creating a CD or DVD-Rom with some Flash animations and exercises included, which was tucked free-of-charge into the back cover of a textbook (with no increase in pricing point). Just as we did.

It was on a business trip to Mexico, to a school that had a great technology set-up, that I saw just how many of these CDs/DVDs were being used… as coffee-cup mats and frisbees!

The teachers showing me around explained that it wasn’t that the addition of these digital assets was a bad thing, it was just that they hadn’t been trained to teach with video and other non-text book-based tools. So they were afraid of losing control of the classroom. Consequently the digital resources weren’t used.

2007 Changed Everything

The 29th June 2007 changed everything. On that day, a game-changer arrived that was to prove the wake-up call (no pun intended) for us to gear up and start producing a wide portfolio of digitally based, video-centred learning products.

Apple launched the iPhone. Suddenly, millions of teachers and students had an internet connected, hand-held computer and video camera in their pocket. This was a real turning point. The ability to create and watch video at any time by anyone had arrived. It was not be long though before short-form video was a huge influence in all our lives.

Part of the focus at the multinational educational publisher that I worked for at the time was English Language Teaching (ELT). And we saw start-ups such as Englishbaby.com arrive on the scene and immediately secure large Internet audiences. Part of their winning formula was a series of video shorts that proved very successful in China, where at the time 500 million people were learning English ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games.

A Vision Of Students Today

Michael Wesch is Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University, where his focus is Media Ecology and Digital Ethnography. He is one of the few people who has studied the effect of the networked economy on human uses of digital technology.

His most famous video was produced in October 2007. A Vision of Students Today has been watched millions of times, as well as being hugely influential in terms of cranking up the pressure on content providers in the education sector to connect better with their consumers – students, pupils and their teachers.

For me and my team, it became something we watched repeatedly, spreading the message amongst our colleagues. With time, our message about the importance of video spread and our company’s products grew to include large portions of video-learning. A digital product would not go out the door without a substantial portion of video included. As a result, publishers like us had to enter a myriad of licensing agreements with third-party video producers such as the BBC, ITN and Reuters in order to ensure that the quality of footage was there around which we could build strong pedagogical models.

Video Is Integral To Education

If we fast forward to today – video now plays an important role in many formal education programmes. Both free and paid, in classroom environments and for home learners. In fact, there isn’t a business currently providing digital education content who would disagree that short-form video is an integral part of any learning asset.

What does the future hold?
In the third and final part of this blog series, I’m going to take a detailed look at a few of these and consider what makes them successful. Plus take a stab at guessing where this is all going to go over the next decade.

The Multimedia Learner (Part One)

The Multimedia Learner – Part One

In my role here at Makematic, I find myself pondering a number of important questions regarding multimedia learning.

What does it mean to be a multimedia learner? How do multimedia learners cope in an education world which is still driven largely by print in the classroom? Is there a new type of visual learner or have visual learners always existed in roughly the same percentages? How much do we learn from visual prompts, in particular online video, and are we retaining more or less information as a result of their use.

Over the next few weeks (and in three parts), I’m going to take a look at the multimedia learner.

The genius of Sesame Street

In part one, I’m speaking from my own life experience and observations. I want to start that experience at age three, when I first came into contact with the TV show Sesame Street. It was way back in 1973, and my family and I lived in a remote part of Central Africa.

At that time television programming in rural Zambia was very limited, children’s particularly so. I have memories of obscure and badly dubbed Brazilian soap operas. But more so, I remember Sesame Street showing for about an hour every day.

With hindsight, this 189 Emmy and 11 Grammy award-winning show was absolute genius.

Over 50 years ago, the team behind the show realised that the average child had a short attention-span and if proper curriculum and educational goals were packaged up in short live action and animated sequences (roughly the length of a commercial), then the show would be an engaging, fresh and new learning channel for millions of children around the world.

For me it was exactly this. Before I had started any formalised schooling, I could count to a hundred, recognise the letters of the alphabet and read many short words.

