Video Content in 2020

Video Content in 2020

It is the end of a long year, what better way to end than to do my usual and have a quick round-up of how video content has been growing as a consumer favourite in 2020.

Whilst international physical boundaries have been closed due to the Covid crisis, digital traffic has increased hugely.  From our perspective as a business who produces short-form educational video targeting post-millennials and millennials, we have seen pretty explosive growth this year as brands, publishers and non-profits all turn to short-form animated and live-action video to educate their audiences.

According to Cisco, who this time last year said that in any given second 1 million minutes of video are crossing the internet, at the end of 2020, they say that 75% of all internet traffic is video content, and this will rise to 82% by 2022.

Publicis and Verizon in a joint study have discovered that a lot of video content is consumed on the go or at work and as a result of this, 92% of those in their study watch video with the sound off.  So captions are becoming a must!

More than 2 billion people use Youtube – that’s one-third of all internet users with around 5 billion videos watched on Youtube every day, and Youtubers are uploading 500 hours of video every minute.  According to Social Media Today, 82% of Twitter users mainly use the platform to watch videos. These are mostly mobile users as well since roughly 90% of all video views on Twitter happen via mobile phones. 

We already know that most view video content via mobiles courtesy of eMarketer’s study in 2018, so this has only grown since then. We are nearing the point where everyone who possibly can in terms of device ownership, will view short-form video content on a daily basis, wherever they are, anywhere in the world. What’s interesting to learn from Brand Gym is that when consumers are viewing adverts on a mobile device, 75% skip the advertising in an average of 5.5 seconds (ie: as soon as they can!), so if advertising-supported video content is your strategy, then it’s completely the wrong one and something needs to change.   

On the educational front, video-assisted learning has become more and more popular.  Classrooms are awash with high-tech digital displays and now that schools are connected to the internet worldwide, video has become an important part of everyday learning – this has of course extended into the home this year.  The Covid pandemic has created the perfect environment for distance learning which has increased spectacularly with universities having to create high-quality distance learning modules with high production values for their video content.  Animated videos enrich subjects and help pupils and students understand complex subjects simply and easily in a format with which they identify.

The US government have recognised this and are awarding grants to those who produce educational video content. PBS Education an off-shoot of the network PBS has secured a $24M federal grant this year.  They’ve seen the opportunity that presents itself and are going to spend it on creating high educational value, curriculum-linked video assets and they’ve employed early-learning and children’s education experts and media producers to realise this project.

Those targeting post-millennials are getting it right.  I have often mentioned Blippi and how he’s grown to become a multi-million dollar brand in his own right through simply producing quality educational videos and posting them on Youtube. Last year he’d made about $12M. This year, judging by the merchandise in our house he’ll be making a lot more.  

In the past week, Ryan Kaja became the highest-earning Youtuber earning $29.5M from his Youtube child influencer shows and a further $200M from his branded toys and Marks and Spencer pyjamas.  Nickelodeon have now signed him for a series so next year that will only increase.

Without a doubt this year has been a big turning point for video content.  It was always on the cards that short-form educational video was going to become the learning medium for learning anything. But the fact that the entire population of the planet was forced online this year, whether they liked it or not, has made this happen now.  Not next year or the year after.  Today.  Those who choose to ignore this will simply be left behind.

2021 replacing 2020 on calendar

3 Things We Have Learnt in 2020

I could use the words crazy, weird or my personal favourite “unprecedented” to describe what happened in 2020. Everyone is looking forward to New Year’s Eve when the clock strikes midnight in the hopes that this year will not repeat itself. Let’s be honest not having a Christmas dinner where everyone drinks a little bit too much but no one really cares because it’s Christmas – we’d like that back in 2021, please. 

But before we say the goodbyes, farewells and the ‘hope to never see you again’ here are three things that we have learned in 2020.

Being A Conscious Consumer

I could give you a separate blog post about the things that we have learnt this year but one thing (amongst the many) is being more conscious about spending money on travel. We’re going to be asking ourselves if it’s necessary to travel to this destination or can it be discussed over Zoom? Albeit, in-person meetings means the unlikeliness of the WiFi cutting off and your video freezing at a very unflattering angle. But is it necessary to travel to a destination twice a week to have a meeting? Think about it. It will reduce our carbon footprint and save money on those overpriced pack of crisps at the airport.

