EP 208: Extra Learning with Extra Credits

Many moons ago, back in the early days of roller skates and Rubiks Cubes, astute students used encyclopedias as educational reference points.

You’d have your encyclopedia books lined up on the shelf, in alphabetical order, and would use them as a go-to source for learning about all kinds of different subjects. Those books were a great starting point before taking a deeper dive into your topic of choice at the local library. 

Fast-forward a few decades and much of the learning content has moved online. The game, however, remains the same. Students want accessible information, and they want it quickly. 

For high-school and college-age students, Extra Credits, a YouTube channel with more than 2.3 million subscribers, is a fantastic source of storytelling relating to history, politics, mythology, science fiction, and game design. Each week, the team at Extra Credits researches, writes, and produces animated videos on the aforementioned subjects. The videos are typically 7-10 minutes long and are produced in an evergreen style, so that they can stay relevant for many years to come. Some subjects are one-offs while others stretch for multiple episodes, particularly those pertaining to war and history.

Geoffrey Zatkin, studio director at Extra Credits, was kind enough to join Huzefa on this week’s podcast. Zatkin possesses serious credentials in video- and board-game design, and he’s also worked in a virtual reality studio. He says Extra Credits is an educational channel with an entertainment-first mindset. It’s a perfect jumping-off point, like those ancient encyclopedias. 

“We’re not a replacement for your history class or your mythology class,” Zatkin said. “That’s never our goal. We want to get people started and inspire them to go learn other things. A lot of our videos are made with that in mind. . . .

“If we put out something on the flu pandemic or the Arab Revolt or talking about Viking expansion, these are things people might watch when they come out. But they might also have a college assignment or just be interested in researching more about it later, and that’s when they may bump into what we do.”

Students and teachers around the globe have been soaking up this online content at a rapid pace. To learn more about Extra Credits and the exciting videos available on their popular YouTube channel, check out the podcast at the link below.














EP 207: Tik Tok Teacher of Mathematics

This is such an incredible time to learn math.

Day by day, the internet continues to produce exciting new methods for honing mathematical skills, be it for kids, teens and even adults. There’s literally something for everyone, and each week Huzefa enjoys highlighting companies and individuals that are paving the way for this education technology boom.

In this week’s podcast episode Huzefa chats with Josh Martin, who started the Ludus Math Tutoring program on YouTube and Tik Tok, where he has more than 400K combined subscribers. Martin produces mathematical videos for YouTube that run anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours in length and cover a wide range of advanced subjects, such as calculus and linear algebra. His Tik Tok tutorials are much shorter in duration -- ranging from 15 seconds to a minute long -- and focus on topics such as algebra 1/2/3 and SAT/ACT prep.

The Tiki Tok clips have gained serious traction in the online math community as informative short-form content. The goal for all of his videos, Martin says, is to help bring clarity to mathematical issues that students often have trouble with.

“When I’m sitting in a lecture at college -- right now I’m taking quantum (physics) -- if I don’t understand something early on, it really kind of negatively impacts my understanding for the rest of the lecture,” Martin told Huzefa. “What I’m doing is aiming these videos at those roadblocks and trying to eliminate them as best as I can, so that the rest of the lecture will hopefully gain some clarity for these students.”

Martin is a high-motivated 20-year-old college student with a genuine passion for learning and teaching math. Hit the link below to listen to the entire conversation between a pair of guys with a serious passion for problem-solving.





EP 206: Learning Guitar at Home with Fender Play

Fender Play is rockin’ right now.

Beginning and intermediate guitar players are flocking to Fender Play to learn, develop and share new music digitally. 

There’s something for every budding guitar virtuoso at Fender Play, including step-by-step micro-lessons for first-timers, weekly online tutorials with expert instructors, as well as a large catalog of song-learning material for more advanced users. Lesson programs are specifically designed for electric, acoustic and bass guitars. Ready to conquer the ukulele? They have a digital study guide for that, too.  

Huzefa, a bit of an axeman himself having learned to play during his youth, says a guitar is an outstanding brain-development tool. “This is super cool,” he says of Fender Play. “It’s amazing that students can use this to teach themselves how to play guitar.”

