Unlocking the Impact of EdTech – EdTech News September 2021

The school year is back in full swing for many children, but unfortunately, on a global scale, there are still way too many kids who are missing out on any kind of education.Read More

reflective practice illustration of desktop computer

Reflective Practice in Online Learning

Did you know that reflective practice or metacognition has shown promise for improving learning in online learning outcomes? The good news is, however, is that it’s a teachable skill (e.g., Moely et al., 1995; Schraw, 1998).Read More

Cultural Awareness

6 Ideas To Raise Intercultural Awareness With Your Students/Children

Do you have a diverse mix of cultures in your classroom? Do you think they have a strong understanding of their own culture and those of their peers? How do they communicate across these cultures and overcome differences? Many people tend to think that “kids will be kids”. They will find a way to communicate. Though, quite often, they are under equipped and lack support to try and understand cultural differences.

As part of my 21st Century Skills blog series, we will explore six practical ideas on raising your students’ cultural awareness.Read More

Is your child at the centre of their education text with illustration of young girl sitting in front of a computer

Is Your Child At The Centre Of Their Education? – Part One

We are living through a period where child-centred education has become more important than ever before. Read More

Image showing a young student learning and engaging in online classes

How To Increase Student Learning & Engagement When Learning Goes Online

Motivating and engaging learners can be challenging in any learning environment. But understanding self-determination theory will give you a structure for helping you do this. Self Determination Theory represents a broad framework for the study of human motivation. It suggests that when people are motivated to grow and change, they become self-determined.Read More

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 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.

Teaching Online Masterclass logo with logos from Adobe, ClickView, iCivics, Makematic and Participate

Launch Of Professional Development Videos To Help Educators Adapt To Online Teaching

We’re pleased to announce that Teaching Online Masterclass (TOM) a free course for educators to help adapt to online teaching is now available to view at tom.makematic.com

TOM is a free online professional development resource for teachers making the leap into remote teaching and learning. With a focus on pedagogy over technology, it’s a catalogue of bite-sized videos produced in partnership with Adobe, ClickView, iCivics and Participate. TOM contains 50+ professional development videos from K-12 online teaching experts about online pedagogy, designing online classes and curriculum, building communities of practice and digital well-being.

“TOM is a series that has been created with K-12 educators in mind. It focuses on online pedagogy over technology and really takes into account what the research tells us works in this space. The contributors were carefully chosen because of their expertise in the K-12 education space, as practitioners or professionals who really know what it takes to be a super online educator. More than ever educators are crying out for resources such as this, and that’s why it’s such an exciting project to be involved in.” Tara Walsh, Makematic’s Director of Engagement and Innovation, said.

“We work with tens of thousands of incredible teachers who are facing so much uncertainty in their work. That makes it extra important for one thing to remain certain – that teachers are talented professionals who know what effective instruction looks like. With the right guidance, there’s no reason they can’t transfer that effective instruction to online spaces. TOM is that guidance. It meets teachers where they are and provides targeted and convenient coaching to elevate their online practice.” said iCivics’ Chief Education Officer, Emma Humphries.

TOM is now available to watch for free at tom.makematic.com.

TOM is also available at Adobe Education Exchange. Sign up to earn an Adobe digital badge and 4 hours of accredited professional learning.

Educator Insights Blog Series

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

We want to change that!

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

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

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

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

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

Why Aren’t We Teaching Entrepreneurial Skills At School?

I could never have become an entrepreneur. I’ve never had the interest nor motivation. That said, I wonder if I’d been introduced to entrepreneurship in my youth would things have been different? More than ever though, young people of today need to have not just an entrepreneurial mindset but critically the confidence, to create their own paths.

The world they’re growing up in is vastly different from the one I grew up in. There aren’t jobs for life. According to one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in a job that doesn’t even exist. If young people are to succeed, they’ll need to have an entrepreneurial spirit as well as the ability to deliver on it.

The Entrepreneurial Generation

Post-millennials, young people born after 1995, are set to be an entrepreneurial generation. According to a recent Nielsen study, about 54% of post-millennials indicated they wanted to start their own company. What is driving this? For a generation who has grown up in uncertain times and a financial crisis, it’s unsurprising. It’s a pragmatic approach to security and a way of recession proofing their jobs.

Orientated towards salary and security, post-millennials seem hungry for money. They have high regard for money earners and are drawn to YouTubers and Instagram creators who are paid and sponsored. Many even have a business centred Instagram accounts. Pretty cool huh?

It’s Time For A Mindset Shift

So why aren’t we teaching entrepreneurial skills at school? For me, it comes back to how we view education, and how we measure success. Much of the focus in schools is now on league tables, which are made up of exam results to the detriment of broader skill sets. Inquiry-based approaches, developing resilience and key entrepreneurial or employability skills are deemed important, but not essential. This is despite the fact that employers are seeing these skills as increasingly more desirable than technical skills, and more people are choosing to be entrepreneurs.