Take Care Of Our Mental Health

Thinking about lockdown makes all of us shiver especially during the early days of the pandemic. No shops open (besides supermarkets), one walk a day and endless Zoom quizzes. One thing is for sure, being locked in our houses with very strict restrictions can make us feel a little bit mad. In late August 2020, the Mental Health Foundation found that almost half (45%) of the UK population had felt anxious or worried in the previous two weeks. This year, we’ve all learnt that it’s okay to step away from the computer and relax. We don’t have to answer the emails as soon as it’s in the inbox. Take a walk, watch a show, turn off your computer and take care of yourself first instead of putting yourself through stress which will eventually lead to burnout. No one wants to burnout. 

Video Isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon

Between you and me, I’ve been watching a lot of videos this year. Whether that’s binging the latest season of The Crown, searching through YouTube and finding the perfect recipe for sourdough bread but never actually making it, to scrolling through Tiktok and learning all kinds of stuff that I never knew before. Video isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

That’s the same for educational videos too. The State of Video in Education report 2020  states that: “Video is suddenly no longer a nice-to-have for education, but essential.” It’s proving its worth as 84% see video’s positive impact on student satisfaction and 76% believe it increases instructors’ satisfaction. It’s no surprise that educational videos and using videos have skyrocketed this year. With distance learning continuing in 2021, it’s likely that videos will continue to be used. At Makematic we understand high demand, especially due to COVID-19 the need more than ever for effective, online educational content that can be utilised by educators, parents and students of all ages during this shift to online-based learning. Check out our blog post on 14 Awesome Free Online Educational Resources For Teachers And Parents.

However, it’s important to note that video fatigue is real. So put down the device and let your eyes relax. Talk to your colleagues, students (virtually) or people around your household because sometimes getting a response back from a screen can be nice. I’ve tried it with bakers on YouTube asking them to make the sourdough for me, unfortunately, no response.

So there you have it. 3 things that I have learnt during this ‘unprecedented’ year that I’ll take with me to 2021. What have you learnt this year? 

Illustration of two people sitting on the couch watching TV. TV features Santa Clause

Christmas Commercials and Why They Work

Have you ever wondered why Companies would spend millions per year on commercials at Christmas that can only work for one to two months of the entire year? Might seem like a bad investment, however, Christmas advertising works, and here’s why!

Iconic Imagery

Christmas ads have their own unique look and feel. You should instantly be able to see one in between your scheduled entertainment and instantly connect “Oh, wow it’s nearly Christmas”. That’s all to do with Iconography.

IRN-BRU’s 2011 Advertisement was based on the Christmas classic short: “The Snowman” and provides that Winter-esque symbolism we’ve grown to connect with Christmas. From a Snow-laden, Winter wonderland to Urban Christmas lights and a tree to match. You can instantly watch this alongside many Christmas advertisements and know instantly what it’s about.

Social Commentary

Even though some would prefer their advertisements to be apolitical or lack commentary of topical events and movements from the year as a whole. Some companies use the opportunity to help raise awareness of an issue which overall can help the company’s reputable grow.

UK Supermarket chain, Iceland got into a spot of bother with their ad in 2018 however when their planned Christmas advertisement was banned in the UK for being “too political”. They tried to raise awareness of the use of Palm Oil in food products, which they were also eliminating from their own-brand productions in-store.

Here at Makematic, we started a video series on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which you can watch and take part in with the whole family! Here’s more info: https://makematic.com/promo/un-sdgs/

Melody

Christmas music over the years has changed dramatically, however, those classic Christmas tracks hold inter-connected qualities that are instantly recognizable.

Coca-Cola got into a habit of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in regards to their recurring, melodic theme song as their UK commercial in 1995 showcases:

Overall, this was a branding success for Coca-Cola; providing that deja-vu factor while instantly becoming a Christmas classic in advertising.

Storytelling

Storytelling is key, the aim is to take the viewer on a journey. Usually fantastical in nature e.g. including Santa Claus and sometimes with an emotional aspect to tug on the heartstrings as Christmas builds up.

Research by Kantar found that “storytelling was a feature of 80% of Christmas ads between 2015 and 2017, compared to the 40% average for the rest of the year”.

Amazon Prime’s 2020 Christmas ad entitled “The show must go on” showcases a young ballet dancer whose spirit and tenacity triumphs through the challenges of 2020. All with a little help from her family and community – a feel-good narrative, that anyone in the family can relate.

We love the work of Amazon Studios which is why we’ve recently partnered with them to produce a series of Educational resources connected to their Amazon films; Radioactive & The Aeronauts.
Why not check out our collaboration – right here.

