EP 187: Chetna Vasishth of ChetChat on How to Effectively Increase Focus and Concentration

Chetna Vasishth is the Founder of ChetChat, the largest online chat show in the ed-tech arena. Based in Mumbai, India, ChetChat provides career guidance, entrepreneurial success stories and video chats with professionals. Huzefa speaks with Chetna about how she went from a career in banking to working in the exciting online education space. She shares her steps on how to find the right career, how she created the best study techniques and how anyone can effectively increase focus and concentration.










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EP 186: Addiction Education for Children + Teens in 2019

Phillip Markoff (aka CGKid) is an Addiction Education YouTuber and blogger based out of Dallas, Texas. Phillip sits down with Huzefa to share his experience with addiction, recovery and his path to educating the public in illicit substances through his YouTube channel. Phillip explains why stories offer addicts recovery and gives them hope that sobriety is possible. In this discussion, Phillip gives insight into what he would currently change about drug education in schools and what he thinks is effective for making a difference for kids struggling with addiction.











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EP 185: Reading to your Kids Like a Superstar Parent with Novel Effect

Since the beginning of civilization, humans have traded stories. While some stories teach lessons, others simply serve to pass the time. Families have read stories to each other by the light of countless fires and through this tradition, bonds have been made that cannot be broken. As we move forward into the digital world, the Novel Effect app serves as a wonderful enhancement to this time-honored tradition.

The idea for Novel Effect was created in 2015 when Matt and Melissa Hammersley were expecting their first child. In honor of their literary-themed baby shower, the couple received a simple gift from a close friend. While reading On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman, their friend, Toby, accompanied her reading of the book with sound effects. As everyone at the party was captivated, the husband and wife knew they had found something magical.

Matt and Melissa worked to create Novel Effect, a voice-guided app that would follow along with the reader and play accompanying sound effects, bringing the story to life. Following a relocation to Seattle and an early partnership with retail giant Amazon’s Alexa Fund, the couple appeared on ABC’s hit show, Shark Tank. Fielding multiple offers from their appearance, they eventually decided to continue the partnership with Amazon. As of May 2018, Novel Effect managed to raise $3 million in funding and in addition, win a Webby Award for ‘Best Integrated Mobile Experience.’

The 5-star rated Novel Effect app is compatible with mobile and tablet devices and is available as a free download for either iOS or Android operating systems. Since the Shark Tank appearance, over 50,000 downloads of the app have been made. Currently featuring over 250 books with soundscapes, the company is constantly adding more! Users can either read along with their own copy of the book or have access to a library of e-books. Popular titles include: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, The Cat In The Hat, Guess How Much I Love You, and even poetry titles such as The Cow by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Whether you are a parent, caregiver, or teacher, Novel Effect will make it easier for you and your child to come together around a book and share a memorable moment.



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EP 184: Integrating and Optimizing School Data with ASSIST

Through advancements in technology and the development of the growing EdTech field, we often find ourselves with a little too much of a good thing. We have comprehensive systems for every aspect of education, from student info to curriculum and learning platforms. While educational institutions utilize separate types of information management systems, ASSIST offers a streamlined single integrated education management system for K-12 schools.

In 2017, CEO and co-founder of ASSIST Michael E. Spencer found that there was a great need for a fully-integrated, student data (SIS), student learning management (LMS) and curriculum management (CMS) system. Building on the existing system constructed by a team of educational practitioners, this cloud-based platform provides seamless integration of the key components of an educational institution into one easy to use system.

ASSIST features benefits for districts and schools, including streamlined application and enrollment processes, student data management, and reporting. Many internal functions can be managed as well, including calendar organization, staff management, accounting, and professional development tools. Students and parents benefit from individual student portfolios, parent and student portals, increased communication with teachers, calendar features, and 24/7 access to valuable information.

