The Power Of Storytelling

Messages delivered as stories are at least 22 times more memorable than facts. One of the reasons why storytelling is used as a tool for the transmission and sharing of knowledge, values and experiences.

Storytelling is exploited by educators to attract interest and to assist understanding. It is used to socialise, communicate, improve literacy and comprehension, help students remember, increase empathy and encourage cooperation. In fact, it can be combined with every kind of learning and teaching.

Why Storytelling Is So Powerful

Evolution has hardwired our brains for storytelling. That’s because our brains become more active when we tell stories rather than if we hear facts. Our whole brain is put to work.

Stories have so much impact because we don’t just hear them, we experience them. Some really interesting MRI research has even demonstrated that our senses can react to stimuli in the form of a story. It showed that when a story is being told, the areas that light up in the listener and the teller’s brain is the same. Pretty cool huh?

But it doesn’t end there. Storytelling

Helps us remember. The brain releases dopamine into our system when it experiences an emotionally charged event, making it easier to remember.

Increases Empathy. Stories stimulate the parts of the brain that helps us intuit others’ thoughts and emotions.

Encourages Cooperation. Our brain produces oxytocin after listening to a character-driven story. Oxytocin has been shown to help motivate us toward cooperation.

Digital Storytelling In Every Classroom

Digital storytelling is the modern version of the traditional art of oral storytelling. We see examples of digital storytelling everywhere – advertising, social media, television and movies. And it can be leveraged by all educators to help students learn, be engaged and motivated.

With Unity Technologies we have created a series of resources to help educators across all curriculum areas use and create digital stories in their classes.

Four animated explainer videos explain what digital storytelling is, why storytelling is so powerful, the pedagogical reasons to use stories in the classroom and how to develop 21st-century skills through storytelling.

Eight videos describing the digital storytelling process itself. These videos are practical videos that not only explain in detail the different stages of the digital storytelling process but provide real examples of activities to do in the classroom.

A set of teacher showcase videos. Real educators talk about how they have created elements of digital stories with their classes.

Finally, a set of Careers at Unity videos to give young real insight into the types of careers you can pursue in the games industry.

View the entire collection here.

Edtech News – November

At Makematic, we don’t just create great content for pupils, but we also produce exceptional curriculum enhancing videos aimed at teachers and parents to help them develop 21st-century global citizens.

The 4Cs of Lifelong Technology

We recently launched a new series called the 4Cs. The 4Cs of Lifelong Technology is an interesting article that explains exactly what the 4Cs mean for education and how they can be developed using technology.

Let’s Stop Talking About Soft Skills: They’re Power Skills

Another topic we’re passionate about at Makematic is 21st Century Skills and the importance of them in the workplace. You can see this in our series SkillSumo. We often refer to these skills as ‘soft skills’. However, in a recent article by Josh Bersin, he argues that they really should be called ‘power skills’ not soft skills.

“Hard Skills are soft (they change all the time, are constantly being obsoleted, and are relatively easy to learn), and Soft Skills are hard (they are difficult to build, critical, and take extreme effort to obtain).”

The article highlights some great examples of companies where they’re taking these power skills very seriously. It also makes the case that everyone needs to invest in them for future success.

Career Ambitions ‘Already Limited By The Age of Seven’

This article discusses the need for young people to start thinking about their future careers as early as possible. That’s because children make assumptions about their career and career options by the age of seven. Starting conversations about careers early may change young people’s perceptions of some careers and hopefully break social, gender and racial stereotypes.

The Report: Does social media have a place in formal education?

Finally, I wanted to highlight a report about whether social media has a role to play in education.  It certainly is omnipresent these days. It plays such a valuable part in education as a supplementary tool for pupils and educators.

Enjoy reading!

Edtech News – October

As the season has definitely started to change, I wanted to take a moment in this month’s blog to take stock of where we are in the world of education and some interesting developments taking place.

OECD Today

First of all, this article gives us a short overview of some of the key findings in education in 2019 so far. It’s a synopsis of a longer report.  Some of the trends we have been seeing in other years are continuing. Notably, the number of people choosing a career in teaching continues to decline. Also, why it is that sectors such as engineering, are struggling to attract employees despite great work prospects?

Education And Work

The author of this blog argues that we need a better connection between education and work

“The remaking of existing talent will require much closer partnerships between education providers and employers, which will give rise to new models where employers become educators themselves (Amazon’s recent $700-million investment in talent development, almost entirely run by internal training in the company, is a good example). And our current education model will need to become substantially more applied and work-integrated.”

AI In Education

I wanted to end on a piece about Artificial Intelligence in Education. AI seems to have become a buzz word in almost any sector. But what does it mean for schools and learning? This piece is the very first report commissioned on the subject and has some interesting insights. 

I hope you enjoy reading these articles as much as I did. Until next month. 

Makematic Launches Video-On-Demand Platform

We’ve launched a brand new platform for our content at

It’s a shiny new home for hundreds of our short, compelling videos organised across 7 themes from global education to digital skills.

So What’s New?

Well you can browse, search, watch for free and bookmark your favourite videos to return to later or use in class.

But most importantly, Makematic is now available across web, mobile and smart TV devices through a dedicated app.

What About Students?

The videos and animations can be used in the classroom, or students (13yo+) can create their own account. This means the videos and animations can be used in blended or flipped classroom environments.

Login and see for yourself what’s it all about here.