Family-Friendly

Christmas is a time for kids, and advertising should reflect that. The success of your commercials during the Christmas period is highly dependant if you can inspire and connect with the demographic you need to impress the most to gain sales – children.

Even though children are key, it’s the parents (alongside Santa, of course) that are required to make the deal happen. Keeping commercials kid-friendly while allowing for a narrative that parents and all can connect to is overall the best way to capitalise on your investment – as has been the case previously in Christmas advertising.

Demand is High

The month of December for many outlets usually provides their best sales for the entire year! With some outlets like FAO Schwarz gaining nearly half of their entire revenue for their store products in that one month alone!

John Lewis has been synonymous with their Christmas advertisements. It’s been reported that they spent approximately £8 million on their 2018 commercial featuring Elton John.

The question is, however, is it a worthwhile investment? A John Lewis spokesperson stated to the BBC: “Our ads always deliver an excellent return on investment at a time of year that is critical for us, generally delivering 20 times the return on our original spend,” a spokeswoman tells the BBC.

At Makematic we understand high demand, especially due to COVID-19 the need more than ever for effective, online educational content that can be utilised by educators, parents and students of all ages during this shift to online-based learning.

Looking for American History? Why not check out our Untold series for free here: https://untoldhistory.org/. You won’t regret it!

Illustration of video content being created

Coming To A Device Near You Soon – Part 2

In my last blog, I talked about my experiences of attending online conferences recently instead of in person.  Since then I’ve again been at an online conference, Futurebook, but this time sitting on the other side of the fence as a presenter.  

Before I go into that, I became curious as to what the origins of online and virtual events are.  This year we’ve all just flicked a switch and adapted because of the Covid crisis, but when did online conferences first start?

I thought a quick internet search would help me find an immediate answer, but it seems that the origins of online and virtual conferences are a little hazy. Turning quickly to Wikipedia, the first-ever publicly described reference to a “virtual tradeshow”, was in a presentation to investors at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC in April 1993 by a company who are now Onstream Media. They had an HTML map to which they’d attached videos of exhibition stands and presentations which could be accessed online.  Thereafter there were further developments in the 90s but not a lot of information exists until the early 2000s.  Internet bandwidth had grown enough to support simultaneous video, voice and text in one call, and in terms of actual virtual conferences, after the economic crisis of the early 2000s, companies looking to tighten their belts, started attending virtually instead of in-person and the whole concept took off.  

At Futurebook last Thursday, I chaired a panel entitled How publishers have turned to video. I’m very grateful for the contribution made by my esteemed panel members, Paul Chen from Wiley, Sam Dumiak from Cambridge University Press, Matt Kibble from Bloomsbury Publishing and Justine Piekarowicz from Richmond ELT.  

We covered a wide range of subjects on how publishers are using video content, both licensed and commissioned, original footage and animation.  Each panel member brought a unique viewpoint to the conversation. 

Video Is Here To Stay

The main overall conclusion was that for the publishing sector, the amount of video in online products which a consumer in any publishing sector expects is rapidly increasing.  The publishing ‘niche’ is mirroring mainstream trends.

Therefore, those publishers who want success in the online world, are also rapidly increasing the amount of animated and live-action video content that makes up their digital portfolio of content.

How To Ensure Success?

By accepting that video plays a rapidly growing part in any publishing portfolio, then the necessary steps can be taken to put in place a strong strategy with short, medium, and long-term goals. All evidence suggests that video content is fast becoming a preferred medium for consent consumption for those under the age of 30. Recognise this, plan accordingly and thoroughly because in a truly multimedia world many others, who you would not see as traditional competitors, currently are.

How Are You Currently Budgeting?

Budgeting for video is different from that of print or other digital products. The amortisation of video as an asset is something new to which publishers need to adjust. Start with an understanding of the ROI and work backwards. Those publishers who are adjusting their business models accordingly are the ones who are capturing and captivating a new video-content orientated consumer. Plan your product investment for future success.

Developing A New Workflow

The workflow for producing video is vastly different to that of published content. Key changes will need to be incorporated, particularly around publishing programme timings, because short-form video, animated or live-action, takes a period to produce. Talk to and engage those with the knowledge that you need and incorporate the necessary changes to ensure future success.