Teachers understand that students need to be innovative and enterprising, but often feel that they are constrained by the demands of their already overflowing curriculum. That’s where working with industry and local entrepreneurs, and the explicit teaching of entrepreneurial or employability skills comes in.

Industry Engagement And Explicit Teaching

Industry and local entrepreneurs provide the context and experience, and the explicit teaching of skills lay the foundation. The explicit teaching of skills need not be an onerous task and has cross-curricular applications. Resources like our series the 4Cs can help educators teach key entrepreneurial or employability skills to their students. Providing young people active learning opportunities at school and in their local communities will further help them develop these skills. This is a generation of social entrepreneurs, after all, so let’s use what we know about them, and the things they care about to make their learning experiences meaningful.

Right across the world more and more young people are standing up and challenging the status quo. Handfuls of teenagers are coming together and starting a movement to tackle things like political uncertainty, climate change, gun laws and equality. We need to foster this spirit in all our young people and encourage them to get involved and take the opportunities available to them. Getting students to engage and act should be our war cry. It all starts with knowing they have the ability to make a change, encouraging their entrepreneurial spirit and giving them the confidence to take action.

Why Teacher Professional Development?

Since the start of the year, we’ve been working busily in the background on one big problem – how can we make professional learning for teachers more effective? And specifically, how can we help teachers learn tech?
In the coming weeks we’ll be unveiling some of our work on a solution – bitesized professional learning videos for teachers – ahead of formally launching our new subscription platform on October 1st.
For now I thought we’d kickstart the conversation with a look at the challenge itself.

Background: Things Aren’t Working

Back in 2015, the Gate’s Foundation published a report called “Teacher’s Know Best”. It’s definitely worth a read as a primer on the current state of play in teacher PD. From that report, a few things stand out about where we are right now.
First, teacher professional development in the US costs $18B a year. Yes, $18 billion. That’s more than $4,500 for every one of 4M+ teachers.
Second, teachers don’t think it’s working. Just 29 percent are “highly satisfied” with current professional development offerings and only 34 percent think professional development has improved.
And finally, the kicker when it comes to technology in particular:

Large majorities of teachers do not believe that professional development is helping them prepare for the changing nature of their jobs, including using technology and digital learning tools, analyzing student data to differentiate instruction …

In short, professional development is expensive, isn’t serving teachers and isn’t keeping pace with the changing job spec.
There are, of course, plenty of exceptions and examples of schools and 3rd party providers getting this very right. But for the vast majority of teachers in this survey at least, things are very wrong.

But This is Important

It’s not just education that has a professional development challenge. I’d wager that many professionals in law, finance, manufacturing, retail, government and pretty much every other sector might say similar things about poor access to training, particularly in tech.
But education is different.
Educators help prepare our young people for the future; and about the only thing we can say with certainty about that future is that it will increasingly be dominated by technology.
If teachers don’t feel confident using the technology that we have today, how can they adequately prepare our kids for tomorrow’s tech-driven future?
This is an issue for the education system, yes. But it’s also a pretty big deal for industry (who might want to employ those kids), parents (who want their kids to succeed), teachers (who are under increasing pressure to use new technologies) and, of course, the kids themselves.
And it’s not only a problem in the US. Are things really any better in the UK? Asia? South America? India? Africa?

What’s the Problem?

We think there are a few, intertwined, issues that make professional learning particularly challenging:

  1. It’s Expensive – $18 billion is a lot of money. A good chunk of the cost can be attributed to the way that most professional learning is delivered – in workshops, conferences and inset / in service days. Consider the staff costs of taking teachers out of class, arranging sub cover, workshop facilitators to pay for, travel to conferences etc…. And of course, training is one of the first things to get hit when budgets are tight.
  2. It’s Time Consuming – Teachers are busy. Finding time to attend training is difficult.
  3. Technology Moves Too Fast – The pace of change in technology has always outpaced the pace of change in education. This is to be expected, but we can do better.
  4. Scale – As noted above, there are great examples of teacher PD done well. But how do we scale up these solutions when we’re dealing with millions of teachers spread across countries and continents? To achieve the UN Development Goals in education, we’re going to need another 69 million teachers by 2030 – all of whom will need to be trained.

And what about equality of access? If good tech-focused CPD is something that is expensive and in limited supply, it stands to reason that schools, regions and countries with fewer resources will also be at a disadvantage when it comes to providing adequate training.

A Call to Simple Logic

None of this will be news to anyone in education. And it’s certainly not to say that there aren’t super smart people and organisations tackling this problem head on.
But for all the great work being done to emphasise technology skills for our students; we need to start taking teacher professional learning equally as seriously. 
MakeMatic want to have a go at helping.

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