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 to check out our videos and animations.

EdTech News Sep

EdTech News – September

The summer holidays are well and truly over in the Northern hemisphere. As everyone goes back to school, I’m reminded of that wonderful TedX talk by Sir Ken Robinson on how our education system is undermining children’s creativity.

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Robinson argues that creativity should be cultivated more in a classroom setting as children are all born with inherent creative skills.

At Makematic we champion encouraging a child’s creative thinking, as it’s very much linked to our focus on 21st Century Skills.

If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you take a look (even though the talk is more than thirteen years old, it’s still very relevant today).

‘My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status”.

Watch the full video

What Kind of Promise Does the Future Hold for Teachers?

Continuing on the same theme, this interview with Karen Cator (CEO of a US non-profit organisation), focuses on the opportunity to learn through technology and research. She talks about how to include technology in teaching and why we need to change professional development for teachers.

‘It’s not about whether or not to include technology in education; it’s about how to do so in the most engaging and inspiring ways to support the desired learning outcomes.’

Read the full article

This Is What Educators Wish Edtech Entrepreneurs Knew

Finally, many EdTech companies will start planning for 2020 and beyond in earnest this month. I’ve found a useful article for all entrepreneurs in this space. It discusses the gap between educators in the classroom and the issues EdTech companies are trying to solve.

‘I’ve spoken with hundreds of edtech entrepreneurs and have found there is some confusion when it comes to understanding what teachers do in the classroom every day’

This Forbes article by Robyn D Shulman, is the second in a short series and provides plenty of food for thought.

Reading Robyn’s article has also made me realise that at Makematic we’re fortunate to not only do a lot of user testing in schools, but we are blessed with a dedicated Education Evangelist (Tara Walsh), who comes from a teaching background. Tara’s insights are truly invaluable for us.

Read the full article

Video in Education

Video in Education

We watch videos on mobile phones, tablets, laptops and televisions.

And in the K-12 classroom, up to 82% of educators are using curriculum relevant video content as part of their teaching repertoire. But do they hinder or enhance learning?

The problem with answering this question in a K-12 context is most of the research conducted in this space has been in post-secondary school education. That doesn’t mean that the findings aren’t transferable, it’s just something that we need to bear in mind when we look at the findings.

So Is Video An Effective Educational Tool?

To date research has shown that video can enhance learning and be a highly effective educational tool. It’s been associated with an increase in student and teacher satisfaction, motivation and confidence, and in some contexts, stronger course performance and improved learning outcomes.

Here is a round up of some of the most significant findings:

  1. Problem Solving: Studies have shown that videos can facilitate thinking and problem solving. This was demonstrated via the connection made between the visual cues, the memory process and the recall of new knowledge.
  2. Mastery Learning: In some cases, video can be as good as an instructor in communicating facts or demonstrating procedures to assist mastery learning. That’s because a student can view the video as many times as they need at any time they choose.
  3. Inspiring and Engaging Students: When incorporated into student centred-learning activities, there is strong evidence that using and creating videos in the classroom can:
    • increase student motivation and satisfaction
    • enhance the learning experience
    • develop learner autonomy
    • enhance team working and communication skills
    • accommodate diverse learning styles
    • provide opportunities for staff development
  4. Authentic Learning Opportunities and Active Learning: Video has been shown to produce authentic learning opportunities for students. Moreover, although there is a belief that watching videos is a passive activity, recent studies suggest that it is in fact an active activity, one which can be a complex cognitive activity and processing.
  5. Retention and Learning: People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone That’s why applying multimedia principles to the design of classroom instruction can greatly increase student learning.
  6. Practical Demonstrations: The visual benefits of video provide a vehicle for increasing access to practical demonstrations. Students can learn from field experts having the opportunity to view close-up expert illustrations. They also have the option to view them repeatedly if necessary.

The Verdict?

It’s clear that video has a place in the education space. Although more research into its use in the K – 12 context is needed, the findings are promising.

That does, however, leave us with an unanswered question: Are all educational videos created equally?

I’ll answer that very important question in a future post.

Please note: The links to the studies that were consulted to write this article have not all been included. It you’d like a full reference list, please contact the author on [email protected]

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.

EdTech News Roundup

EdTech News – August

Welcome to the inaugural edition of my monthly EdTech News Roundup column here at the Makematic blog.

On joining the Makematic team about eight weeks ago, I re-submerged myself into the world of EdTech. In doing so, I’ve come across some interesting articles that I feel are worth sharing.

I personally love reading about how our sector is evolving. I’ll share some of what I read each month going forward.

Rethinking the teacher’s role

Ben Johnson for Edutopia discusses the need for teachers to be referred to as learning engineers as it better describes a modern teacher’s role.

Read the full article

How women created some of the world’s biggest education tech companies

The ever knowledgeable Natalie Nezhati has written a great piece for The Guardian on how and why women are taking the lead in the EdTech sector.

Read the full article

How technology can help break down barriers of accessibility in education

And finally a piece on why accessibility is about a lot more than affordability, and how EdTech can bridge the gap.

Read the full article

Whoever said education and/or technology was dull? Don’t forget to check back next month for another edition of my EdTech News Roundup.

Beatrijs Lelyveld

Beatrijs is a multi-lingual content strategist and product development professional with extensive international experience that includes leading roles at Shutterstock, ITN Source, the AP and RealNetworks.

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.

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.

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