Educators benefit from the multitude of features the cloud-based system provides, from your basic attendance and grade book to resource library and digital content management. ASSIST partners with over a dozen top education companies, allowing individual plans to be developed with access to their database of curriculum.

ASSIST offers deliverable programs in addition to their customizable content, notably the US high school diploma, English language learning certificate programs, and STEAM. The company has expanded into the international market with Malaysia set to implement the Flex School model and is in the process of developing many new and exciting features.



EP 183: Enabling Adults to be Digitally Literate with Northstar

Northstar Digital Literacy Assessments, a program of the Minnesota Literacy Council, allows users to assess their digital literacy and basic skills on the computer. The assessments are available in three key areas, essential computer & software skills, and using technology to accomplish tasks.

Essential computer skills include computer and internet basics, email, and fluency with Windows and Mac operating systems. Essential software skills test experience using today’s most used programs such as Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Technology-based task accomplishments include social media use and information literacy.

These series of assessments were created as a joint project in 2010 by the Saint Paul Public Library and Saint Paul Literacy Consortium as a community-based program to address the needs of the multitudes of unemployed and displaced workers created during the 2009 recession. The assessments were meant to be mutually beneficial to both workers and employers by identifying skill levels in a meaningful way, eventually leading to certification and further job prospects.

Northstar assessments allow users free access to the modules from anywhere, through their website. Assessments taken at one of their over 600 testing locations offers many benefits such as assistance in test taking, skill certification, and personalized assessment results to provide a roadmap to relevant instruction.

Another key feature is the integration of the Mozilla OpenBadges program, which allows users to create a digital “backpack” which houses their completed certification badges. Northstar has grown exponentially with over 1 million assessments on the public interface combined with several hundred thousand through testing locations across the country. As of 2018, a Version 2.0 was approved and through conjunction with the CareerForce project received funding for its completion. With the recent release of the first module Computer Basics 2.0—featuring improved interface, navigation, and new design elements receiving many positive reviews—Northstar has achieved much notable recognition including receiving Partner of the Year Award from the Community Technology Empowerment Project. While initially created for adults entering the workforce, Northstar’s digital literacy assessments have a wide range of applications and can be utilized by students of all ages.

To learn more about Northstar, go to https://www.digitalliteracyassessment.org/

EP 182: John Medina on Brain Rules for Happy and Healthy Children

Dr. John Medina has written many books such as the New York Times bestseller "Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School" -- a provocative book that takes on the way our schools and work environments are designed. Medina's book on brain development is a must-read for parents and early-childhood educators: "Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five." His latest book in the series is "Brain Rules for Aging Well: 10 Principles for Staying Vital, Happy, and Sharp." Other titles include The Genetic Inferno, The Clock of Ages, Depression, What You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s, The Outer Limits of Life, Uncovering the Mystery of AIDS, and Of Serotonin, Dopamine and Antipsychotic Medications. He also writes the "Molecules of the Mind" column for the Psychiatric Times and serves as an academic contributor and advisor to MindEDU, as well as article contributions to notable periodicals such as Harvard Business Review, New York Post, Business Week, and the Seattle Times.

Medina is a developmental molecular biologist focused on the genes involved in human brain development and the genetics of psychiatric disorders. He has spent most of his professional life as a private research consultant, working primarily in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries on research related to mental health. Medina served as the founding director of the Talaris Research Institute, a Seattle-based research center originally focused on how infants encode and process information at the cognitive, cellular, and molecular levels. Medina’s lifelong fascination with how the mind reacts to and organizes information—combined with being a father of two boys—sparked an interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children.

His notable achievements include being appointed to the rank of affiliate scholar at the National Academy of Engineering in 2004, named Outstanding Faculty of the Year at the College of Engineering at the University of Washington; the Merrill Dow/Continuing Medical Education National Teacher of the Year; and, twice, the Bioengineering Student Association Teacher of the Year.

Medina is currently an affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and in addition to his research, consulting, and teaching, Medina speaks often to public officials, business and medical professionals, school boards, and nonprofit leaders.



