Image from US history

Case Study: Teaching U.S. History Through Media, Design & Art

Did you know that in 2014, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) conducted a survey on history and civics education? They found that 18% of 8th graders were proficient in US History. Pretty disappointing statistic right?

Here’s what one teacher is doing to change that.

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How to Create Instructional Videos Like a Pro

Creating instructional videos has never been easier. But how can you make it so that it is fit for purpose?

Anyone can be a producer, and our very own Director of Production, Brian Shaw will explain how ANYONE can create instructional videos that will engage your audience.Read More

image of woman putting her phone down on a bench

Try Putting Down Your Device For A Day

In 1946 Edgar Dale who was an American educator, developed the Cone of Experience also known as the Learning Pyramid. It has become a staple of the education sector.  It examines how learners retain knowledge after interaction with different types of media.Read More

Image of woman sitting with her phone out with the text on the right hand side saying Learning on Tiktok

Learning on TikTok: Makematic Behind-The-Scenes Vlog

In this vlog, we’re learning about TikTok. We know the platform; some love it, some hate it, and some refused to download the platform at the start of lockdown last year because it was a platform “for kids”. Guilty. But now, I love the platform and learn so much from it.Read More

Image of person taking notes and fact checking

Factual Accuracy in Videos: What We Do

At Makematic, we always strive to create engaging, fun, educational content, but we also wish to educate and inform the viewer. Ultimately, it’s all about finding the right balance, and for our factual productions, this means we need to make sure everything said and shown on-screen is correct. Here are some ways we ensure our videos are factually accurate.Read More

Image of vertical video capturing an individual saving a cat

Making The Case For Video

We know that video is a tried and tested educational tool. In fact, up to 90% of educators are using video content as part of their teaching repertoire. (Alison, 2015; boclips, 2018; Kaltura, 2018)

But have you ever wondered if you should actually be using video in your classes? And do you know what to look for when choosing them?

The next two videos will answer those questions.

But wait there’s more?

The next blog in this series delves into what you need to know about creating instructional videos. We’ll give you tips and tricks to create videos that motivate, engage, and most importantly aid retention and learning.

Image of online classes

EdTech News – March 2021

Zooms this week have often included the words ‘there’s light at the end of the tunnel’ and it is starting to feel like that with schools re-opening in the UK and more and more people getting the vaccine. I’m also aware that in the rest of Europe it may not feel like that at all yet with cases on the rise and new lockdowns being announced. I really wish I didn’t have to write about developments in Education in light of Covid-19, but here we are for another month.

I agree with Peter Hyman, the author of this article that we can’t call children at school a ‘lost generation’. Rather, we need to reimagine school as otherwise they will be lost. Social-emotional learning and rethinking assessments will be key in this. In a similar vein, The Brookings Institute has written a report on how the educational inequalities due to Covid can be remedied and it calls for a partnership between schools and the local community. 

During this period of lockdown and homeschooling, many children will have enjoyed a lot more screen time and some parents will undoubtedly be worried about this. It’s a subject I’ve written about before. At Makematic, some non-producers created a video, which educates parents about (online) games. Have a look below.

Last week was also the first time I ‘attended’ SxSWEdu. It was cancelled last year the night before my flight to Austin. There were some interesting sessions, but nothing like the actual event of course. One was on esports and its continuous (educational) appeal to tweens and teens particularly. This article explains how esports can help support and structure this age group around online safety, collaboration, communication and positive behaviour. 

Telling Women’s Stories

We need to tell more women’s stories. They do after all make up more than 50% of the world’s population! Why are so many of their stories untold? We know that their experience has been left out of history books in a big part because of illiteracy. Literacy has an empowering effect on women. And we can see through history examples when literate women have told their stories and the stories of others.

But how far have we actually come?

We have come a long way. But there is still a long way to go. Did you know that women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people? That seems unbelievable in 2021, but it’s true. Now that International Woman’s Day has passed for another year, let’s pause to reflect on the leaps that have been made, and those we still need to make.

Inspirational Stories

We’ve been sharing stories of inspirational and trailblazing women and minority groups in our series Untold. In fact, we’ve created a playlist to help you discover these stories for yourself. But, here’s a sneak peek of some of the incredible stories, you’ve probably never heard.