Defining What Is Right For Your Audience Is King

Video-based social networks such as TikTok owe their continued success to low-production-value video shorts uploaded by users.  This shows that defining the right look and feel for your audience is king. Broadcast quality can define a brand, more social media-friendly formats can help build digital product audiences even with lower production values. It is key to define what is right for your brand and your digital product audience. In the overall process of building out your video portfolio, the idea of ‘quality’ should be separated from production standards. A current style of social media format may have a limited shelf-life so finding the “right quality” is what leads to engagement and impact. 

Creativity & Engagement & Fun!

Keeping a digital product fresh and new is a new challenge for the publishing sector and short-form video offers an opportunity to excite and engage your consumer, whomever that consumer is. So, use it as an opportunity to do just that. Video content allows boundaries to be pushed and can inject a big slice of fun. Whether it’s bringing children’s reference and drama content to life, injecting short informational films into an ELT or schools education programmes, explaining complex research papers in a quick two-minute overview, or helping someone cram for law, accountancy, finance or business exam, video is the perfect medium for captivating an audience.

What Is Your Overall Strategy?

As we have seen with the effect of the pandemic this year that having a solid digital strategy for your systems infrastructure, content portfolio and content blend is key. Whilst we are facing challenging economic times, many in the publishing world are seeing the true size of the digital opportunity the power of carefully created and disseminated short-form video content. 

All last week, throughout the sessions at Futurebook, a lot of coverage was made of the explosion in importance of audio content and we are about to witness the same with video content too.

Illustration of Kyle McGeagh who is Makematic's Content & Distribution Coordinator

Employee Spotlight: Kyle McGeagh, Content & Distribution Coordinator

This month’s employee spotlight blog we’re shining the light on the commercial team. In particular, Kyle McGeagh our Content & Distribution Coordinator. Kyle has been working at Makematic for 2 years now and we spoke to him about his unique role in the company.

How did you get your job at Makematic?

I was in the process of moving down to Derry, so I began to send out my CV and a cover letter to media companies in the area. After contacting Mark, I was offered an interview. Not long after my interview with Brian and Catherine, I was offered a position here at Makematic. Originally I was hired on as the Post-Production Coordinator, and then during my time here was moved into the position of Content and Distribution Coordinator.

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

My days can vary day to day, it all really depends on what is currently in Production and what is finishing in Post. My main responsibilities would be: Data wrangling rushes and projects, creating straightforward and understandable folder structures and workflows, managing our shared storage, and backing up rushes, masters, deliverables, and project files. Creating metadata for our content and cataloguing it, preparing content for distribution, which includes pulling together all of our master files, gathering or creating SRT files and thumbnails for our content. Managing our Video on Demand platform, our YouTube channel, and various other video hosting platforms. 

How do Content & Distribution Coordinators collaborate with other teams within the company?

A lot of my collaboration with other teams and members in the company comes in the form of me chasing people so that they will fill out a big scary Metadata Sheet, this is usually done through emails or through Zoom or Google Hangout calls. Usually, I prefer to do it through a call, that way I can walk people through the sheet and what it entails, which helps to alleviate the fright of the Metadata Sheet and make it much less of a daunting task for them. Another big part of my collaboration with other members is creating problem-solving, setting up workflows and ways of getting things done quicker and easier is a big part of my job. Most problems will find their way to me and it’s my job to figure out what it is we want to do and how to best achieve that with what we’ve got.

Are you working on any big projects?

I’m kind of across the board on our projects, mostly at the end of them to back everything up, and begin to prepare it for distribution. Getting things ready and prepared for distribution is quite the project on its own. Right now I’d say one of the biggest projects that I’ve been working on the past few months would be Untold Edu, it’s a great project to work on but it is quite the beast. 

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

I’d say the most important lesson I’ve learned at Makematic is that good, strong workflows and systems are crucial to things running smoothly. Without a workflow or system that is clear, consistent, and understandable simple tasks can be made into mountains. Ironing out a workflow or system is also never the final step, these workflows and systems can always be built upon and improved; especially with how fast technologies and our understanding of them change.

Ever since Kyle started working in the company, he has had his hand in the majority of the videos produced by Makematic at some point; whether that’s creating thumbnails to videos or SRT files (subtitles). One of his many responsibilities is to ensure that the Makematic VOD is updated – check it out here!

In case you missed it, read our three previous Employee Spotlight blogs featuring Caoimhe Sweeney (Motion Graphics Designer), Conor McKelvey (Motion Graphics Designer), and Ryan Lee (now Producer!).