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EP 181: Raising Children to be Happy and Healthy at MindEDU

Richard Biegel, founder of MindEDU, did not set out to join the burgeoning EdTech revolution. Nevertheless, he found himself drawn to the dynamic and meaningful world of education. Having spent over 30 years in commercial real estate and development, including a number of large scale projects in the Southwest as well as previously raising two children (now adults), Richard had no idea that the second time around would lead him squarely in the midst of early childhood education and development.

A year ago, while beginning the search for preschools for his twin daughters, he noticed that the information he was coming across had not changed much from the previous 20 years. After reaching out to notable educators, Richard noticed a serious disconnect between the life-changing research that was available and how little of it was known to the general public. It became apparent that something needed to be done after asking himself questions such as, “How do I raise my kids to be healthy and happy?”

Richard set out to reach the parents of young children when their minds are the most moldable and absorbative. Paired with an impactful health scare, Richard’s passion and mission became evident in his work through gathering leading academic advisors and contributors in their fields in one place. And that’s how MindEDU was born. It came about from a desire to bridge the disconnect between all of the great information available and the fact that the info has not yet been disseminated or properly conveyed. The MindEDU website conveys a wealth of knowledge in ways that are easily digestible and accessible to today’s parents. As we continue to integrate our lives with technology, MindEDU aims to bring trustworthy information that parents and educators can utilize to build a healthy foundation for our children. We are so fortunate to be able to watch this wonderful resource unfold in this early stage.

EP 180: Alternate History with Monsieur Z

What if the Sino-Soviet Union formed? What if Iran became communist? What if Hitler died early? These are all questions answered by Monsieur Z, a YouTube channel that began producing alternate history videos in February of 2017. Run by Dean Moser, the channel now has nearly 40,000 subscribers who tune in every week to consider what the world would be like if history had gone an entirely different route.

The Monsieur Z assortment of playlists highlights the kinds of videos he creates: anarchism, communism, fascism, the ancient world, World War I, World War II, the Cold War, alternate Europe, alternate Asia, and alternate America. In each of these playlists, the videos focus on what the world would be like today if an alternate version of events had occurred.

Dean also has a playlist entitled “Videos YouTube Doesn’t Want You To See,” a collection of videos that YouTube has deemed as “non-advertiser friendly” content. YouTube often attempts to disincentivize content creators from producing certain content by not allowing ads to play on those videos. For Monsieur Z, these videos include “If the 2nd Amendment Didn’t Exist,” “What if JFK Survived?,” “What if National Bolshevism Replaced Communism?,” “United South America,” and more. Several also focus on what would have happened if various countries became communist or fascist instead of adopting the legal systems they have now.

His most popular alternate history videos analyze hypothetical scenarios such as Rome discovering steam power and World War I ending in stalemate. For example, in the latter video, Dean first explains what would have had to happen in order for a stalemate to occur in the first place — Germany would have had to re-establish trade with the United States in order to permit their submarine warfare. He then postulates other possible scenarios: the Central Powers taking Russia, further alliances dragging more nations into the war, continuous conflict on the French and German borders, and more. Eventually, an armistice would be signed and borders redrawn, resulting in a stronger Germany, a smaller Soviet Union, and even more consequences. He eventually reaches the conclusion that more fascist empires would have emerged in other European countries, leading to a Second World War regardless.

Monsieur Z videos are generally a voiceover of Dean speaking accompanied by still images and an occasional cartoon. He also uses maps and diagrams to further highlight his points. But overall, his goal is to analyze historical trends and events by looking at what could have happened — and why it didn’t.

To learn more about Monsieur Z, check out the full podcast below and visit his channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/josephmeza100000.