Marie Van Brittain Brown: Creating CCTV in Queens

Spare a thought for the burglars of America – they’re going out of business! Since 1993, property crime in the US has fallen by 69%. Thanks to the pioneering work of one woman: Marie Van Brittan Brown – visionary inventor of the Home Security System.

Mary Anderson: The Inventor of the Windshield Wiper

The first mass-produced car in America was basically a lawnmower with leather trim, but it was a start, right? This is the story of Mary Anderson and the Windshield Wiper – an invention that happened by a stroke of fate!

Zitkala-Ša: Advocate for the Rights of Native People

At the turn of the 20th century, the US government forced Native Americans to assimilate into Anglo-American culture. But Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, aka Zitkala-Sa, an activist, author, and educator, fought against the Americanization of Native nations.

Barbara Jordan: The Black Texan Politician who Broke the Glass Ceiling

At a time when women and people of colour were all but excluded from the US government, one woman stormed the corridors of power and made them her own. This is the story of Barbara Jordan, the African American from the South who defied expectations by being selected to serve in Congress and who became one of the finest legislators in US history.

Hot off the Press

Mary Carson Breckenridge: Mother of American Midwifery

More women have been lost in childbirth than men in war? Maternity is the young woman’s battlefield,” wrote Mary Breckenridge in 1927. “It is more dangerous, more painful, more mutilating than war, and as inexorable as all the laws of God.” Born in 1881, Mary Carson Breckenridge changed the face of US midwifery.

To celebrate the release of our newest Hidden Figure, we’ve included the video below and a set of activities that can help educators discover the story of Mary Breckenridge.

Gain while you game behind the scenes text featuring two women

Gain While You Game: Makematic Behind The Scenes Vlog

In this vlog, I’m taking you behind-the-scenes of our first Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) video: “Gain While you Game“.

This is not your traditional behind-the-scenes that you may have watched on YouTube. As you know, Makematic has been operating remotely from home for almost 12 months now. We have managed to shoot videos in the past few weeks with TOM 2.0 currently in the works, with social-distancing and cleanliness in mind. However, the majority of our current projects are animations or self-recording. With the current lockdown in place in N.I. until April we don’t think it will change anytime soon.

This CSR video was no different. I brought back Tasha, who was the Producer for this CSR video, and we discussed her experience producing a video online. We talked about the pros and cons of online production, what she thought of the final outcome of the video and of course, we couldn’t do a gaming video without talking briefly about games. If you didn’t buy a Nintendo Switch at the beginning of lockdown last year and played Animal Crossing for 6 months – did you really go through lockdown?

As mentioned in the vlog, there was a team of six who created this video. We communicated and collaborated all online. Emails and Zoom calls are the norm here at Makematic, so it was easy to talk to the team. We researched the key points that needed to go into the video, created a mood board for the look and feel of the video, and came up with a storyboard to support our ideas.

We made conscious decisions throughout the whole video. One of the most important decisions that we made was to cast two girls in the video. We know that a lot of people perceive gaming as a male-dominated field, so we cast two girls to reject this perception. It’s 2021, I think it’s time that we realise that girls like to actually play games.

If you haven’t already watched the CSR video “Gain While You Game”. You can watch it here. For the behind-the-scenes vlog featuring Tasha, watch it below!

Image of two young people playing an online game

What Game Are They Playing?

If you surveyed our household today, you’d find that alongside watching short-form video content, games play an important part in my two boys’ education.  There is nothing different from any other 21st-century household there!  I often think that if only all the curriculum learning for my 6-year-old could be delivered as one long adventure game with embedded video, how quickly the arguments would disappear!  Imagine how more exciting Pythagoras Theorem would become if whilst being chased by a gang of baddies, in order to cross a canyon and avoiding certain death on the rocks below, a bridge must be built, after learning the Theorem through a series of short films or images or text or just about anything depending on the choice made by the student.  It would little matter whether the area of the square whose side is the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares on the other two sides. It would be taught in a flexible and individually focused way.

During home-schooling after each “learning experience” of Twinkl “fill-in-the-box” worksheets, my son becomes fidgety and distracted and when his break comes, after an obligatory run around the garden, he often then turns to Youtube Kids and games on his iPad.  In lockdown, we’ve seen that his online gaming friends (we strictly monitor his online play), and the YouTubers who talk about and show tips on his favourites (Minecraft, Roblox and Among Us), have become an important “community replacement” for his usual physical classroom friends.

