Animated drawing of a video game. This includes a person holding a games console and a screen that shows a video game scene which includes a man & woman

EdTech News – November

I’ve tried to focus this month on finding some good news stories from the world of EdTech. Some of us might be in another lockdown, facing (more or continuous) school closures and other uncertainties, so we can all use some good news. I’m glad to say I’ve managed to find some. 

First up is a story from Estonia, a country which is excelling at digital learning. Turns out the key is in early adoption and routine, so we’ll all be experts soon enough.

With knowledge from the above, it’s no surprise that Estonia ranks very high again in the list of countries which are best preparing their children for the future of work. “The best education systems are those that encourage students to analyze and think for themselves and create the right learning environments” according to the report. Developing critical thinking skills is crucial in this. For those of us who are worried about our children spending too much time online gaming. Rest assured, those critical thinking skills can also be developed playing fun games online! 

For some educators and students, it’s been difficult to make the transition to an online virtual learning environment, especially when it comes to social-emotional learning. There are educators, however, who use EdTech to develop social-emotional skills such as collaboration. Some teachers are convinced using platforms like Microsoft Teams and Google Classrooms in a non-restrictive way teaches students flexible thinking and self-control. Have a read here.

The main thing though is that students are engaged in learning and we all know EdTech can achieve that!

Illustration of two people looking down on their smartphone device

Coming To A Device Near You Soon

This year we’ve all had to learn to do lots of things in different ways.  Central to my business life are conferences and exhibitions, an opportunity to get together with those who are like-minded, share our knowledge, learn from each other, show our best and get to know one and other better face-to-face.

This month I’ve attended two – Edutech Middle East and Frankfurt Book Fair.  Although covering different subject areas, the themes were similar.  In the case of Edutech, how are schools and learning systems changing because of the global pandemic and in the case of the Frankfurt Book Fair, how is the publishing industry changing in a brand new online world?  

In both instances, the switch in demand to digital services for education and content has been sudden and considerable.  This was backed up by major education publishers – on 5th October The Bookseller published an article where Pearson, Scholastic and Hodder all reported that digital sales were sky-rocketing as a result of the global pandemic.  In the Middle East, where oil-rich states spend lavish amounts on technology, content and infrastructure, AI has been the saviour helping to manage the massive amounts of data which are being generated by a full switch to a digital learning world.

It hasn’t been a case of having to start from scratch either.  There has been massive investment in the education sector in the creation of digital learning resources, the technology to deliver these and the infrastructure needed for learners to effectively learn in a purely digital world for around 20 years.  It wasn’t though until these had to be relied on 100%, that they were relied on 100%.  The pandemic has accelerated everything.  Those publishers whose digital infrastructure and content were strong, structured and ready to deliver has benefitted tremendously whereas those whose wasn’t have had a tough time.  

In the world of education in the Middle East, a parallel and similar story has played out to the same conclusion.  The technology has been in place for some time, but it was the pandemic which was the catalyst to make a full transition to the widespread use of that technology by teachers and students in their day-to-day lives.

The biggest changes I’ve had to face in my daily life this year is the huge increase in screen time and the complete lack of human interaction other than by a screen that I’m having right now.  I’m pretty larger than life and over the years have enjoyed participating in hundreds of physical conferences and exhibitions.  I enjoy getting together en masse with like-minded people from my industry or area of specific interest and discussing all the ins and outs of these, meeting new people and learning new facts and points of view.  Since March I’ve been out of my house for business on two occasions and now with everyone glued to their screens because conferences are back in full swing, I’ve learned that watching short video precis of conference presentations which some are producing, or having the video and sound on whilst sitting in the digital networking area, or whilst making comments/asking questions in the chat field to the panel, is allowing a different and unique sort of involvement.  

At both online conferences, I’ve been able to make new contacts and ask questions which were answered.  Whilst I’ve missed seeing people that I’ve known for many years, and I’ve missed the physical interaction which is lost in the 2D world of a presentational live stream or video, I’m finding different and interesting ways to manoeuvre my way through the proceedings of an online conference.  

All around us things have changed this year.  The feedback from learners I hear both from my own children and those presenting as case studies at conferences is that the educational world they’re in now is one that they recognize more than before.  I have noticed the considerable uptick in digital learning that my son’s school have offered this year – a full online learning platform with interactive video, games and puzzles helping him through the maze of really getting to grips with reading, writing arithmetic in year one at school.  We had our first year one parent/teacher meeting on Zoom!