Sesame Street gave me a head start in life. At a very young age it introduced me to carefully designed children’s programming in a form that I could digest and which held my attention. So from my perspective, multimedia learning and the multimedia learner are not new things.

The YouTube generation 

Fast forward to 2019 and I’m now father to a 4-year-old boy.  I managed to get hold of a set of Sesame Street highlight DVDs and started playing these to my son when he was about two. He used to enjoy them, but in this digital age of crystal clear pictures he found the low definition in which the shows are shot frustrating, and moved on to other things made using modern technology. As with many of his peers, he particularly enjoys looking at things he wants to learn more about on YouTube. 

Here’s an example of how video helps him learn. We live by the sea, and if we go to the beach my son and I may get into a conversation about dolphins for example. What’s always sure is that after our conversation, when we get home, he wants to see video footage of dolphins. It’s as though they don’t exist until he’s seen them swimming in the sea, doing what dolphins do, and a picture won’t do it for him. It must be video.

Over the next few weeks (and in two further blogs), I’m going to look at this in more detail.

Is education keeping pace?

Headlines shout from the business media about the next new big social network, TikTok. The growth is explosive amongst teenagers and the only format for posting is video. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as we now all walk around with 20MP video cameras in our pockets. In part two I’m going to explore how learning has changed and whether or not formal education has kept pace with the needs of its learners.

ISTE 2019 Highlights

Three Big Takeaways from ISTE 2019

This year was the first time I attended the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference. 

With 20,000 delegates, you can only imagine the scale of this event. 

Since my return, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting about the event and what were the big takeaways.

It’s the theme of empathy and technology – using technology to democratise education and Esports in education – that had the greatest impact.

1. Empathy and Technology

Is technology destroying empathy?

There is compelling research that has shown how empathy is positively and negatively affected by technology.

One study claims that young people are 40% less empathetic compared to 30 years ago.

Yet another study points to technology being a vehicle to help people develop empathy.

Because of the rapid rate of innovation and iteration, it’s hard to keep up.

This means that we need to continue to look for ways to have a better relationship with technology inside and outside of the classroom.

2. Technology for Good

Technology has the power to democratise education and many of the organisations who exhibited at ISTE are using it to do just that.

But what does using technology to democratise education look like in edtech?

It can mean so many things. 

It can mean providing opportunities for students to access communities of experts, like Skype in the Classroom’ making resources freely available to all educators and students, like Soundtrap @ Spotify and Twinkl; helping educators build intentional, effective professional learning through communities of practice, like Participate.

One of the challenges that companies like these continue to grapple with is reach, and it is through partnerships that organisations who aim to use technology for good will have the greatest impact.

3. Esports

Did you know that in 2018, two-thirds of the U.S. population 13 years and older are gamers?

The steady growth of self-identified gamers illustrates how far the medium has evolved to become an integral component of the mainstream entertainment diet. 

Often maligned in the media, esports is being touted as having the power to help young people build key 21st century skills, such as collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking.

I must admit I was blown away by the potential of esports and some of the incredible initiatives that I saw at ISTE.

Post ISTE, I’ve since spoken to founder Kerwin Rent of Elite Gaming Live, and learned about his reasons for creating the Elite Gaming Live platform.

It is his belief, and the schools that he is engaged with, that esports has the ability to promote equity and inclusion, thus having a real positive social impact. 

Other organisations, like the North American Scholastic Esports Federation have taken things a step further. 

They’ve developed a whole evidence-based multidisciplinary approach to curriculum around esports that includes educator toolkits and links themes to entrepreneurship, STEM careers and soft skills development like conflict resolution.

The potential of esports to develop skills, promote STEM and entrepreneurship is mindblowing.

Next Steps

For me it’s about continuing the conversations I had at ISTE around these three key themes.

That means exploring the possibilities of how far we can use technology for good, to work towards a better understanding of how we interact with technology, and to look at ways we can use technology to develop key 21st century skills in our young people.

