EP 212 - Musical Learning with Jack Hartmann

With a master’s degree in child psychology, Jack was working with autistic children by day but still playing gigs many nights as a trained musician. When he unexpectedly transitioned to a new job in teaching, he not only met his future wife, Lisa, but she also inspired him with the idea to blend his love of music with his love of teaching. And the rest is still in the making... especially here on his unbelievably successful YouTube channel Jack Hartmann Kids Music Channel, where over 1.8 million subscribers access free, fun, and lively videos on reading, writing, math, science, and physical fitness to name just a few.

Jack’s music is research-based and teacher-approved to focus on helping children learn important state, national, and early childhood standards.  All of Jack’s songs and videos engage children with not only great educational content but with cool beats, kids love, and fun movements. The unique method of weaving movement, learning and music, all combined together at once, has made Jack’s videos a huge hit. Over 2 million viewers tune in each day! Jack credits Lisa’s with ensuring this blend of movement and motion find its way into the music videos wherever and whenever possible. 

Tip for those math teachers out there... Huzefa recommends the videos on number bonds and skip counting in particular. Previously, Jack was performing 200+ live concerts per year but for right now, be sure to catch him every day on YouTube. Click here to listen to the full interview:









EP 211 - Social Emotional Growth via Storybooth

The world isn’t quite as perfect as social media makes it seem. Most platforms teens use today depict picture-perfect lives, and while there is no doubt that technology serves as a powerful connector, it can also leave teens with a skewed vision of real life. 

This week, Huzefa talks with Marcy Sinel, co-founder of Storybooth and the visionary who helped create a platform for teens that supports social-emotional growth through the age-old medium of storytelling.

With more than 25 years of experience in digital, Marcy recognized the need for a peer-to-peer social-emotional platform that allowed teens to share their voices anonymously. Traditionally, social-emotional programs have been led by adults, though teens are most influenced by their peers. Kids know when something is not authentic -- it feels like a lecture -- which is why peer-to-peer interaction is the key ingredient at Storybooth, and the reason more than 4.5 million listeners subscribe to the channel. The first-hand experience of a peer resonates much more with teens than the traditional adult down approach, she says.

At its core, Storybooth is about emotional connections, a safe place online where kids can come together and share true real-life stories about their mistakes, experiences, and the lesson they’ve learned. As Marcy points out, this generation is savvy and the kids are running the show on Storybooth, recording their experiences themselves with no adults involved in the audio. “We follow their lead. They are a really resilient, powerful generation with a lot of complex issues."

Teens utilize the website or app to record their story as an audio file only. All stories are anonymous and animated, though students can opt to send in a photo in for animators to match the character’s features to the teens. Hundreds of thousands of submissions keep the team at Storybooth very busy, sorting through topics in order to select those that will resonate with and help the greatest number of listeners. 

With no investment in marketing, the team at Storybooth relied on quality content and allowed the YouTube channel to grow (and grow and grow) organically. It’s no surprise that this success has led many schools and educators to request their own closed-system Storybooth platform, outside of YouTube, which Marcy and the team will turn their focus to in the near future.

Tune in now to listen to the full interview and learn about the many exciting things the Storybooth team has in store.





Storybooth App:






EP 210 - Gamify Classroom Management with Classcraft

What do video games and teaching have in common? Classcraft has the answer.

Participating in different types of games can be hyper-rewarding, and the founders of Classcraft have created a way to bring the same level of fun and motivation into the classroom.

This week Huzefa spoke with Devin Young, co-founder and President of Classcraft, an ingenious tool that revolutionizes and gamifies the classroom. Classcraft combines everything teachers love about education with all the things students enjoy about games and storytelling.

Classcraft is not a video game and there's no increase in screen-time for students. They focus instead on fostering collaboration and teamwork, rather than competition between individuals. Students are organized into teams, and as they demonstrate support for each other they gain experience points, or “XP”. XP are based on non-curricular cognitive skills like collaboration, empathy, leadership, and communication.

