This week Tom & Brendan talk about their motivations for starting Blend and how they and their partners want to use E-Learning as a force for good - and how it can change the world for the better.
Find out more at Blend!
This week Tom & Brendan talk about their motivations for starting Blend and how they and their partners want to use E-Learning as a force for good - and how it can change the world for the better.
Find out more at Blend!
Welcome to the blend podcast with Tom and Brendon discussing all things eLearning, digital marketing, design and entrepreneurship. The podcast is brought to you by Blend Interactive Content. Find us on LinkedIn or www.Blend.training.Tom Payani:
Hi Brendan, how are you?Brendan Cox:
Hey Tom, I am good.Tom Payani:
Good to speak to you. So today we're going to talk about eLearning as a force for good. And we're going to talk about, well, we're going to talk about project relearn. We're going to talk about some of our partners that we work with, we're going to talk about how we think e learning can really solve a lot of the problems we have in the education system. I think probably if I had to pick one episode that we spoke about so far, I would say speaking for myself, but I guess for you as well, this is the one that is the most important to us.Brendan Cox:
Yeah, so far.Tom Payani:
Yeah, I mean, well, we can we can go back to the start can't we? We can go back to when we were talking about Blend and the discussions we had before the business was even created. And it was also joint frustrations coming from different angles. But me coming from the education system where, as I've said, a couple of times on the podcasts, I'm not a huge fan of the mainstream education system around the world and how it's not preparing kids for the for the world they currently live in, or that they will live in in the future. You hear the statistics, over 50% of kids who start school now, there'll be doing a job that hasn't even been created yet. And then I think from your end, you know, you speak speaking from your own experience, you know, your own personal experiences of the education system, you know, you're a very creative guy. And I don't think, maybe, especially as you got further through the education system that your creativity was honed, or you were put in an environment where that creativity was, was given its best opportunity to flower and, you know, to to view to explore that.Brendan Cox:
Yeah, I think that basically, yeah, yours was kind of like your experience when working in industry, mine was just like, personally. My experience was that I was always a bit kind of not sure what to do with myself. And the soft skills aspect of that were never really came into play until I was an adult, I started learning them. When I was kind of when I finished uni and actually sort of just sort of I started honing those skills. Whereas up to that point, I was just kind of like a bit of a lost creative as it were. And so yeah, so I mean, I think that's the thing is that if definitely the more people that we talk to about this stuff with soft skills, and a learning in general is that there's always is it's there is a personal aspect to all of everyone's stories in terms of why they've arrived at this point. And I think that, for me, personally, it was definitely a case of like elearning. And helping other people with their soft skills, in some part basically helped me with my soft skills. At the same time as like - it's a combination - doing elearning is a combination of everything I've ever done. I mean, literally all the way back to making things out of Lego as a kid like that kind of building things based on instructions. Through to telling stories, hosting parties, during a pop quiz, writing short films, everything is so it's all comes down to using storytelling to connect with people, and either make them understand a theme or subject or story or character, or in this case, understand the subject in a methodology to be able to do something, and I think that's why it's, it's kind of at the root of everything we do and discuss.Tom Payani:
Yeah, I mean, we've got this project Relearn that runs alongside blend. And you know, it's this educational platform, where it's a Duolingo for soft skills or emotional intelligence. And it's, you know, it's an application or it's a platform that we hope will be accessible to, to any any young person or older person all around the world who will have the opportunity to address those their soft skills and our emotional intelligence, I think for us, that runs through everything we do at blender and although, you know, we are in effect, an elearning studio that can provide work for any agency in any company in theory. We don't want to lose sight of why we got into this and why we got into this is we feel we can have a bigger impact in a positive way through creating content for organisations that align with us ethically, and those organisations tend to be ones focused on, you know, making education accessible and making learning accessible, and teaching people skills that are genuinely going to positively affect them in their life.Brendan Cox:
Yeah, I think that's the thing, it is accessibility. I don't think that anyone is in the position they're in because they knew what they needed to do and just couldn't be bothered. I think that most of the problems that people have with the skills that they have is that at the time of which they made a decision, they weren't aware of what was available, and they didn't have access to your like the the choice and weren't in didn't weren't able to make an informed choice, based on who they were. And I think that's part of the thing is that, like, now that we know, is our kind of like our vision as a, as a like a studio, our sort of vision is to that accessibility, to be able to choose, make an informed choice about what you want to learn, and be able to learn it for yourself is like, at the core of all our decisions. So like you said, you can kind of almost feel it, you know, when it's, you know, when it's the right sort of horizon point, the right sort of compass, our North North Star kind of thing. Because whenever we chat to anybody there is passionate about that as we are. And I can we can almost feel straightaway whether or not we would happily work for them or with them, as well as on our own stuff, or even instead of, because it's serving the serving the mission, rather than locking into just having one way of doing things.Tom Payani:
Well, yeah, comes back to this idea that, you know, around the world, there's so many people who have a skill set, or have ability, or talent or creativity or whatever, that they don't even know they have, it's just unlocked and the amount of talent and creativity that is just in this abyss that's never been tapped, is is really sad. And I think if we speak and personally, you know, I go into education, I got into being a teacher and my family a lot. But you know, I always wanted to do something like that, rather than work in an office or wherever. Because, at least in my own small way, I felt like I could have a decent impact, you know, on at least one schools worth of kids. And although a lot of teachers have these sort of noble objectives. I mean, a lot of teachers are rubbish, by the way. But although there's a lot of teachers who, who, you know, really want to make that difference, they really care about what they do. For me, I got to a point where one I was working within the system that had a lot of constraints, and didn't align with my view of what education should be. And so I was hamstrung a little bit by what I could do. And secondly, you know, how big is one school for me elearning. You know, the internet in general is this amazing equaliser where everything becomes accessible information, content, whatever becomes accessible. And personally, I feel I could have a lot bigger impact reaching so many more people by creating positive elearning rather than just one school. And this is just a very subjective opinion. You know, I'm not people can argue with me about that. But that was my thinking behind why I wanted to start blender and don't get me wrong. We're not a charity, either. You know, we're building our business and, and not every project we can do can be like for some unbelievable, you know, amazingly charitable, great company. But you know, this is the thing that always, like you said, it's our North Star, isn't it? And it's this thing, though, so it's bringing us back to what we're about.Brendan Cox:
Yeah, I mean, we can always go a bit round the houses. But the thing is, is that we always go back onto the road where we go in because we know where we want to where, where our endpoint is an alien today, I think it's important as well to say, like, shouldn't feel bad about charging people money for something that's good. It's like, there's this odd feeling of like, you feel guilty about what people in general is, it's like, well, it's for good. It's for good. So it should be for free. And I think the thing is, is that if you're good at the job, and it's for the benefit of other people, that's even a better job than if you didn't like it, or it wasn't for good. I mean, I think it's, I think it's totally valid to be able to be paid for doing something that's for the greater good. And I think that if we always use that as our point of reference and going that direction, I mean, we'll do jobs that we work for people that we that have got the best intentions, and they pay us and then wait, that gives us the freedom to then pick a project where they maybe don't even have the money to do it. And we believe in what they're doing. And we can follow that along. So it's always a balancing act, I think.Tom Payani:
Yeah, yeah. Um, and I think for us as well, you know, when we first started this, we we realised that, you know, technology, in and of itself is not good or bad. You know, it's how we use it. And you can watch documentaries, like the social dilemma, and how social media can be really disruptive and how We really need to be careful how we manage it and how it psychologically affects us. But there's a counterpoint to that, you know, we can use technology for good. And, you know, this idea of creating, learning this accessible through creating our own Duolingo for soft skills, trying to encourage, you know, emotional intelligence EQ, being a new metric to measure intelligence. There's, there's yin and yang to everything isn't as good as good and bad to everything.Brendan Cox:
Yeah, it's at the end of the day, it's a tool, and it's like a hammer is a hammer is not bad or good. It's just, what do you use it for? I mean, at the end of the day is like, yeah, it's all just sort of, it's all just how it's used. And basically how humans use it. That's the kind of the deciding point of whether it's for good or bad.Tom Payani:
We see all the time, some really cool examples of technology being used in positive ways. We've spoken to companies that use VR to overcome phobias through exposure therapy. We spoke to somebody once I remember where you had like simulated spiders, and they were like, very cute at the beginning. So the person with arachnophobia in this VR world wasn't too scared. And then slowly that progresses to do something a bit more scary.Brendan Cox:
Yeah, and the thing is, they didn't do and they do it in a way where it's like, it's in VR, so you're in a controlled environment, but they're not immersing you in Oh, look, there's a real looking spider on your desk. So you suddenly are panicked, because you it's in your home is invaded your personal space. So there's all this sort of levels of psychology and, and thought that's gone into, like these experiences, to be able to, like really make a difference to a person. And so it's really interesting. And I think the thing is, is, the more it's a bit like a snowball at the moment, like with you, speaking to people and me speaking to people is that we're coming in contact with more and more people that kind of like echo chamber of like, positive use of E learning. And it's becoming, it's getting really inspiring, and like the some of the stuff they're coming up with is really cool.Tom Payani:
Yeah, we're gonna hopefully get Jose on the podcast, but someone we're working with at the moment, a Brazilian guy called Jose started up key to enable, and we'll put definitely put a link to his, uh, his business, in the show notes visa, he's a really inspiring, fantastic guy. And, um, he's, you know, create a new piece of hardware, which is like, a sort of version of a keyboard, I guess. I mean, it's not really a keyboard when you when you see it, but it's hardware that kids with physical disabilities can use, especially with cerebral palsy. So, it is also used with kids with other types of disabilities, other types of hardware that can you know, track their eye movement, or when they blink or things like that. So they can use a computer in the way that anyone else could. And this, this guy is not charity, you know, he's trying to build a business and he's trying to sell this technology or, or this hardware to people out there. But he's, I think it comes back to what you said at the beginning, it's not being afraid to charge for something you're good at. And he's, he's a, he's an entrepreneur, he started out a business, he's trying to make money from this business, but he's creating something that has a hugely positive impact around the world. And you know, being work, being able to work with companies like that, who are using technology who are using elearning, to try and improve people's lives. I mean, you know, it's a win win for everyone, isn't it, you know, you get paid, but you're doing something that it really has a really good impact and being able to create online courses with him is an absolute pleasure.Brendan Cox:
Yeah, I think that's the thing is like, it's that Japanese principal Iki guy, where you basically have, what you could, what you're good at, and what the world will pay you for, what the world needs, and what you what you enjoy doing. And basically, when you can when the world needs things like Jose's device, and we're able to help him do that. And, and, like, he's good at it, and he loves doing it as well. It's like that sweet spot, which you don't often get, and I'm finding the more than we talk about the like, with elearning. with people like Jose, the more you realise that that's, that's, that is kind of our centre sport is like being able to help people like this really, like, do you just so much SAP job satisfaction, and so in like, so much of a sense of purpose that it's just a pleasure.Tom Payani:
Can you just give us an explanation about learn appeal as well, another company we're working with?Brendan Cox:
Oh, yeah. So they're basically they're based in the UK and they're set up like a charity, but they've come up with this really cool idea that raspberry pi, which is basically like a little device, it's like an open source computer module. It is like half the size of a Gameboy or whatever. And the thing is, is that what they've done is they've converted some software, this elearning software And they've made it so you can put a tonne of content onto this Raspberry Pi, this little device and then plug in a plug in a wireless, a wireless router. And then anyone within sort of like 50 metre radius 100 metre radius, not sure exactly how big I think is about 100, that basically anywhere up to 200 phones within that radius can like sign into the device and have access to this content. And so what they've done is they they're kind of like their vision is to get everyone have the like the access to the, again, access to their learning that they need. And their focus is on areas that don't have or can't afford a network. So they're kind of focused at the moment, so in Kenya, and they're basically building e learning content that's specific to those communities that are out in the wilderness, and basically don't have a phone connection. But the The cool thing is, is that literally you can use any phone that's got wireless capabilities. So you've got like old school blackberries that can log on to this device. And then the content on there is all specific to where they are so that you basically teaches you how to how to start a business. So you can like how to start a fish farm. And it talks about how to how to plan it, how to build it, how to run it, how to market it, how to set up the business behind it. It's got things like cashews and like how to process them how to build your business around it. Even things like beekeeping, which is a super cool one. Because it turns out that the the issues with elephants trying to go to the water supplies in the villages out in the out in the countryside. And because of elephants, they just like Well, I'm gonna go get that water. And the villagers were letting things like poachers just kind of be around and take the elephants if they wanted, because they were a bit of a menace. And what they found out was actually elephants don't like bees. So on the eLearning they started using, they put a load of beekeeping eLearning and they started doing beekeeping. And the thing is, is that it kept the elephants away. So from a conservation or conservationist perspective, it's like great, no more shooting the elephants, the bees basically, provided honey, provided wax, the people in the villages are able to like set up businesses around that as well.Tom Payani:
It has its own economy basically.Brendan Cox:
Yeah, it's super cool. And the thing is, is that they basically like this device cost like 150, odd quid, all in.Tom Payani:
And that's, that's something I wanted to just just quickly touch upon. Because when we talk about elearning, it's not just, you know, standard onboarding for, for medium or larger sized companies is it or for big universities or whatever, it's, it's these, you know, key to enable devices, these Raspberry Pi devices, these pieces of hardware, that are available in developing countries accessible for people all around the world, they can also contain really efficient, engaging eLearning as well.Brendan Cox:
I think that's the thing basically, a lot of the accessibility part of it comes from infrastructure, or the interface in which the person has with the eLearning. So a lot of the thing is like, well, you don't get high speed broadband in areas where the average income is too low to warrant lots of internet shopping. So the thing is, is that if it means the lower income households have less access to decent eLearning. And so there's the first stage of what we're interested in is the actual vehicle for this eLearning. And there's people like key to enable or Learn Appeal that are basically removing the the barrier of entry. And that's when it starts to get really interesting, because for something like key to enable and learn appeal, they've they've built these proof of concepts, they've got them working. And now that potential is incredible, because you can basically, you can take that little device, the Raspberry Pi thing, and you can work with bigger agencies, big organisations that want to help certain areas in different places. But under normal circumstances cannot, or teach people with disabilities, but under normal circumstances can't. And suddenly, you can start building new apps, you can explore new avenues of content that basically directly impact those individuals and dramatically improve their situation because they previously had no access.Tom Payani:
Yeah, and I think from a blend perspective, as well, it's a great challenge for us, because there's one thing us doing content detectives, where you're doing some serious animation and we really push the software we use as much as we can, to then having a challenge of listening to these guys. There's no data available. They can't have big files whenever they're playing eLearning. You know, the the technology is a bit more, let's say like lo-fi or whatever, you need to create an engaging, you know, interactive elearning within these constraints. And then and that's even, that's a fun challenge in a different way, isn't it?Brendan Cox:
Yeah, I think that's the thing is that it is kind of the same principle as low budget filmmaking. If you can embrace the restrictions that you have, at the end of day, we can help these sort of organisations and they are amazing to help because we're applying our soft skills and our additional production skills or background business skills to help them. But then when you actually come to make the content, you've got a really interesting framework to work within, and you can start coming up with some really cool stuff as well.Tom Payani:
And I think you become more creative in a way.Brendan Cox:
Yeah, totally. I mean, you could basically, as long as the goal is the same, which is to help that person and to give them something that they can see is valuable. You can do it in all sorts of different ways. And, like, I mean, even something in our previous episode, we were talking about nonlinear storytelling. And the thing is, is that even in the most simple piece of software, you can make it go in different directions. So depending on what you click in, it goes to a different place. I mean, you can do you could do nonlinear storytelling, and branch scenarios with PowerPoint.Tom Payani:
Yeah. We had the example of Twitter didn't we.Brendan Cox:
Yeah. So you can do a choose your own adventure with Beyonces imaginary assistant on Twitter.Tom Payani:
And I really like these constraints that are forced upon you, because it does make you have to access and engage this almost different part of your brain. It's like going on Ready Steady Cook, but for eLearning, you know what I mean?Brendan Cox:
You just get a basket of apples and nothing else.Tom Payani:
Yeah, because it comes back to what we said at the beginning of this episode about, you know, emotional intelligence, EQ, being the main change in how we try and basically put eLearning through - like creating projects, creating games, creating content, that, that helps people improve their EQ, that helps people address their own EQ, and that helps people understand what even emotional intelligence is, what EQ is, and we said it with Relearn, but companies bigger than us, like Google, they're looking for emotional intelligence, with their employees in their resumes, in their interviews, asking open ended questions, assessing different types of intelligence. And when Google are looking at that for their own staff, it's only going to be natural for emotional intelligence to be a big, big deal when it comes to the next stage of elearning. And what we're trying to use elearning for, in my opinion.Brendan Cox:
Yeah, definitely. I think that basically, Google is a very good example of early adoption, and like pioneering approaches to things. So, just from my side of it as an animator and designer, basically, Google was one of the first big companies to really embrace having their own internal animation for comms and basically, presenting stuff of learning. And the thing is, is that once they did it, all the other companies were like, well, if it's good enough for Google, there's obviously something to it. And Google can prove the impact that having visible visual animated content has. And now they're doing it with soft skills. And that whole thing of having an office Guru is less of a joke and more, actually, having someone specialising in soft skills in your company, improves the performance of all your employees. And we've got the data to back it up. And I think that's why emotional intelligence and stuff and Google taking it on board is a good indicator, if that's the direction everything's going in.Tom Payani:
Yeah. All right. I think that's a nice place to stop. Thanks a lot for your time and I will catch up with you again next week.Brendan Cox:
Yeah, and I think we can definitely chat to a few of those companies as we go along as well, because I think that they've got really interesting stories to tell. So we look forward to chatting with them. For sure, for sure. I'll speak to you soon. Cheers. Bye.Intro/Outro:
Thanks for listening to the blend podcast. It's available on Spotify, Google. You can find blend interactive content on LinkedIn, or www.blend.training. Don't forget to like and subscribe. See you next time.