Barry Manilow Knows The Power Of A Cracking Story

Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl

With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there …

I love the song Copacabana by Barry Manilow.

It’s incredibly cheesy, and I’m sure that when you hear it,  you think of Bazza himself with mullet and perma-tan, a calypso costume and probably a set of maracas.

I love the song for two reasons.

The first are the memories that I associate with them.

Studying in Greece in my 20’s and pursuing a dream to become a female Indiana Jones.

And secondly the story.

The song tells a story of star crossed lovers.

You may not be surprised that the song inspired a movie, of which I have seen, and yes it’s even cheesier than the song.

But, it’s the power that the story that has kept this song, a karaoke favorite of mine, for over 20 years.

 

But why are stories so powerful?

Our brains become more active when we tell stories rather than facts.

When we hear just facts, only a small part of the brain gets activated.

However when you tell a story, every part of your brain is activated. This means you don’t just hear stories you experience them too.

And the listener and speaker will also experience similar brain activity.

It really is quite amazing.

What other great things can stories do?

Research into the power of storytelling has shown that stories:

Let’s face it evolution has wired our brains to tell stories.

Stories are everywhere

Stories are everywhere, not just in the printed or spoken form.

We see them in the digital world, on websites, Youtube, films and games.

At MakeMatic we create resources that tell stories everyday.

But where do I start?

Becoming a good storyteller can give you the power to guide, motivate, entertain, educate, inspire, and influence others.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Keep the story short, sweet and to the point. Once you start rambling it’s possible you’ll lose the interest of your audience.
  2. Stick to a simple structure – beginning, middle and end – you can get more creative once you have nailed the basics.
  3. Practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the easier it will be.

And who knows, you might even create a story as compelling as Bazza’s. 😉

Maybe It's Time We All Went Back To Kindergarten

“An investment in interest always pays off with the best knowledge.”

Mitchel Resnick

I attended the edtech trade show BETT  for the first time this year.

Mitchel Resnick, Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab and director of the research group that developed Scratch, spoke about his new book Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play.

It is this book that I will talk about in this post.

Who would this book appeal to?

This book is written for educators, parents and designers of educational toys, games and resources.

So what’s the book about? 

“To cultivate creativity is to support people working on projects based on their passions, in collaboration with peers in a playful spirit”

The book is about cultivating creativity inside and outside of the classroom by adopting a kindergarten approach to learning. Using the creative learning spiral of imagine, create, play, share, reflect, imagine, Resnick’s team at MIT have developed a set of guiding principles for helping young people develop as creative thinkers: projects, passions, peers and play, and this is what is explored in the book.

 

What I like about it

“Putting a thin layer of technology and gaming over antiquated curriculum and pedagogy is like putting lipstick on a pig.”

 

  • The discussion on creativity misconceptions. I loved, loved, loved, loved this. Not only does it look at common misconceptions, but clearly explains why they are so.
  • The ‘Creative Society’ chapter. This chapter is wonderful! It has tips for learners, parents, educators, designers and developers to help them on their path to ‘lifelong kindergarten.’
  • Hard fun and motivation. Resnick talks about the important role that hard fun and intrinsic motivation play in the creative process.
  • Student Voice. It’s peppered throughout the book. Sometimes the excerpts are a little long, but they serve a really important function.

What I don’t like about it

  • The constant reference to Scratch and the Scratch community. It  assumes people actually know what it is and how it is used by the community.
  • The evidence that he uses to back-up is claims is not robust enough for me. To be fair, he does reference his research groups website which has a full publications list. That said there are very few research papers that actually look directly at the effectiveness and outcomes of the 4P’s approach.

Key Takeaways

  • Creativity is a long term process.
  • Creativity grows out of a certain type of hard work. It combines curious exploration with playful experimentation and systematic investigation.
  • The key challenge is not how to ‘teach creativity’ to children, but rather to create a fertile environment in which their creativity will take root, grow and flourish.
  • Community matters. Peer feedback and support is so powerful when done regularly and a safe space is created.

