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

Child at the centre of education?

Is Your Child At The Centre of Their Education – Part Four

My previous blogs in this series have examined the impact child-centred education has had in education since its beginning with John Dewey in the 19th Century.  Since then, it has rapidly progressed as a central pillar in any good education system.  Moves in the UK and USA in the mid-late 20th century ensured that children were treated as individuals in schools.  The introduction and then widespread adoption of educational technology in the latter 20th and early 21st century meant that child-centred education has now been fully enabled and we’ve reached a point where sophisticated AI-enabled platforms, such as Squirrel, plan learning pathways exactly suited for every student as an individual. Check out part 1, part 2, and part 3 of this series. Read More

Illustration of light bulb with magnifying glass and calm before the storm text

Calm Before The Storm – EdTech News August 2021

It feels it’s been relatively tranquil on the EdTech front this month, perhaps it’s the quiet before the storm i.e the school year starting again. It’s been predicted that the next wave in EdTech will be big. Read here how Byju’s is expanding West.Read More

Is Your Child at the Centre of Their Education? – Part Three

In previous blogs, I’ve examined the birth of student-centred education.  John Dewey the father of all freethinkers in education influenced several generations of other similarly minded educationalists such as Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and Maria Montessori. Check out the previous blogs: part 1 & part 2.Read More

Image of person learning on table/iPad

EdTech News – April 2021

During the last year, we’ve all found our own ways to adapt and this is also the case for how and where we learn. Some students have had the luxury of their own room, a desk, whereas others have had to share the kitchen table or sit on the bed. What’s the connection between student engagement and learning environments?Read More

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.

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.

Animated drawing of a video thumbnail of a woman

A Vision? Or Students Today?

The title of this blog is a play on the name very well-known video called A Vision Of Students Today.  It was produced by Professor Michael Wesch and 200 of his students at Kansas State University in 2007, and incredibly for the time, it garnered over a million views in its first month.  Professor Wesch let his students pick the subject for the video, and write the scripts and the storyboards, as well as doing all the shooting and editing.  He wanted the students to tell the world what they thought about their education. And they did!

Professor Wesch is an associate professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University.  His work is focused on media ecology and the emerging new field of digital ethnography which looks at the effect of new media on human interaction. He had noticed many changes and a ‘disconnect’ beginning to occur between his very own students and the way in which they were being taught and the learning materials with which they interacted.  Technological advancement was in full throttle with smartphones and laptops at saturation levels in terms of market penetration in the USA.  Students were suddenly able to extend choice in the way that they studied, the time at which they studied, and the type of content they engaged with most efficiently on a “need-to-know” basis, with educational attainment very much goal-driven.  

But the education system, the educators who taught, and many of the materials used to teach, remained the same.  

Professor Wesch’s theories, start with an over-arching principle that human relationships are mediated by communication.  In the same way that the printing press transformed the way we consumed information and literature 500 years ago, the networked economy has changed forever the relationship that we now have with it.

I’ve written before about the VARK Modalities, (Visual, Aural, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic sensory modalities that are used for learning information.) Fleming and Mills (1992) suggested that there were four learning modalities and that teachers by appealing to particular learning modalities with certain students, improved overall learning attainment.  And the students in Professor Michael Wesch’s video which was made way back in 2007 (making many of them now 30-something), pays homage to the natural selection that occurs when a bunch of human beings are left to study and communicate with multiple media channels at their disposal.

Fast-forwarding 13 years to 2020, without a doubt things have improved and excitingly, a student of anything at any age or level has more choice in terms of choosing study media which best suits their learning modality.  

The enabler in terms of moving pupils and students towards a richer multimedia learning experience are the broadband/4G/5G internet connections that most schools and universities globally now have.  Even in rural parts of developing countries, laptops, tablets and smartphones are available and elsewhere they are in abundance.  The massive growth of social networking sites, Tiktok, Facebook and others, has led to a surge in the amount of video content to which the world now has access.

I was going to try not to use the c-word as we are all fed up with it, but, the Covid-19 crisis has in all respects led to an increased need for digital content. As a father of young children, I know full well that all learning materials must now be delivered in an engaging way online.  Before our current situation, all the trend data was already pointing to a huge increase in digital content, with video content at the top of that list.  Cisco, based on current growth trends have predicted that by 2022, online video will make up 82% of all consumer traffic, whilst by 2020 they say that 1 million minutes of video content will be crossing the internet every second.  In general video usage across the globe is very very high and it’s one of the most popular informational resources.

