February 19, 2014
“The lecturing-in-front-of-the-room approach just isn’t the right way anymore,” says Ben Levy. Levy is a former middle school science teacher with Teach for America and – according to him – there is an increasing trend in education toward modifying teaching methods to accommodate the different learning styles of students. During his time in the classroom, however, he found it frustrating that the tools available to him were insufficient in engaging his students in a nontraditional way. Particularly, he thought that there was a lot of value in utilizing YouTube in the classroom, but no platform allowed him to create fully responsive and effective lessons for his students, and to fully set-up this kind of flipped classroom experience. So with this problem in mind, he set out to create a solution. The result? EduCanon.
“There is a fundamental problem with differentiation in the classroom. [When I was teaching] I couldn’t find all the tools to help me accommodate to different learning styles of students. What [eduCanon] is trying to do is to evolve the traditional one-to-thirty teaching style to a one-to-one style, while still incorporating teaching pedagogy.”
EduCanon is a free web platform that easily allows teachers to incorporate online video content into their lessons. Using videos from YouTube, Vimeo, or TeacherTube, teachers can build assignments directly on top of that video content. Question types range from multiple choice and reflective pause to free response and answer feedback. These interactive video lessons provide teachers with an effective method for implementing flipped teaching in the classroom – a method dependent on student engagement with video content, and in ways that mimic the classroom experience. For instance, a student can’t fast-forward through video lectures, and each student can get immediate feedback on the assessments that they take on the platform. And while certainly not the end-all solution to this country’s education woes, eduCanon provides educators with the option of enhancing student learning and assessment through a medium that has become the most popular among young Americans.
Back in 2012, Google launched YouTube for Schools, which was aimed at giving teachers access to YouTube EDU – an educational library replete with free, high-quality educational videos. In effect, it became the first push by a major Internet company to bring a new form of learning into the classroom. To Google’s credit, it was a brilliant move, aligning itself with the current ethos of American youth. According to a study conducted last year by The Futures Company, a research consultancy, YouTube was the number one most popular social network among younger teens, with 50 percent of those aged 12- to 15-years ranking YouTube as their website. And with 93 percent of American teens now having access to computers at home, engagement with such online video content will only continue to become more prevalent in students’ everyday lives.
“We’re actually really glad that the Challenge Cup has had to go through all these other cities before the Finals. Since [the DC competition] we’ve been refining our pitch, and we’ve developed to a point where we now have the numbers to support [how successful eduCanon can be].”
With these statistics in mind, it’s easy to see how eduCanon can succeed as a education platform. Indeed, this success can be traced back to October when the startup won in the Education category at the Challenge Cup DC Regional Competition. At the time, it was only Levy’s third time pitching, but he assures us that they’ll be ready to face the competition at the Challenge Cup Global Finals. And, I mean, there’s certainly no shortage of what the startup can cite in terms of accomplishments since DC – from piloting their platform in 11 schools just week after they launched to growing their user-base from 1,500 to 8,000. No matter what happens to eduCanon this upcoming May, we can be assured that the startup will make a dramatic impact in bringing YouTube in the classroom.
The Challenge Cup is produced by 1776 in partnership with Tech Cocktail and iStrategyLabs.
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