Practical Applications – Projects, Passion, Peers and Play

You can use this model as a framework to plan curriculum. This can be as an individual, a department or faculty or as a whole school.

Use a project based learning approach (PBL) in your classroom. Resnick believes that a PBL approach to learning based on the creative learning style provides an underpinning for this creativity. Not sure where to start, The Buck Institute for Education will help you here.

Start small. Think about ways you can create opportunities for students to be intrinsically motivated in your class and then scale it up to develop a creative classroom environment. Check out this blog here for some really useful tips on how you can do this.

Flipped Classrooms: Are They Any Flippin Good?

The flipped approach to learning is a pedagogical technique it is growing in popularity in higher and secondary level education, and in corporate learning and development. But what is it and are there any benefits of flipping the classroom?

What actually is a flipped classroom?

In flipped classrooms, students are exposed to new material outside of the classroom usually via videos, reading or online sources, and then use class time to apply that knowledge in classroom activities, debates or discussions.

Why do educators like it?

Those who advocate for a flipped classroom approach to learning, say:

  • It makes efficient use of class-time.
  • Can prepare students for more detailed classroom discussions that can focus on higher level thinking skills.
  • Allows students to prepare for the lesson at their own pace.
But, is it an effective teaching method?

There is a growing body of empirical evidence that suggests that the flipped classroom approach in secondary and higher education is effective.
What has research demonstrated?

But there are challenges

There are a number of challenges that educators need to consider if they decide to flip some or all of their classes.

  1. Ensuring that learning takes place outside of the classroom.
  2. Getting students to adapt to the change.
  3. Creating and finding engaging content to motivate students to complete the pre class work.
Top Tips

It’s worth flipping your classes. I’ve done it many times when I’ve secondary and tertiary students. 
Here are my top tips.
Have a contingency plan. Always assume that not everyone will come prepared, and as much as possible provide opportunities for students to come to your class prepared. If the resource is digital, offer students opportunities to access the content before and after school, or lunch time. Always have an alternative activity planned for those who aren’t prepared so that they have something meaningful to do, and can engage and participate in the lesson.
Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The truth is, there is more lesson preparation needed when using this approach. That’s because sourcing and creating good content takes times. Find someone else on staff who would do it with you to share the load. Maybe start flipping your class once a fortnight or once a month. If using digital sources, stick to the tried and tested resources like TEDEd until you find other engaging resources.
Get feedback from students. Ask them about what works and what doesn’t. Get them involved in helping you create a better experience.
Flipping your class is really worth the try, it just takes a little bit of perseverance to find out what works right for your class.
Please note: Not all of the sources consulted in this blog article have been attached to the post. If you’d like a full reference list, please contact the author.
 

New Mindsets, New Results?

Book Review: ‘The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity’ George Courous

We certainly hear a lot about creativity, innovation and mindset these days. And why not? It’s  interesting, and there’s so much to talk about.

That’s why when I was recommended ‘The Innovators Mindset’ I was incredibly curious to see if educator George Courous had to say anything new or interesting to say about it.

I was not disappointed.

This book is a page turner. I couldn’t put it down and I read it in 3 days.
It’s true, the book is no War and Peace, so it’s not that impressive that I read it in 3 days. However since I was so busy before Christmas, the fact that I managed to read it so quickly is no mean feat.

Who would this book appeal to?

This book is written for educators. Although those who have an interest in innovation in education may find it interesting.

So what’s the book about?

Put simply this book starts off by talking about innovation in education in the broadest terms, moves towards laying the groundwork for innovating in schools, and finally unleashing explores talent and the creation of meaningful learning experiences for both educators and students.

What I like about it

There were so many. Here are my top four.

  1. It’s very easy to read. There is just the right mix of anecdotes, stories, practical tips and good old fashioned common sense to keep people interested and to make the book useful.