We are seeing a surge in need for video content at Makematic.  It is having an increasing influence on content mix within educational publishing as well as more widely across the professional and academic sectors too. Academic publishing giant Wiley have reported the astounding figures of 447% higher Altmetric scores and 111% higher full text views for those articles with video abstracts.   

No one can have missed the video phenomena in recent years in the children’s sector of the brands Peppa Pig and Blippi, the latter, launching full fling on Youtube with a strategy which no doubt will penetrate the educational content sector very soon. Publishing giant Pearson, as long ago as 2006, witnessed the meteoric rise of Diary of a Wimpy Kid which started as a digital only story on what was then their Family Education Network, the print rights were sold off and the movies were made.

More widely tech giants, global brands and international non-profits alike have all seen the opportunity to engage learners with high production value, skilfully crafted and pedagogically sound video content.  Many of our customers which include Adobe, Crayola, Microsoft, Scholastic, Unity Technologies and The Woodrow Wilson Foundation bear witness to this.

Professor Michael Wesch and his students were living in a changing world where the internet, was fast-becoming the primary channel for everything.  The vision in the video they produced has become a Youtube classic in education circles, yet the change has been slow with only recent events enforcing our move to full online independence and it is now here to stay.  Learners are able to choose their study mode at a time they want to study and the chosen medium of video which so clearly defined the vision and spread the students’ message on Youtube in 2007, surrounds and permeates everything that we do.  

Video content itself has fast replaced the vision.  What vision will your video content realise for you?

Animated image of the woods and a sign stating "National Park"

Where Does Your Daily Lockdown Walk Take You?

Under the current conditions that most of us are living, life has dramatically changed.  In our household, we’re going through a process of learning how to home-school with two very energetic young boys, 2 and 5. There is a mismatch between our aims and theirs –  they like to spend as much time playing outside as possible and avoiding any type of formal “study”.  We’re lucky in the fact that we have a big garden and live in leafy suburbs, and we’ve found that our daily lockdown walks have become an important feature in the structure of our lockdown life.  

Whilst my eldest son’s primary school is providing daily materials via a web app for download and use as loose lesson plans, it has been refreshing to see that his teacher is also actively encouraging the broadening of his intellectual horizon which we’re doing in our simple day-to-day activities including our much-prized daily walk.

At Makematic, we’ve focused heavily on themes of global citizenship and the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which go hand-in-hand with these, in much of our work.  We’ve created a number of seasons of short films around both which engage and enthuse learners in the K12 sector around the world.  We’re currently involved heavily in the SDG Challenge #17daystolearn

And in our own day-to-day family life under lockdown, and on our walks, we’ve looked at these with my 5-year-old son.  

In the first instance, the challenge has been how to find a simple definition that a 5-year-old will understand what it means to be a global citizen. Definitions on the subject abound, so in my quest for a simple definition, I came across that of Hannah Arendt, the renowned German-American Philosopher. She said that it’s “an ethic or a care for the world”. So simple and so precise and it fits in perfectly with the SDGs.

Caring for the world on our walks means picking up litter in the eyes of a 5-year-old. He’s become obsessed with it! Along with saying hello to as many people as possible who we pass on our walks, all like us, trudging the neighbourhood streets, just happy to be out and about in the fresh air for a short time each day.  

It means waving to our elderly neighbour, attracting her attention bringing her to the window for a chat, making sure that she’s OK and has enough food. It means marvelling at the nature around us, something that we so often miss in the frenetic day-to-day sprint of everyday normal life. The streets and parks are so quiet now, it’s easy to hear a variety of different birds and then spot them, something to which we’re usually oblivious because of everyday background noise.

Most of all to a 5-year-old, it means scootering! We live in an area with some good hills and he’s personally made a video for SDG Challenge goal 4 on how to ride your scooter safely on a steep hill without falling off and hurting yourself.

Our daily walk takes us via different routes each day, finding streets which we didn’t know existed before. We’ve discovered a hidden park just 10 minutes from where we live. Our conversations vary depending on what we see and hear, and no two walks are ever the same. Reflecting on how this simple hour of freedom each evening has become central to our lives, as well as my children’s learning process, has highlighted how complicated that learning process has been before.

Our walks are opening our eyes to a different way of living and seeing the world. What are your walks doing for you?

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