In this week’s Podcast, Huzefa welcomes Mary Keenan, the Director of Product, and curriculum expert, at Fender Play and Fender Play Live. Keenan was instrumental in assisting Fender, known for decades for its top-shelf guitar production, to make the jump into digital music instruction.

For the hesitant-but-curious guitar guy or gal looking for a place to get started, Fender Play offers a nice, distraction-free outlet that’s set at your own pace.

“We decided the best way to approach this was to go step-by-step with how to talk somebody through the development of their skills,” Keenan said. “When you join Fender Play, you’re asked a few questions -- really simple and upfront -- about what instrument you’re playing and what genre you’re interested in. . . .

“We have levels. Everything is structured for you step by step by step. The way that we’ve designed (Fender Play) is to teach a skill, and then teach you to play a song so that you’re learning that skill and applying that skill in the context of something musical, and something that feels exciting to learn.”

For specific details on Fender Play price plans, including their 3-month trial offer that’s free to sign up for, have a listen to this week’s conversation in the link below. There’s a lot of quality information here, especially if you’ve ever hesitated to give it a go on the guitar. As they say, there’s never been a better time than right now.















EP 205: Educational Games for Distance Learning from Schell Games

Even in a global pandemic, silver linings emerge.

March Madness basketball brackets and spring break vacations to the tropics have sadly been set aside. Education technology, meanwhile, has been thrust into the forefront of everyday life. And the cream of the crop, the companies with sparkling new ideas and content that keeps users totally engaged, are becoming the standard-bearers of the burgeoning ed-tech revolution. 

Schell Games is a heavy hitter in the world of interactive educational gaming. This is a Midwest-based U.S. company producing the type of content that truly enriches people’s lives. The programs they develop feature legitimate life skills, with users both young and old logging on to participate in the action.


Adults can experience if they have what it takes to become an emergency room doctor in a high-stakes, quick-thinking game called Night Shift. High school and junior high students can work with several enticing science, math, history and reading programs in various virtual-reality settings. There are also kids’ activities galore available at Schell Games, from picture puzzles to learning about animals to a fun potty training program which, by the way, has been the company’s most popular game during the recent COVID-19 lockdowns.

Jesse Schell, founder and CEO of Schell Games, joins Huzefa on this week’s podcast to highlight some of the innovative projects his company has worked on in recent years, as well as to discuss what’s in the pipeline for 2020 and beyond. Improved virtual classroom learning abilities and expanding teacher access for creating new content are a few of the items at the top of the company’s to-do list.


“What schools want most is something that snaps into their curriculum very quickly, where they can say, ‘Well, we had been doing it this way but now we will do it this way,’ and it meets all the curricular goals,” Schell said. “And that can be a real challenge, because not every game fits in that way.”


Schell’s resume is quite impressive. In addition to publishing a book, “The Art of Game Design,” he’s worked for Bell Labs and Walt Disney Imagineering, and serves as Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Entertainment Technology at Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center. Suffice to say, it’s a very insightful conversation regarding the future of education technology. To access the interview in full, please click the link below.















EP 204 - Games + Math = Splash Learn

Make the content fun and make it accessible -- those are two tenets of the educational technology revolution.

Tune in this week to hear Huzefa chat with Arpit Jain, CEO and co-founder of SplashLearn, a game-based learning program for children. Jain and his associates began developing online teaching tools in 2008, and a dozen years later SplashLearn is one of the web’s finest producers of quality educational content, including an array of outstanding math programs that keep kids engaged and coming back for more.

A primary intent behind SplashLearn, Jain said, is to help all children achieve higher learning outcomes. The site even features a section where any teacher, in the U.S. or abroad, can sign up for free classroom math sessions.

“The idea is to make the program accessible to every kid in the world,” Jain told Huzefa in this week’s podcast.

With COVID-19 putting the breaks on in-person organized education, school districts, parents and students are making huge adjustments to their educational routines. SplashLearn has seen its popularity increase exponentially during these lockdowns. Log-in math tutorial sessions have doubled on the site -- from about 35 minutes per user, on average, to more than an hour -- and new users are climbing onboard every day.