EP 179: Unique Insights on Historical Events with Step Back History

Tristan Johnson had always admired the work of successful scientists making a name for themselves in their respective fields — people like Bill Nye and Neil Degrasse Tyson who were easily identifiable as prominent scientists and produced content that people care about. And yet, the same could not be said for historians; naming even one prominent historian who produces interesting content is a challenge for many.

And so, he set out to change this. In September 2015, Tristan launched Step Back History, a YouTube channel that has amassed just over 40,000 subscribers in the time since its beginning. His goal was to help people realize the importance of history and how it can help us understand the modern world in a way that was different from the usual long lectures and dull descriptions. He wanted history to be engaging and exciting through his videos, and most importantly, connect the past to the present by looking at history from a new angle.

Tristan will often cover topics that are typically seen as rather boring and turn them into enlightening videos. For example, his most popular video, with nearly 200,000 views, is titled “The Truth About Native Americans before Europeans Arrived.” He goes into the history of Native Americans and the pre-Colombian world, his voiceover accompanied by animations, visuals, and drawings to keep viewers engaged. And most of his videos follow a similar format — clips of him talking interspersed with applicable visuals.

But Tristan also aims to move past the more well-known parts of history and delve into unconventional ideas that people often aren’t aware of. Some other popular videos like this cover topics ranging from random facts about Iceland to the Colfax Massacre to Zoroastrianism to the lost colony of Roanoke.

Many videos also center around current events, discussing things like the alt-right, Al-Qaeda, free speech, whether Trump is a Russian agent, balancing the Supreme Court, political correctness, a primer on Vladimir Putin, and legalizing marijuana. All in all, Tristan’s goal is to educate and entertain, both on things that have happened in the past and things that are still going on.

To learn more about Tristan and Step Back History, listen to the full interview with him below and check out his channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxTdWpLJurbGlFMWOwXWG_A.


EP 178: SciShow - a Powerful Science Show for Kids

Science has a tendency to be viewed as complicated and erudite, a subject with so many different branches and intricacies that it can take years to study even one discipline. But that is often to do with how science taught, and it certainly doesn’t mean that non-scientists can’t learn about how the universe works — even kids are never too young to start learning about science when it’s explained in ways that they can understand. This is what inspired the launch of SciShow Kids, a YouTube channel that aims to provide scientific answers to common questions and topics “for young, curious minds.”

Hosted by Jessi and Squeaks, a robot rat, SciShow Kids releases videos every Tuesday and Thursday. They tackle seemingly perplexing topics and break them down into easily understandable explanations. The show often conducts experiments, hosts special guests, and highlights how science works in everyday settings such as kitchens and playgrounds.

With close to 200,000 subscribers, it’s safe to say that SciShow Kids has proven itself a successful endeavor and popular among kids everywhere by answering questions that kids ponder but never know the answer to. For example, recent uploads include “Why Does Ice Cream Hurt My Head?” and “Why Can’t I Eat Peanut Butter?” Many videos also focus on animals and other facts that especially kids, but even adults, find interesting.

The original SciShow channel was launched by Hank Green, known for his role as co-host of YouTube channel vlogbrothers alongside his brother and teen author John Green. SciShow publishes a new video every day, alternating hosts between Hank Green, Michael Aranda, Olivia Gordon, and Stefan Chin. This channel features information pertaining to every branch of science.

SciShow Kids is one of three branches of the original SciShow, which launched in 2012. Other variants include SciShow Space and SciShow Psych. The Space channel features videos about the universe and attempts to explain the mysteries of outer space in a way that makes sense to everyone, with content covering the beginning of the universe to modern developments in astronomy. SciShow Psych focuses on how the human brain works and the psychology behind decisions we make.

To learn more about SciShow Kids, listen to the full interview with the show’s producer, Sam Schultz, and check out the shows at the links below.

SciShow: https://www.youtube.com/scishow

SciShow Kids: https://www.youtube.com/user/scishowkids

SciShow Space: https://www.youtube.com/user/scishowspace

SciShow Psych: https://www.youtube.com/scishowpsych