When learning, he particularly enjoys maths and science but drags his feet when it comes to literacy, reading and writing.  The game Among Us instantly changed all that.  Because he needed to be able to quickly read and respond to what others were putting in their chat boxes, (the aim of the game being to find the baddie “among us”), our home-schooling and online literacy, reading and writing lessons suddenly became a breeze.

Many of my own school memories revolve around lunchtimes in our “computer lab” playing a bad rendition of Galaxian on one of the three 1k memory (with 16k RAM!) ZX81’s that the school owned.  Later these were upgraded to 16K ZX Spectrum’s with classics such as Horace Goes Skiing.  In my mid-teens, my dad was given an Acorn Electron BBC Micro Model B (a big mouthful for a small micro-computer) to help him with his work.  It totally baffled him, so I dived in headfirst and immersed myself in classics such as Chuckie Egg and Snapper.   In addition to becoming a very proficient gamer, it improved my reflexes – this showed in physical sports.   It improved my ability to concentrate on one repetitive and ever faster task (Pac Man) for long periods.  Gaming also improved my memory because many of the early platform adventure games were labyrinthine (Monty Mole).  From a social perspective, I had to interact positively with my friends – there were never less than 4 or 5 of us huddled around a monitor so I learned to wait for my turn!  80s and 90s gaming appealed to my competitive nature because unlike now, where collaboration is an important feature of a lot of games, ours were all about being the best and getting the highest score.

Last month I wrote about Michael Rosen and how in an article in The Guardian, he expressed his bewilderment at an 8-year-old needing to know what a fronted adverbial is.  Simon Jenkins last week took it a step further.  He used to work at London’s Institute for Education, so he is qualified when he says that “English education is a citadel of blind reaction” where “the academic bias of the curriculum, prejudice against vocational study, the priority given to favoured subjects, school timetabling and the dominance of testing are passed down…. like the Ten Commandments”.  The system is inflexible, cast in stone and cannot be changed. Yet senior teaching leaders are pleading for SATs, GCSEs and A levels to be abolished and the UK education system is suffering through a lack of vocational education and a method which can’t measure for example creativity, music, sport and the arts.

I’ve written before about VARK Modalities, (Visual, Aural, Read/Write, and Kinaesthetic sensory modalities that are used for learning information.) Fleming and Mills (1992) suggested that there were four learning modalities and that by appealing to particular learning modalities with certain students, there are improvements in overall learning attainment.  What I think Simon Jenkins in his article has really touched upon is that the current system of education in England is completely ignorant to the fact that children have complex and individual learning needs. All human beings are different and react differently to different mixes of learning media and external stimulus.  Just because a few kids like filling in Twinkl worksheets, it doesn’t mean that they all do or indeed all should do.

I have yet to see the effect the current UK education establishment will have on my youngest who is only 3 although I dread to think.  What I do know is that we have given him access to a wide range of digital touchpoints from the moment he was aware of them.  With no formal teaching, just parental encouragement, educational apps and of course Youtube Kids, he can count and recognise numbers to 20, as well as all the letters of the alphabet.  He has started recognising and reading smaller words, and all of this has been done without any contact with a formal education method.  Just an iPad and a couple of subscriptions and two overseeing parents.  

My eldest who is in year one at primary school, lockdown aside, is already challenged by the way in which he must learn.  For the child who is a digital native, filling in worksheets is not the most thrilling of tasks.  Watching Bear GryllsYou V The Wild on Netflix and being able to choose the choices that Bear makes on a wilderness adventure (even if it means making him ill by instructing him to eat bear poo), is the level at which the bar has been set.  Being able to hunt through the maze within Among Us and then collaborate (under adult supervision) with his online “friends” to work out who is the baddie among them is where it’s at.  Creating a world of his own in Minecraft (he wants to be an architect) is what it’s all about. When he needs to know how to add up, or subtract, or multiply, he needs to check a fact or find a story or have a basic grammar lesson then there’s always Youtube Kids, with literally thousands of videos in short-sharp segments on whatever he needs to know.  These are precise and perfect for his developing post-millennial brain to digest. When he wants the answer to any question, just like you or I, he talks to Google.