The content is geared for children from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. The youngest kids begin with counting games, identifying shapes and learning measurements. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and even money-concept games follow in the proceeding grades. Grades four and five dive into multiplication, fractions, decimals, algebra and geometry. It’s an extensive math curriculum with games galore. 

SplashLearn is a fun, engaging program Huzefa has utilized in the past to help take his young students to the next level in their pursuits of mathematical mastery. He’s a believer, you can sense it in his voice. To learn more about the benefits of SplashLearn, bang on the podcast link below and enjoy an educational experience!
















EP 203: Mind Maps with MindMeister

Kick your brain into high gear with mind maps, a powerful brainstorming tool that encourages users to create a steady flow of original ideas covering a wide range of topics.


Michael Hollauf, CEO and co-founder of MindMeister, joins Huzefa on this week’s podcast to discuss how his company continues to develop its impressive mind-mapping software. Since 2007, MindMeister has been at the forefront of this online, information-sharing technology, working with students, teachers, small-business owners and even big-time corporate executives on an abundance of unresolved issues.

In explaining what a mind map is, Hollauf compared it to a tree diagram with a main topic in the middle. Branches come off the main topic, creating subtopics and the structure for which a person or a group of people can begin to problem-solve.

“It’s super popular because it’s free flow. It’s not like a linear document where you write everything in one direction underneath,” Hollauf said. “It becomes a 2-D map where you can write everything where it belongs and where it comes to mind. . .

Mind maps “have proven to aid remembering and directly understanding a topic through and through. You use both parts of your brain. You use the creative, left side of the brain because of the visual presentation. And you use the right side because of the topics you write down, the general structuring,” he added.

Huzefa and Hollauf both agree that mind maps can be utilized in all walks of life, from classroom or work conference notes, to book summaries and literature-writing ideas. Science, math, law, entertainment -- the possibilities for brainstorming topics online are truly endless.

MindMeister continues to expand its software services and has produced a new app called MeisterTask. The most exciting nugget of information that Hollauf provided, however, is that, in light of the COVID-19 epidemic, MindMeister has made all of its paid software free to educational institutions for the foreseeable future. Individual students who sign up for any paid services will receive a steep discount as well. The site also offers a basic plan at no cost.

This is a very interesting conversation between a pair of entrepreneurs who are helping lead the charge in the ed-tech revolution. Click on the link below to hear the complete interview.











EP 202: Incredible Kids Programming with Cool School

At Cool School, kids can let their imaginations run wild while parents kick back knowing the content being consumed is safe and educational.

With more than 1.2 million YouTube subscribers, Cool School’s popularity has exploded in recent weeks as COVID-19 quarantines spread throughout the globe. Youngsters need new ways to fill their time, and parents are rapidly searching for at-home study solutions.

Geared for children from 3-8 years old, Cool School features a zany cast of characters doing different virtual tasks, including reading sessions, art and craft projects, as well as lessons in personal hygiene and being polite. The tales being told truly come to life through detailed visual storytelling and excellent acting skills from the cast.

In this week’s podcast Huzefa chats with Scott Weitz, CEO and founder of Driver Studios, the producer of Cool School’s clever and ever-evolving content. It’s a fun conversation related to a brand of educational technology that’s starting to gain some serious traction online.

“We want to create stuff that really inspires kids’ imaginations,” said Weitz, a father of five. “Inspire kids to see things that really create curiosity -- we want to see kids get up and do things and really feel great about themselves.”

Ms. Booksy makes reading an adventure; Crafty Carol brings out the best do-it-yourself projects; and Drew Pendous is always taking part in some type of head-scratching journey. These are the most popular characters on the Cool School channel. But according to Weitz, Cool School will be introducing new characters in the very near future, with a particular focus on music and singalong melodies.

Huzefa is totally onboard with the content, and even threw his support behind developing a character who specializes in teaching mathematics to children.

“The way that (Cool School) is creating characters and generating content is by making sure you’re entertaining and gripping,” Huzefa says. 

“The ed-tech revolution is about, one, making the content engaging and, two, making it accessible.”