My hope is that we will return soon a more normal way of living.  I hope to be able to visit in person conferences and exhibitions again that are relevant to my work and business sector.  

But for the time being, my trusty laptop and smartphone are doing the hard yards and bringing the world to me.

Image of Tara Walsh and Eduardo Morlan in this episode of taking classes online

Episode 2: Taking Classes Online

Taking Classes Online is an interview and blog series where real educators share their experiences of teaching online. This month, I had the pleasure of talking to Eduardo Mórlan from Mexico. Eduardo has been teaching online since 2014, so it was great to hear his insights about teaching languages remotely.

My interview technique is improving slightly, but it’s clear there is still a long way to go. Despite that, Eduardo has shared some really great tips and tricks that can be implemented in any online class.

Check Out Teaching Online Masterclass

If you haven’t checked out Teaching Online Masterclass (TOM) yet, I suggest you get started.

You’ll be sure to find something of interest to help you navigate the online teaching and learning space.

If you’ve got a story to share or would like to write a blog, send me an email and I’ll be in touch.

Make sure to check out the first episode of Taking Classes Online where I spoke to UK educator Dr Heather McClue about the trials and tribulations of taking her law classes online.

Animated drawing of students and teachers in a classroom with desktops being used to learn about global education

EdTech – October

Now that it looks like education – the way we teach and learn is affected long term, the EdTech experts are starting to uncover what this may look like and what the implications may be. Will the pandemic lead to an innovation in education though?

The EdTech podcast doesn’t seem to think so. Listen here and join the debate.

The Brookings Institute has written an article on how education can emerge stronger than ever before. “It is hard to imagine there will be another moment in history when the central role of education in the economic, social, and political prosperity and stability of nations is so obvious and well understood by the general population. Now is the time to chart a vision for how education can emerge stronger from this global crisis than ever before and propose a path for capitalizing on education’s newfound support in virtually every community across the globe.” The article also highlights four emerging global trends in education from COVID 19. 

Another big educational transformation taking place is a shift from directed education to self-directed education. “….the complexities of our world require deeper connection to our most human traits—such as creativity, empathy, agency, and curiosity—not the algorithmic thinking, regurgitation, and blind deference to authority that our system so effectively engenders with its current methods and targets.” Read more about it here.

Lastly, I wanted to leave you with the report on the EdTech Vision 2025 from the Education Foundation. Not just a celebration of what has been done well, but very much a wake-up call on what needs to be improved for education technology and digital skills for tomorrow’s global citizens. 

Animated drawing of Hedy Lamarr

What’s More Important; Brains Or Beauty?

That’s one of the questions asked in the Untold series produced by Makematic, Driving Force Institute and USC Center for Engagement-Driven Global Education. This particular video is about Hedy Lamarr, once dubbed the most beautiful woman on earth and made famous by acting in old Hollywood classic films such as ‘Boomtown’ and ‘Samson and Delilah’. 

Contrary to what her Wikipedia entry may want you to believe, these days young children are more likely to learn about her as the inventor of the frequency-hopping spread spectrum, which is at the basis of mobile phone and Bluetooth technology. She was also one of the first female film producers and a wartime fundraiser. 

It got me thinking whether there were other female film stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood with seemingly hidden talents, real trailblazers of their time, exhibiting skills and traits of creativity and entrepreneurship. Exactly the skills we want to actively develop in young children in this day and age. We use words like ‘empowerment’ and ‘engagement’ all the time, especially in educational settings, but back in the first half of the 20th Century, this was a different story. Perhaps at the time beauty was preferred over brains.

Ester Williams invented waterproof make-up. Marlene Dietrich was awarded the highest US civilian medal, the Medal of Freedom for all of her efforts for the troops during WWII. She was also politically active, regularly speaking with Reagan and Gorbachev. Julie Newman, who played Catwoman in the 1960s, invented ‘bum lifting’ tights and an ‘invisible’ bra. Audrey Hepburn became one of the first UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors and was completely dedicated to her humanitarian work later in life. Bette Davis was the first woman to start a lawsuit against Warner Brothers about her salary, autonomy and quality of roles. Singer and actress Josephine Baker was also a spy during WWII. 

Of course, there were and are many more amazing innovative, entrepreneurial, engaged and pioneering women. The paper bag, dishwasher, windshield wipers, coffee filters and Kevlar are just a few examples of items invented by women. There are lots of great examples of women dedicated to science, politics, the environment and other causes. Young children are becoming more familiar with the names and achievements of these hidden figures. I hope we’re on our way to a society where we value brains over beauty as we teach our children about these wonderful women and their talents are no longer hidden anymore. 