  2. Students are at the heart of this book. I love reading books that have this focus, so it ticked that box for me.

  3. Courous is credible: former teacher, principal and district lead. He’s been in the trenches, he knows the challenges that educators and schools face.

  4. The structure of the book. It’s logically framed, and builds logically to its conclusion. This makes it easy to read as well as dip in and out of.
What I don’t like about it

I’m not lying when I say that I wanted to find something in this text to critique or did not resonate with me. Put simply I couldn’t find anything that I disliked.

That said, I would have liked some detailed case studies of what worked and didn’t in some of the schools in his district.

Key Takeaways
  • Technology can be crucial in the development of innovative organisations, but innovation is less about tools such as computers and more about how we use them.

  • Students are at the centre of a classroom – not teachers. And by students that means as individuals not as a cohort.

  • Relationships and networking matter. That means teachers need to create regular opportunities for human interactions, inside and outside of schools, to help build relationships and spur innovation.

  • The importance of engagement and empowerment in education. The quote by Bill Ferriter in the book sums the difference beautifully. Engaging students “means getting kids excited about our content, interests and curricula.” Empowering students “means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future.”

Top 3 Practical Applications – Everyone Can Lead and Innovate:
This book is action focussed so there are lots of ways individuals can engage with what’s in the book.

Here are some practical tips that anyone can use to develop an innovative mindset.

  • Build your Professional Learning Network. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, embrace the power of social media, use conferences as an opportunity to get to know people and connect with people outside of your school or organisation. What better way to expand your thinking and workshop ideas?

  • Build Self Awareness. People with high levels of emotional intelligence are often more empathetic, and it is when people understand the needs of others that new ideas can grow. Try to see things from others people’s point of view and listen not just with your ears, your eyes and your instincts. Always ask, “What would the other person do?”

  • Always Focus on Relationships. Seek to understand those you work with and teach. Spend time getting to really know them. You may be surprised hoe much you actually have in common.

Communication In Action: The Power of Good Posture

Posture can communicate so much about how you are feeling and what you are thinking. Good posture can help you be more confident, improve your mindset and can positively affect your emotions.

A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind – Morihei Ueshiba

Last week I read The Sutton Trust’s  Life Lessons: Improving Essential Life Skills for Young People report.
My key key takeaway is the important role life skills play in an adult’s ability to flourish.
Of the essential life skills that are discussed in the report, it is confidence that is identified by teachers as being most important life skill to develop in our young.
That got me thinking about the important role our posture has on our confidence, mindset and emotions, and critically, that so many people are not aware of this.
Let’s look at the research more carefully.

Good posture makes us tougher

One study found that by simply adopting a more dominant, open and expansive posture, people not only felt in control but were able to tolerate more physical pain and emotional distress too.

Posture and emotions are intertwined

Expansive and open postures are associated with happiness, success, confidence and optimism. And of course, it goes the other way too. Closed postures are associated with depression and pessimism. You may have heard of Amy Cuddy and power posing. Although one of the claims of her research has been hotly contested, the claim that when people adopted a power pose reported stronger feelings of power than they did before is widely regarded as plausible.

Good posture and mobility have a positive effect on cognitive function

This one’s my favourite, especially since I have a memory like a sieve. One study found that people with good posture found it easier to remember things. 

Good posture matters more than hierarchical power

Finally, research has shown that posture has been shown to matter more than hierarchy in making a person think and act in a more powerful way.

So what next?