Person watching video tutorials

The Evolution Of Vlogging

Our endless viewing of vlogs, baking tutorials and those fascinating videos from Jungle Survival, has Nellie Bly to thank. She can be considered as the world’s first blogger. In 1887, her work “Behind Asylum Bars” where she went undercover in a Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island went viral and changed the way institutions are run forever. Inspired by the book Around the World in 80 Days, Bly set sail in 1889 and documented her adventures – travel blogger (or vlogging) style. Her record-breaking trip only took 72 days!

Bly’s viral work and travel blogging got me thinking about how vlogging has dominated the way we tell stories and document our lives. 

And as someone who has done 7 vlogs (that you can watch here) and counting, I thought it would be interesting to dive into the evolution of vlogging and see how it has changed the way we tell stories.Read More

Illustration of young girl sitting at her desk in front of a laptop with books and school supplies

10 Reasons Why Educational Videos Are Super Effective

Throughout history, educators have learned through no small feat that in order to connect learning with students, they must adapt their learning resources into what works with each new generation. For Gen Z and Alpha, online videos is the way to go. You probably already know that however, so let’s explain ten reasons why educational videos are super effective for students.

#1 – Engagement

Numerous academic studies have been released on how video increases motivation and deeper learning, while also being able to specifically impact students’ ability to facilitate discussions and identify problems.

Want to learn more about the science behind it? We deeply recommend reading Cynthia J. Blame’s ‘Effective educational videos’ from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

#2 – Accessibility

Let’s be honest, accessibility is still an over-looked subject even in 2020 but leaps and bounds are being made to make digital equipment & the virtual space it connects to far more accessibility to a wider range of people, particularly with disabilities.

From subtitling to audio description to transcripts, accessibility is finally becoming more mainstream and we at Makematic continue to discuss what steps we can make to do our part with our own content.

#3 – Portability

Print media is, unfortunately, becoming a thing of the past, especially for the new generations. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, is the need for trustworthy digital, learning resources that can be shared and used immediately around the newly-formed online classroom.

Unsure where to find video content for your students that will work on a wide range of devices? Why not check out our ever-increasing, educational video series on the Makematic VOD available on:

#4 – Ease of Production

You don’t need a PhD to make an effective, learning video, although it may certainly help! As long as you have access to a decent smartphone, you have all the tools at your fingertips to plan, produce and edit an educational video on a subject you love.

For kinesthetic learners, and students with learning disabilities e.g. Dyslexia. Video is a great tool alongside other resource mediums to help overcome barriers when trying to increase your student absorption of cognition & knowledge.

#5 – Replayability

Have you ever re-watched a film or television series and suddenly noticed new things that you didn’t pick up the first time you watched it?

A great benefit for video-based learning is how it allows anyone to pause, stop, rewind, and other timeline manipulation factors that can impact an individual’s learning experience. Unlike the traditional classroom or a group lecture, learning via video – you’d never have to miss something again, just as long as you can re-watch, you can always go back and re-absorb any missing info.

#6 – Visual Factor

Now, I love a good book from time to time, but even have to admit that video is only as good as the source material that inspires it. But that’s not to say the visual element of video is powerful and more appealing to learn from, particularly for my attention span.

Articles, journals, essays and more may feel more offputting to generations raised on television & online video. However, when you combine multiple sources of educational resources together with students, I truly believe you can get the best out of them.

#7 – Authenticity

Humans love to connect with fellow humans and if online video platforms such as YouTube & Twitch have taught us anything, it’s that having a human narration or even industry experts within your video adds a level of user connection that can be lost in translation through other forms of learning resources.

When we released our Teaching Online Masterclass (TOM) series, we had this in mind. The free-to-watch series contains numerous industry experts in the education industry. Why not check it out: https://tom.makematic.com/.

#8 – Collaboration

Successful learning is not just an individualistic experience. Having the ability to work with other people opens the conversation for feedback, ultimately providing students with inter-personal, social skills and the ability to take constructive criticism.

Video is a fun way for your students to create brainstorms and group learning experiences that can allow them to see easily their input to an educational topic while giving them that level of passion needed to connect to the subject matter in ways other mediums may struggle.

#9 – Contextual

Unlike relying on just reading literary materials, video provides strong visual cues. These help learners understand what’s happening, even when the language and prose is hard to follow.

Utilising infographics, source material and first-person accounts within your video help provide that much-needed cognitive downtime when learning and help keep the overall topic visually-stimulating.