Watch the fascinating story of Hedy Lamarr as part of Untold’s Hidden Histories.

Find out more about Untold by visiting untoldhistory.org.

Follow the Untold social media pages on InstagramFacebook and Twitter @UntoldEdu, for video updates and additional resources.

Animated drawing of wifi symbol, books and laptop to show different methods of teaching

The Acceleration Of Online Teaching And Learning

The whole notion of online teaching and professional development is not an old one. In fact, I was surprised to learn that its history begins way back in 1981 when the Western Behavioural Sciences Inst in La Jolla, CA, started running distance education for business executives via computer conferencing. Since then, many multinational businesses have grown within the space and traditional businesses have metamorphosised through a move to online learning. 

Kids are turning up aged 5 at school now with a digital-savvy to rival the best. Teachers have access to whiteboards, laptops, internet connections, online resources from publishers, brands, non-profits, digital content, VLEs and it all works swimmingly. Right? Well judging by what I have seen of my son’s first one year and one month of primary school, there’s still room for improvement.  

When faced with a complete lockdown and need to provide proper online teaching, the local education system, appeared to creak at the seams. Maybe it is because it doesn’t seem as though there has been a concerted effort to couple the introduction of new technology in schools, with the introduction of blended learning methodology in teacher training. This would overall raise the bar in state education and without this approach, digital learning and digital content become ancillary to the ‘analogue’ classroom experience.

My first interaction with online digital learning was around 15 years ago in the professional space when a member of my team excitedly showed me Lynda.com, now of course Linked In Learning. Lynda was the gateway to the world of online learning for me – many of the experiments and projects we were attempting to do at that time as an early digital publishing team, were beyond our combined knowledge and capability, and being on tight budgets invariably we would learn software packages or web design techniques via the easy-to-use searchable interface that Lynda provided. I didn’t look back.

Since then, there has been a massive increase in the amount of both office and classroom hardware and software being produced and sold all around the world along with all manner of different attendant courses on how to make everything work.  

In the classroom, the ubiquitous classroom whiteboard is supplemented with voting pads, laptops, iPads, and a whole host of other technology hardware and software products and services. As this has grown, the amount of video content has grown targeting teachers and giving them tips on how to use it.

This year the COVID crisis has highlighted both the need for increased interaction with online resources in any form of education for both teachers and learners.  Our own recently launched TOM – Teaching Online Masterclass is a free online professional development resource for teachers making the leap into remote teaching and learning. Teachers, who hold a crucial role within the education eco-system, are being rapidly upskilled in the methodology of teaching both in the classroom and online using a blend of different learning experiences. This is key to creating the community they create in the classroom, in the online space – a definite challenge. If they don’t, they risk being left out in the rain. Their pupils will become alienated and the process will become soggy and tired.

We have learned from my son’s school that at the flick of a switch, his year one teacher can take the classroom experience and re-create it online with individual 1:1 teacher Zoom time factored in for each and every child online too.  We now have a timetable for home-learning should the school be closed, and if it’s needed will give him 1:1 teacher Zoom time every two days – something which in its own right is no mean feat. 

Teaching and learning are going through an enforced change right now.  With little or no notice, thousands of schools up and down the country are having to adapt and change to home-schooling supported by the teacher online.  Whilst the last lockdown was pretty much a write-off educationally from the perspective of every fellow parent that I’ve spoken to, there seems to have been a huge technology uptick in our local school since. Systems have been geared up to make sure that everything can be run as if it were in the school, and a questionnaire sent before the term even started has made sure that every child has access to the technology needed in a home-schooling environment, if just via a smartphone.  

We are hoping that school stays open, but if not, then this time round, teachers and their pupils have better support.  Let us hope it will be a more fun and educational time.

Animate drawing of Motion Graphics Designer Conor McKelvey. Employee Spotlight text included

Employee Spotlight: Conor McKelvey, Motion Graphics Designer

In this month’s employee spotlight, we chatted to one of our Motion Graphics Designer Conor McKelvey. Conor has been working at Makematic for nearly 3 years! We chatted with him to find out more about his role in the company.

How did you get your job at Makematic?

I first started working with Makematic as a freelancer. I had just finished my BA (Hons) in Visual Communication and was looking for work, which was unfortunately scarce in Donegal. However, Dan, the lead animator here (who I knew prior) let me onto some freelance illustration work for BBC Bitesize. After finishing that, I was then brought back to do some animation work for their Minecraft series. Eventually, a full-time job offer opened up and I got it.