The benefits of good posture are loud and clear. It makes us tougher, more confident, has been shown to increase cognitive function, helps us be more positive and can be more important than hierarchical power.
How can an individual or an educator use the research to improve their posture or the posture of those they teach?
Take a Break. Whether you’re sitting in front of a computer, facilitating a staff meeting or teaching, have stretch breaks every half an hour. Yep, not every hour, every half an hour. Take stock of your mind or body, wiggle it around, stand up or do something different for a short space of time. For the educators out there do energising brain breaks throughout your class. Free apps like ‘Stand Up! The Work Break Timer’ can help you remember. You can set the timer so that it reminds you to break every 15 , 20 or 30 minutes.
Strike a Pose. Start power posing and get others to do the same. Of course, you’ll need to explain to people you are suggesting do it why. True fact: I power posed before an interview and it helped me focus, gather my thoughts and feel confident. Guess what? I nailed the interview and got the job.
Start Looking Up. Start hanging photos or posters slightly higher on walls, or on your desk so that you have to look up. Even adjusting your rear-view mirror slightly higher so that you have to sit taller whilst driving.  Straighten up Canada and the Perfect Posture Workout are great free apps that everyone should download top help them improve their posture.
Connect with Tara on Twitter:@TaraWalshNinja
*Please note that more than one journal paper was consulted in the creation of this post. If you’d like a full citations list, please contact the author.
 

Moonshots In Education

Book Review – Moonshots In Education: Hit Or Miss?

‘Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom’

Blended learning approaches have been around for a long time. In fact when I started teaching nearly 20 years ago, I used blended learning approaches in my classes. Instinctively it felt like the right thing to do, and it really did make a difference to student engagement. So, when I heard about this new book by Esther Wojcicki and Lance Izumi, I was really interested to see what they had to say.

Who would this book appeal to?

Educators who have yet to start the online and digital learning in the classroom. For those who are already on the journey or who have been using digital tools regularly, this book will appeal less.

So what’s the book about?

This book is a practical guide to implementing blended learning approaches within the curriculum. It starts with why blended learning should be implemented, case studies showing where it’s worked well and finally an overview of digital education around the world.

What I like about it

There is a lot to like about this book, but here are my top three:

  1. This book is about action. It gives educators case studies, tools and advice on how to get started straight away.
  2. The research skills chapter. Often this is something that is not taught properly, or at all. The chapter was written by a credible expert, Daniel Russell, research scientist at Google, and offers a tonne of resources and practical advice.
  3. An explanation of the different approaches to blended learning. This is important mostly because there is a commonly held myth that all students need a personal computer in a blended learning environment.
What I don’t like about it

Although I really did like this book, there were three things that really bothered me:

It seemed like the book was a ‘love in’ for Palo Alto. Yes, they are doing great things there, but let’s be honest, they are living in a bubble. I’m not saying that Wojcicki isn’t inspirational, heck, I’d love to meet her. But it seems like once again, we are reading another book written from someone who does something innovative in Silicon Valley. There are tonnes of practitioners all around the world who have been using this approach successfully for a long time, so why haven’t we heard from them? 

More case studies from more challenging educational environments, I believe, would really appeal to educators reading this book. At the moment, I’m reading Sir Ken Robinson’s Creative Schools: Revolutionising Education from the Ground Up, and what I like about it so far is the different types of schools that he showcases. There is a reference in Moonshot to a free online PDF which is worth downloading, and this has examples of exemplar schools using blended learning approaches.

The final criticism I have is with the introduction penned by actor James Franco. In his attempt to pay homage to a teacher who clearly inspired him, his endeavour to be self deprecating fell flat, and the cringy description of his ex-teacher; which included her being described as once having been a swimwear model flabbergasted me.

Key Takeaways
  • The different ways that blended learning can manifest itself in a learning environment.
  • The case for personalised and digital learning approaches in the classroom.
  • The discussion and acknowledgement of the important place mobile phones play in education.
Top 3 Practical Applications:
  • Trial and Error. Educators know their students. Trying one thing at a time, to see what works best will help educators decide how they will approach it. Not everything that is recommended in the book will work for everyone; at least for now anyway.
  • Use the book’s resources. There are more than you’ll ever need.
  • Get students involved. It’s likely that they’ll know more about digital tools than you. Think about how you can use their knowledge to engage and motivate them within the context of a blended learning classroom environment.

The MakeMatic Rating System

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.

 

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