With more than 7 million users worldwide, the popular platform is highly-customizable for teachers, schools, and districts. Teachers can define the "real powers" students will be rewarded with once they gain enough XP, such as the opportunity to hand in a homework assignment late, or being allowed to switch seats to sit with a friend. Students can also lose 'Health points' for things like making a mean comment or distracting the class.

One of the best features of Classcraft is how it transforms the culture of the classroom, helping to manage both behavior and motivation levels. Classcraft helps identify struggling students and students at risk -- those who aren't accumulating XP from their peers. This level of visibility is crucial for teachers and admins as well. Students become accountable to one another due to the emphasis on teamwork, and many a teacher will rejoice in hearing, "Hey... stop being loud or we'll lose points." Student's naturally become invested in each other’s success and outcomes, and receive XP for helping and supporting one another. In the past, a struggling student might have been too intimidated to ask for help. With Classcraft, classmates directly offer help to each other and are rewarded for doing so. 

Classcraft has launched a wide range of resources designed to turn even the most problematic students into team players. Feedback has been impressive, with one student going from failing grades to the honor-roll in just six weeks. Kudos allows students to give each other praise and show they are grateful to one another, making school a more positive experience. Quest, another unique feature of Classcraft, turns a lesson plan into a ‘choose-your-own-adventure' story, with the goal of capturing students’ attention through storytelling. The powerful platforms also features integrations, such as with Google classroom, saving time and effort for teachers. 

Hit the link below for Huzefa’s entire conservation with Devin Young, and prepare yourself to enter the mesmerizing world of Classcraft.











EP 209: Achieve Natural, Deep Sleep with Binaural Beats

Jody Hatton wasn’t sleeping well.

Rather than struggle through days and nights with his head in a fog, Hatton decided to take action. He’d become a fan of binaural beats, an emerging type of soundwave therapy, and found the music to be an effective form of relaxation before bed. 

Problem was, after a while the beats he was listening to became a bit boring, and there wasn’t any new material available online. Not to be deterred, Hatton went ahead and started producing his own binaural beats, released them on a YouTube channel, Jody Hatton’s Videos to Make Your Life Better, and now the world is catching on fast -- and catching some great ZZZZs in the process.

“In 2014, I decided I was absolutely tired of the cheesy music and sound effects that they had on top of everything,” Hatton said. “So I fired up Adobe After Effects, a program that I use to make videos that has a tone-generator, and I created my own binaural-beat track for sleeping. I used it for a couple of weeks and loved the results.”

In this week’s podcast, Huzefa and Hatton discuss all the ways binaural beats can leave a positive impact on your day-to-day activities. While many listeners use binaural beats as a way to unwind at night, the music can also be utilized to stimulate brain waves and provide energy throughout the day. Hatton is clear that not every single user will have a positive reaction to the binaural beats being played, but he says the overall response is overwhelmingly positive.

But what exactly is a binaural beat? Hatton broke it down for Huzefa, who himself has struggled with getting a good night’s rest in the past.

“There are lots of different technologies -- there’s white noise and brown noise and pink noise, and there’s isochronic tones which make sort of an (annoying, repetitive) sound,” Hatton said.

“Binaural beats is you play one tone in the left ear at, say, 100 hertz, and you play another tone in the right ear that’s 103 hertz . . .If you’re listening with stereo headphones and you’re getting a separate tone, what happens is your brain mixes those two signals together and it creates this sort of pulsating, wow-wow-wow sound at the speed of three hertz. Basically it makes your brain waves fire three times a second, which is in the delta range, which is super relaxed. If you listen to that three hertz wow-wow-wow for a few minutes, you start to feel really deep, heavy and relaxed.”

There’s a lot to unpack in this powerful podcast. If you struggle with quality sleep and haven't been able to find a proper remedy, this is definitely an interview you’ll want to check out. To hear Huzefa’s full conversation with Jody Hatton, click the podcast link below and enjoy the ride!

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6RzukLXWGBx6dOGqzaeK5w

Beats for sale: JodyHatton.com

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.