On a day to day basis, what are your responsibilities and priorities?

My day-to-day usually involves either developing ideas, illustrating, or animating. While I’m doing these I also have to keep an eye on my time management to ensure that my end of the projects is delivered on time.

How do motion graphic designers collaborate with other teams within the company? 

Most of our content has some kind of motion graphics or animation in it, so collaboration comes with the territory. Motion designers often collaborate with producers to help develop concepts, then realise those concepts for projects. However, other things can pop up such as helping to create content for marketing. 

Are you working on any big projects?

At the minute I’m working on Macmillan (publishing) and getting assets together for a new project called Beehive by Oxford University Press.

What’s an important lesson you’ve learned while working at Makematic?

No matter how good you think something is, there will always be changes!


Conor’s talent for animation is not only shown in our videos at Makematic, but you can also watch it on BBC iPlayer! He was recently commissioned for the BBC Two Minute Masterpiece for his short film “The Draught”. Watch it here

Conor has worked on our Skillsumo series, Think Like A Global Citizen series and many more! You can find this by visiting our VOD site.

Make sure to check out our other Employee Spotlight blog with Assistant Producer, Ryan Lee! Read it here

Animation of children in the classroom with devices

EdTech News – September

For many of us, September means the start of the new school year. This year, there’s a lot of uncertainty and changes to the usual set-up. Some students aren’t going back at all, some will have a hybrid model and others will sit in a classroom that looks and feels very different from before. Over these last six months, a lot has been written about the effect of COVID on Education and a lot more research will need to be done to assess the full effects. However, we do already know that some changes will be here to stay. Some people even say that the new desk set-up in the primary school classrooms, with all pupils facing the same direction towards the teacher, will increase attainment. 

This article gives you some more insight into what the future of the classroom may look like. Hologram teachers are only just the start. 

Two contrasting scenarios are offered here about EdTech and content consumption. First of all, a report by Credit Suisse, which claims that education is having its own Netflix moment. Secondly, how EdTech companies in South East Asia are partnering up with Telecoms providers. 

This article explains that where internet access is scarce, students, teachers and parents are turning to ‘old-fashioned’ television for their lessons. It is lacking the interactive element, but in countries like Brazil, this has become the dominant model over the last couple of months. It certainly is better than nothing and it looks like some countries are going to invest more in their televised educational system. 

At Makematic we continue the roll-out of Untold History stories during September, and this article offers some food for thought around history textbooks and the way that history is taught. 

What do you think, are we teaching our children enough critical thinking skills? 

Illustration of earth surrounded by different people with different occupations

EdTech News – August

August is for many students, educators and parents ‘Back to school’ month, but for many this year that isn’t the case because of Covid-19. I found some interesting articles on both sides of the debate on whether schools should re-open or not. 

One teacher from Cambridge, Massachusetts in the US makes the case against re-opening schools. The author believes that a physical classroom operating under the new social distance guidelines will be “less effective and less traumatic than the inadequate and painful remote learning experience”. 

Of course, the rules, regulations and circumstances for countries let alone individuals vary a lot. The Economist argues that the benefits of actually reopening schools far outweigh the costs and that countries who didn’t reopen their schools a few months ago should look at those that did.

Finally, a report from Credit Suisse on how the adoption and usage of EdTech has swelled during the Covid-19 crisis, fast-tracking the digitalisation of education by 5-10 years. 

This crisis has changed so many things and the way adults and children learn is just one of them. 

What Will Your History Reveal For You?

We are currently entering a difficult time for the education sector because of the Covid-19 crisis.  I hear that universities in some countries are going to find as many as 90% of students deferring entry for a year, many of whom are overseas students and for whom therefore travel is almost impossible.

In our work at Makematic, we are involved in projects which bring a spotlight to historical figures and events which history has forgotten.   This is particularly relevant right now in terms of some of the issues that are being highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement.

As a father of two boys who at 2 and 5 are members of the post-millennial generation, I see lots of differences between them and me. I love being a dad, and one of the things I find the most intriguing is the way that both boys consume content in a totally different way to me.  Call me a dinosaur, but it has only really been in the last year or so that I have become a daily Youtube user after my eldest introduced me to the wonders within.   I had seen it before as a place where people who had ego issues put videos of themselves doing zany things alongside adverts for brands that I had already seen.  How wrong I was and corrected I stand…Youtube is today an essential part of my everyday consumption of media alongside all the other user suspects- social networks, online news sites, streaming 24/7 hour news broadcasts, Netflix…oh, I forgot…and live tv.  

