A Teacher-Built Technology Tool

| July 5, 2011 | 5 Comments
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A vocabulary lesson from a LessonCast.

For all the gadgets and software and devices out there available to educators, what technology do they really need? Do we stop long enough to ask?

The exhibition hall at ISTE 2011 was a mammoth affair, but walking up and down the seemingly endless aisles, I wondered which of these are really necessary?

The question has been on my mind at least as long as the Startup Weekend Edu last month, when (as we covered here) teams came together to pitch, design, and build an ed-tech startup over the course of an intensive weekend. There were several teachers at the event, and it was interesting to hear their ideas about technology products and services.

One of the teams at Startup Weekend that worked on a teacher-driven idea was LessonCast, and I had the sense as the team pitched their idea at the end of the weekend, that some of the investors and non-educators on the judging panel just didn’t “get it.” “I’m not sure who would use it,” was one response. “Well, teachers,” said the founders.

The idea behind LessonCast is to enable teachers to make short, two-and-a-half minute videos explaining a particular lesson or classroom management strategy. Unlike other sites devoted to online instruction, LessonCast isn’t about teachers teaching students per se, but rather teachers teaching and mentoring other teachers.

“We’re trying to help build the expertise of teachers and to share that,” says LessonCast co-founder Nicole Tucker-Smith, who points to her own experiences as a novice teacher turning to more experienced educators for help with lesson plans, project ideas, and classroom management tips. The startup wants to help educators share content via video, matching new and experienced educators, not just in the content of the tips and tricks and lessons, but in the production of the videos themselves as well.

“We’re trying to give teachers a greater voice,” she says, not use technology or video instruction to replace or “skirt around them.”

LessonCast’s mission is helping teachers share content, but it’s also about helping foster mentor relationships — both online and offline. Tucker-Smith says the startup has connections with several universities in order to get the product out to student teachers and in professional development settings.

Having just founded the startup last month, LessonCast still has a lot to work out. One thing the founding team knows is that it must make that process of creating the videos as simple as possible.

The founding team understands the limitations on teachers’ time and technology — both Tucker-Smith and another one of her co-founders, Katrina Stevens, are educators themselves. Balancing education and entrepreneurship is no easy task (and the startup is looking for engineering talent as well as weighing its investment options). But LessonCast is confident that it’s building a tool that teachers want and need.

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  • http://twitter.com/waltatek waltatek

    I agree that short videos made by teachers for teachers is a super way to acquire new knowledge and see other practice.

    Microsoft Partners in Learning has had teachers sharing expertise through short video clips for quite some time now.  These are produced by teachers at the Microsoft Innovative Teacher Summer Camp in Reading (been running since 2009)

    See Innovative Teachers InnoVids Channel on YouTube for examples of teachers sharing with teachers(Innovids Playlist)

    http://www.youtube.com/user/innovativeteach#p/c/79DE4A1AC20E9EA6

  • http://twitter.com/waltatek waltatek

    Further to my post below – see also the “Under Ten Minutes” site for other great examples of teachers sharing through short videos

    http://www.undertenminutes.com/

  • http://twitter.com/briangreenberg Brian Greenberg

    Audrey, I too was impressed by LessonCast.  They are helping teachers figure out how to teach a specific concept or strategy in class.  How to teach the pythagorean theorem, for example, or a great strategy for classroom management (ala Doug Lemov’s video work with Teach Like a Champion).  Rather than share a complicated written lesson plan and hope that other teachers can figure out the details, why not turn on the video camera and record a pithy two or three minute video.  In doing so they can also help teachers be reflective and “meta” about their practice.   LessonCast is going to have to figure out how to best serve videos that are relevant to the subject teachers are looking for and they’ll have to figure out how to seed the site so that it is useful to users when they first log on, but they are on to something.  A similarly interesting, although different, approach is Better Lesson (www.betterlesson.org) who built a sharing site around lesson plans.

  • Atjn4

    LessonCasts looks so great! PBS Teachers Newsletter got me to MindShift- from an article about virtual worlds for children, and from there linked to LessonCasts. I passed this great page immediately to several of my teachers of grades 3-5 who struggle to do just these kinds of engaging lessons, bumping up against school district AUP in an environment where cuts are worse and worsening. Teachers charged with increasing test scores that contractually holds them to achievement goals, feel their creativity drying up and student enthusiasm for learning waning, even for this group typically characterized as “sponges.” Need to collaborate with local public libraries to share collections and help with the process skills that now often fall by the wayside. I hope that parents are tuning in-(I may be an insider)-Two great finds in one day!Nancy BrakemanTechpara, Francis Howell SD, Missouri

  • Anonymous

    Great article.  I think its fantastic when teachers can innovate and make change that really makes a difference.  The LessonCast team is great and I hope they get more support!