With March 8th set as the mass-return to school, once again my son and his classmates will have to switch-off and power down in the classroom.  Once again, they will make the trek to that hallowed place of 36 chairs and desks, all facing the front, where the outside world will be shut out and forgotten.  A path of learning well-trodden by you and I and our parents and grandparents will be the order of the day.

The world is an ever-changing and evolving place.  It seems though it is as if we’re stuck in a time warp when it comes to ensuring that what and how we’re teaching our kids is relevant to the lives that they’re going experience which will be vastly different to our own. If the Wright brothers were taken to a modern airport and shown the latest Airbus jet, whilst they’d probably recognise it straight off for what it is, they would be astonished and would marvel at how much things had changed.  If Thomas Edison were shown the latest laser light-show, whilst understanding that it was several massive steps from his incandescent electric light, he would realise that the technology was entirely different.

Upon entering a typical 21st-century classroom, I wonder if James Pillans would feel the same?

Illustration of video game consoles and text stating how we made a 60-second gaming video

How We Made A 60-Second Gaming Video

During my placement with Makematic, I was tasked to produce a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) video on the benefits of gaming and the life skills it provides. After the initial planning, when I was faced with the task of editing a minute-long video I didn’t think much of it. However as the team and I planned the video’s content I started to get worried. The thought of trying to fit so much information about the benefits of gaming and the life skills it provides into 60-seconds was quite daunting.

Personally, I love long-form content. I’m the person who will almost never watch YouTube videos that are under 15 minutes and prefers hour-long content that I can have on in the background. And while I have made short-form content before in school and university, 60-seconds was definitely pushing what I was familiar with. 

However, once we had refined our script as much as possible and I started editing, I realised that it wasn’t as difficult as I was psyching myself up to believe it was because we had done the hard part while we were scripting. And as I watched the footage back I realised just how useful short-form content can be. The restrictions of only having 60-seconds to include as much information as you can while not bombarding a viewer with too much to take in means that you end up refining your points down to the bare minimum, and most interesting information possible. And this – if done right – inevitably makes for better content because it’s all of the best bits.

Our topic being gaming meant that I could use transitions and music to play into that aspect. The team and I knew that we wanted to start off with an old-school PSA style video in black and white, somewhat mocking the “serious” tone, but I wasn’t sure how to then transition into the rest of the video which would be in colour without it being a typical crossfade which wouldn’t work. After discussing it with Ryan, one of the producers, I realised that feeding into the gaming nature of the video would help in this case and so I tried out a bunch of different glitch effects to transition the clips. I think it has worked really well, not only practically, but stylistically as well I feel like it compliments the video contents really well. 

Massive thank you to young people involved in the video: Niamh Brooking, Justin Pornasdoro and Chloe Shaw!

If you haven’t yet, check out our CSR video on the benefits of gaming.

Black Inventor Garrett Morgan, Someone You’ve Probably Never Heard Of…

Have you heard of Black inventor Garrett Morgan?

Garrett Morgan was born in 1877, in the years following the Civil War and the end of slavery. The son of an enslaved person, he was a community leader, entrepreneur, and inventor from Kentucky.

If you haven’t heard of him, that’s not surprising. His inventions at the time were often ‘untrusted’ because he was Black. The story of Garrett Morgan should be told. So, we created a video about Garrett Morgan with the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC). In fact, we’ve created a series of videos to tell stories about people, objects, and events from Kentucky, mostly eastern Kentucky that had a wider impact on American history.

The series consists of 10 videos that explore key events in American history such as the bloody Harlan coal strikes, the civil war battle of Middle Creek, the story of abolitionist John Brown’s pike. Since it’s Black history month, we’re releasing not only the Garrett Morgan video but a series of activities that educators can use to help them explore the story of Garrett Morgan with their class.

And there’s more…

We’ve also created a Black history month playlist on YouTube. There you’ll find bite-sized videos and animations on Black stories. Stories include the Raised Fist Afro Comb, The Significance of 1619, and the birth of Street Art. Take a look and let us know what you think.

Finally, is there a story about Black history that you think we should be told? You can share your idea here. Make sure you include your contact details because if it’s chosen to be included in a future series of Untold, we’ll want to get in touch.

This set of activities will help educators explore the themes in the video on Garrett Morgan fully. To download the full resource by click on the image above.
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