In the case of my two sons, Youtube has been a lifesaver over the past few months of home-schooling, supplementing (for that read ‘largely replacing’!) work set by school with action and fact-packed 2-8 minute shorts designed exactly to catch the short attention span of an under-10 and hold it until the job has been done.  

Particular favourites in our household include Horrible Histories (the title says it all),  Homeschool Pop (a channel packed with lots of short videos on different aspects of history and lots of other things) and Freeschool (short videos on subjects ranging from the top 10 fastest runners in the animal kingdom to the planets of our solar system and everything in between).

I have presented at conferences as well as written before that it is crucially important in the networked economy to target customers using a language, style and media output which your audience are going to identify with and understand. This is exactly what the channels targeting my sons are doing and from this connection with their audiences, huge international brands such as Blippi are appearing.  And at the moment, more than ever, millions of millennials and post-millennials are the leading voices for change across the world, examining the history that they’ve been taught more closely and deciding that it’s time to change it and create a more transparent truth of their own. That change is being led both in the home with the click of a mouse, as well as in the street.  

GlobalWebIndex identified as far back as 2017 that amongst 16-64-year olds, 92% watch video clips regularly online and in the case of live tv, this was largely becoming redundant in the majority of peoples’ lives.  According to Deloitte, binge-watching of online content is favourite amongst millennials whilst if it is post-millennials who are the primary concern, then the continuous connection to video content services are a must.  Coincidentally, (?) the actor who plays Blippi made $7 million dollars last year.

Because of the pandemic, we are witnessing a forced and faster drive to greater dependence on online content and services.  Video, which has historically been prevalent since the early days of VHS, has now become a key and central part of everyone’s lives and the length of time that a human being has to consume each ‘morsel’ of content has become considerably smaller.

History usually does repeat itself, and, dependent on which philosophy you follow, cycles usually speed up and shorten.  When looking back at this period, a time when many things changed, what will your history reveal for you?

Digital Divide of two individuals

EdTech News – June

I’ve decided to continue this monthly EdTech news blog on a now-familiar theme; the impact of Covid-19 on EdTech and the future of learning. Virtual graduation ceremonies have started to take place, signalling the official end of students’ education. For Gen Z the future is, unfortunately, not looking so bright with youth unemployment soaring and the job’s market looking very different than before. These young people are being urged to make the most of the digital learning economy, skill up and look into which jobs won’t be automated. 

Now that so much of our learning takes place online, it’s more important than ever before that we prepare students to meet their needs, challenges and opportunities. We need to bridge the 21st learning divide.

What good is online teaching though, if you don’t have access to a digital device? If unequal access to technology remains unaddressed, the global impact on student learning will be devastating. This article covers some of the lessons China has learned on how to bridge the digital divide. And from a different angle by the founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani.

And finally, I wanted to leave you with this article on the use of technology by schools, which also touches on the digital divide.

Technology isn’t a silver bullet, but it can be a great support when used effectively and if it can be enjoyed by all.

Working from home space

We’re Working From Home: Makematic Behind-The-Scenes Episode 5

You might have already seen a working from home vlog, but here’s another one. 

Working from home is something that the team of Makematic is fortunate enough to do. We have been collaborating and communicating with each other and our clients and partners for the past four months now. During these four months, we’ve acquired some tips/hacks/insights that may be useful to you – whether that’s how to make a laptop stand out of books or simply just giving you some office design inspiration.

In this episode, I reached out to the team and asked if they have any insights, hacks or tips about working from home and to send me their office space, mainly because I need some office space inspiration and designing a Pinterest inspired office was not in my budget. Safe to say, I got a few responses from the team.

I won’t spoil it all for you, but the episode includes a couple of dog pictures, a lot of tips and some major home office inspiration. One of the tips that I found ingenious was from Claire, who is one of our motion designers, and she said that she likes to play Spanish music and thus making her feel as though she was in Lanzarote. Brilliant. Alexa…play Greek music. Can you tell where I was meant to be this July? 

My personal tip was to leave a sign on the door – preferably ones that state to not enter the room, to prevent anyone, from entering. It’s definitely foolproof if you’re living with more than one person in your house. 

Below are some home office spaces that you could definitely take inspiration from. For me, I’m definitely going to be adding a plant somewhere in the office area, get myself a notebook and look at dog pictures on Instagram, because it will be the closest thing I’ll get to having a dog – for now, #GetGiannaADog

Do you have any working from home tips or hacks?

Watch episode 5 here!

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