Sharon Middleton Interview – About MakeWaves - Monkey Wellbeing

Sharon Middleton Interview – About MakeWaves

by Monkey Wellbeing on 21 July 2015

At Monkey Wellbeing, we’re lucky enough to meet lots of exciting professionals in different fields such as healthcare, education and charitable causes.

Recently, we spoke with Sharon Middleton at Makewaves, a new digital community for children and teenagers, used by thousands of schools. Sharon told us all about what Makewaves has to offer, as well as its growth over the past few years. Read on for our full interview with Sharon:

Would you be able to tell us about the history of Makewaves and your role at the company?

Makewaves is a safe social network for schools and young people age 5-19 years. It started in 2004 as a project working with an educational charity, CAPE UK, funded by the Learning Skills Council. The project worked with young people at risk of exclusion. The impact of enabling young people to create their own media (in this original project – online radio programmes) and share these online with peers and a real audience was evaluated and found to have an extremely positive impact on attendance, motivation and confidence for this group.

NHS Explorer Badge

From this original project, we were then able to open the technology up to any Primary or Secondary school as a way to share pupils’ work and achievement and celebrate and develop pupil voice.
Over the years, Makewaves developed to include safe social networking tools, keeping in line with the technology that young people love to use to communicate, whilst at the same time keeping ease of use for all teachers and safety at the heart of the tools.

I was a Creative Practitioner on the original project and then joined the company to support the development of the online community in to a network of schools across the UK and globally. During my eleven years with the company I have supported teachers and schools to join and use Makewaves, worked with project partners to support their use of the technology and overseen the development of the community in line with our core aims of supporting all teachers and remaining a safe community. Now, with our unique position around Open Badges in education, I have a key role in the development of our community tools with ‘badges for partner’ organisations, schools and young people.

From the website it seems Makewaves first started as an internet radio platform. How has Makewaves grown since its initial launch?

The initial project described above was known as Radiowaves. With the development of our community tools such as blogging, video, comments, likes, co-collaboration, digital badge creation, awarding and tracking, we decided to change the name to Makewaves to more fully reflect the community.

How many schools are now taking part in Makewaves?

There are approximately 4,000 schools registered to Makewaves, 70,000 children and young people and 10,000 teachers or group leaders.

Would you be able to share with us some details of the most interesting and unique badges available on Makewaves?

This blog discusses this set of interesting badges in particular around Mindfulness.

The Young Carer badges are interesting and, of course, the Department of Health and NHS England badges.

We have some very exciting new science badges coming online in the autumn to coincide with the launch of British Astronaut Tim Peake out to the International Space Station. These new badges are being created by project partners including the Met Office, the Science Museum, Royal Observatory Greenwich, UK Space Agency, European Space Agency, NASA and Young Rewired State and will form part of a fictional story world delivered through Makewaves and created by Unlimited Theatre Company and Coney to run alongside the real world events of Tim’s mission. This film helps to explain the project further.

Here is a selection of school and partner created badges from our Community Manager:

St. Paul’s – Ukulele Star
Snowsfields – The Ancient Greeks
BadgeLab – Den Builder
Bite The Ballot – Pledge To Vote
YCIF – Community Photo Message
Digital Drama – Young Curator

When did you first introduce the badges for Makewaves and what kind of feedback have you received so far?

Two and a half years ago, Makewaves won the DML (Digital Media and Learning) competition in the States to become the first UK platform to integrate the Open Badges technology. Other winners in the States included Disney and NASA.

When we first introduced the Open Badge technology in to Makewaves, we were interested to see how the community would react to badges. In the 8-14 age range there was a definite keen interest in collecting badges, earning badges around children’s own interests and being set a challenge by a badge mission and sharing evidence around that. For young people age 15+, it is much more around the value earning a badge can add to their CV and potential career or development opportunities.

What are your plans for Makewaves over the next 6-12 months?

We are working with some extremely interesting Mission Maker partners. Our plans are to support more and more schools, children and young people to find and earn these badges. There are approximately 50 new schools joining Makewaves each month.

We have just updated the award winning Makewaves app to include badges so it is now the first Open Badge all for schools. We will continue to develop flexibly across mobile devices as well as support the use of the community via the website.

We are also in the process of developing a new badge platform and community with a partner organisation, DigitalMe, that will connect young people age 16+ with opportunities and employers through Open Badges.

What has some of the feedback from children been like for Makewaves?

Here is some feedback from Children and Young people on the health badges:‘Badges could be really significant in the future. It’s a good goal for people to have to want to get these badges, to want to achieve and get the best out of themselves.’
Delorice – East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust Young Member ‘Badges offer a way for people not only to just sign up, but to be actively involved.’
Lucy – East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust Young Member ‘Badges are the way forward for a CV. They way employers can look at all your experience and things you’ve achieved in your lifetime.’
Rikki – HealthWatch Leeds YouthWatch Young Member ‘The badge system offers you an online CV and it can really help employers see what’s best in you.’
Charlie – Shropshire Youth Health Champion ‘You don’t just get a badge, you have to earn it.’
Snowsfield Primary Pupil

Monkey Wellbeing would like to thank Sharon Middleton for taking part in our interview. For more details on Makewaves, visit You can follow Sharon Middleton on Twitter @SharonMakeWaves.