#10 – Creativity

Video-based learning is a creative process, even when covering a specialist, STEM topic. It opens cognition to not just utilise the logistic side of your brain, but also your creative side too.

Creative thinking is fast-becoming one of the top employability skills for the future generation and by striving to incorporate video into your classroom, you allow the possibility for your students to begin to train themselves in these fundamental skills going forward.

We strive to inspire creativity through our videos, particularly for subjects that don’t get the reach they should. Just like our Untold Series where we delve into the fascinating history topics throughout the History of America.

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

Episode 2: Taking Classes Online

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

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

Check Out Teaching Online Masterclass

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

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

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

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

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

EdTech – October

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

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

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

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

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

Image of young woman smiling with an office background. Back to work, covid-19 edition stated as text

Back To Work: Covid-19 Edition | Makematic Behind-The-Scenes Episode 7

Technically, we’ve been working. We’ve never stopped. But in this vlog, we’re showing you the office space – COVID19 edition. So technically, we went back to our official workspace.

Fun fact, there were more sanitisers and face masks in the office than there were people. This is probably quite a common thing nowadays and our office in Belfast was no different. In this vlog, I take you an “unofficial” office tour to show you the measures we have taken to ensure that the space is safe to work in. I say “unofficial” as office spaces should be more lively, with more people and more banter, hence I vetoed this tour just like I am with 2020.

In this unofficial tour, you’ll see the layout of the office, the sanitisers and face masks that I mentioned, and clips of me aggressively wiping surfaces and anything that I’ve touched at the end of the working day. You’ll also hear various safety messages (e.g. wash your hands, wear a face mask, etc.) that you may have heard over the past six months because those messages are the only consistent and non-changing rule that we’ve been told to do.

If you haven’t watched the vlog yet you can watch it below, where I have embedded into this blog (you’re welcome).

Spoiler alert: we’re back at home because the rules change all the time. Literally, all the time. We’re complying and working back at home in our little office spaces. If you’d like to see our home office spaces, you can read it here.

I don’t know when we’ll be back. But when we do, I hope that we can go back to when we feel safe and when there are more people than sanitisers.

Watch episode 7 here!

Animation of tennis for two video game being played by two individuals

Tennis for Two: From Atomic Bombs to America’s 1st Video Game

Ever heard of William Higinbotham? Probably not, but did you know this American physicist helped create the first Atomic bomb during World War II and then went on to create the first American video-game – a precursor to Pong entitled Tennis for Two!

Creating the Infamous Atomic Bomb

Higinbotham was born in Connecticut in 1910 and grew up in Caledonia, New York. He earned his undergraduate degree from Williams College in 1932 and continued his studies at Cornell University. One of the first achievements was working on the radar system at MIT from 1941 to 1943.

During World War II, he began working for the U.S. government at Los Alamos National Laboratory and headed the lab’s electronics group. In the later years of the war, his team developed electronics for the first-ever atomic bomb which would be utilized by the U.S. for the Pacific war in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. He also spent his life trying to slow down the nuclear arms race that ensued as a result of the atomic bomb’s creation.

A Career Change like No Other

In 1948, Higinbotham joined Brookhaven National Laboratory’s instrumentation group. During that time, he would be responsible for the annual visitor exhibits of which thousands of people would come tour the lab. Most of the existing exhibits were rather dull. Higinbotham thought he could better capture visitors’ interest by creating an interactive demonstration

Higinbotham wrote: “It might liven up the place to have a game that people could play, and which would convey the message that our scientific endeavors have relevance for society.”

Tennis for Two

Just like that, Tennis for Two was conceptualized. The instrumentation group had a small analog computer that could display various curves, including the path of a bouncing ball, on an oscilloscope. It took Higinbotham only a couple of hours to conceive the idea of a tennis game, and only a few days to put together the basic pieces. Thanks to Higinbotham’s background in radar systems helped him immensely to design the simple, game display.

Tennis for Two is often marked as a precursor to 1970’s Pong except it had a few caveats. You had to note the score manually; no in-game counter but it didn’t matter as visitors loved it! It quickly became the most popular exhibit at the Laboratory, with people standing in long lines to get a chance to play.

Want to Know More?

Watch the story of Tennis For Two as part of Untold’s The Museum of Artifacts That Made America series.


Untold series produced by Makematic, Driving Force Institute and USC Center for Engagement-Driven Global Education.


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

Animated drawing of Hedy Lamarr

What’s More Important; Brains Or Beauty?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more about Untold by visiting untoldhistory.org.

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

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