Cool School can be found on YouTube, Instagram and via their app. To hear to Huzefa’s full conversation with Scott Weitz, please click on the link below:



Cool School Learning App: 

Read Along with Ms. Booksy







EP:201 How a Game Can Beat Coronavirus with Foldit

Here’s something awesome and oh-so-important considering our current global environment: Education technology that can help lead to preventative care.

That’s why we’re loving FoldIt, a non-profit, revolutionary scientific discovery game run by research scientists from universities all across the United States. 

In this week’s podcast, Huzefa speaks with Brian Koepnick, lead scientist for Foldit, regarding the pivotal role proteins play in our ability to comprehend and combat infectious diseases. Koepnick and the incredible crew at Foldit have designed a crowdsourced puzzle game where players are required to fold proteins into realistic, physically-plausible structures, often with tangible, real-life results.

“There’s a vast space of solutions,” Koepnick said. “There are too many different solutions for us to enumerate on a computer. So we rely on the intuition and spatial reasoning of humans, of game players. You don’t have to know anything about biochemistry or proteins -- all of that is taken care of by the game. You just have to learn the basic tools and how to use them, and you can become an effective player.”

Foldit players continue to contribute ideas for HIV/AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s and, most recently, COVID19 research. They’ve also been responsible for creating new proteins from scratch, redesigning an existing protein enzyme and discovering an algorithm for how to fold proteins.

Koepnick says Foldit players possess an innate ability to “focus on big-picture problems.”

Huzefa sees a fantastic opportunity for savvy young minds to participate in Foldit games and truly test themselves in the world of scientific research and problem solving.

“Students have a chance to get involved in the process,” he says, “and actually contribute real solutions. It’s just mind-blowing what they do.”

The full conversation with Brian Koepnick can be accessed below. 












EP 200: Learning Made Easy with 2 Minute Classroom

The rapid growth across the ed-tech industry tells us one thing: people love to learn. With more educational resources at our fingertips than ever before, we are all faced with the dilemma of wanting to spend our time learning what we love versus learning specific topics necessary to graduate high school, maintain professional certifications, or continue workplace training.

Thanks to Virgil Ricks, the creator of the 2 Minute Classroom website and channel on YouTube, high school students can rest easy, knowing that the time they were spending on science homework can now be devoted to learning guitar, coding, or taking up a new sport. 2 Minute Classroom is a free and accessible online resource for quickly and easily learning complex topics in science and math.

Virgil is no stranger to encountering high-schooler angst when it comes to learning scientific topics; he saw it first-hand teaching in the classroom for many years. He experimented with using existing YouTube videos, but students complained that they were too long and boring, and he watched them lose interest quickly. The need for shorter more concise and visually engaging content was clear, and from that, 2 Minute Classroom was born.

With approximately 25,000 subscribers now tuning in to Virgil's highly engaging channel, the requests for content have been increasing and the topics you can find using the YouTube search bar within the channel are now quite vast. From biology and chemistry to math, genetics, and physics, whether you are a student, parent, or teacher, you can take advantage of this hugely beneficial resource.





EP 199: Learning off the beaten path with After Skool

Skilled animator Mark Woods has found the perfect formula for keeping us glued to his educational YouTube channel, After Skool. 

The content is intriguing, the animation is engaging and the visual explanations are educating and easy to follow. We have to warn you that watching just one video on After Skool will likely take you on a quest for more knowledge, aka down an online rabbit hole.  The video description says, "The idea of most of the videos on After Skool, is to get you to question things. Believing everything in this video is just as silly as dismissing everything in this video. Both are lazy styles of thinking." Mark urges all his viewers to "stay curious and NEVER stop questioning things."  And with almost 60 million views on his channel, there’s a lot of thinking going on After Skool.

Mark is the master-mind behind the channel and the source of the questions behind each video. A favorite question of his was, "Why Don't Country Flags Use The Color Purple?” The question garnered 4 million video views in one day, and ultimately resulted in his children's book of the same name. Do you know why country flags don’t use purple? Think it over, then get the answer at the link below.

Give your brain a workout and discover ideas you've never encountered before on After Skool.









"Why Don't Country Flags Use The Color Purple?”