In school, there’s nothing more frustrating than sitting in class and trying to understand a teacher’s explanation of a concept that simply isn’t clicking. Whether it’s elementary school, high school, or college, that feeling of frustration is what causes many students to simply give up on learning. It’s common for a student to reason, Well, maybe I’m just too stupid for this, and then zone out for the rest of the lesson.
But sometimes, helping a student move from confusion to mastery is as simple as explaining a concept in a different way, or having a completely different person explain it — whether that’s another teacher, a tutor, or a parent, who has a way of relating the subject matter make sense to a particular student. If one teacher’s explanation isn’t clicking, at times all it takes is going to another source to hear the concept explained in a different way.
And when a student finds that teacher who explains concepts in a way he or she understands, it finally clicks. Suddenly, that student realizes he’s not, in fact, too stupid. The real learning happens when a student finds a teacher who inspires him, and sometimes in order for that learning to take place, it’s as simple as knowing there’s someone looking out for you who believes that you can do it.
Edtech company Knowmia totally gets this. Knowmia is a new platform that features a huge library short video lessons, a la Khan Academy, on their website. But unlike Khan Academy, Knowmia doesn’t just feature one superstar teacher — their crowdsourced platform features as many teachers as possible in order to reach a variety of learners. We caught up with Knowmia co-founder Scott Kabat, who gave us the inside scoop on their company’s mission and their plans for the future.
“Knowmia is very much premised on the fact that when a student finds a teacher who really inspires them and breaks through to them, there’s a magic that happens,” Scott said. “We want to unlock that for everyone, particularly in cases for students who didn’t quite get what was taught in school.”
The idea then, is to feature a variety of educators, Scott emphasized. The idea is to give as many teachers as possible the opportunity to reach students, and in this way students can view lessons by a teacher they truly connect with and understand, rather than having to suffer through a lesson they can’t follow. “We want to celebrate that there’s no right or wrong way to teach a lesson,” said Scott. “There a lot of different pedagogical approaches to teaching anything, and every student learns differently.”
Currently Knowmia’s video library is focused on high school material, and so far over 800 teachers have posted over 8,000 lessons. Because Knowmia has an open platform, any teacher can post a video, and in turn students can review the material and provide ratings for the lesson. The site is geared toward providing teachers with a platform that helps them create effective and creative material, which in turn helps students become even more engaged and ultimately succeed in school — all completely free of charge.
Scott and co-founder Ariel Braunstein previously worked for Flip video camera company, and it was in working for Flip that they saw how videos could impact people’s lives in a positive, and “frankly, unexpected” way. Scott and Ariel are both parents, and as they started thinking about the challenges facing the education system today, they decided to take their experience in working for Flip and apply it to something more meaningful — namely, education.
“We’re very humble about the fact that we don’t come from the education world,” said Scott. “So we take a lot of advice from teachers, administrators, and parents.” This outreach includes going out to different schools each week and talking to real teachers about what they think will help them be more effective in the classroom.
“Right now we’re focused on engaging teachers,” said Scott. With teachers everywhere experimenting with flipped lessons and blended learning, Knowmia wants to provide teachers the tools they’ll need to implement those experiments in their own classroom. They’ve done this with the video library, and they’re still not done. The company created an app for teachers called Knowmia Teach, which is an easy-to-use platform that enables teachers to incorporate all kinds of different multimedia into their lessons, including video, .PDF and PowerPoint, and even real-time doodles. But teachers don’t have to use this feature if they don’t find it useful. “We’re completely agnostic as to how teachers create content, whether that’s by screen casting or using a Flip camera.” Knowmia’s only goal is to help teachers create the best content possible in order to engage students.
We’ll certainly keep our eye on Knowmia in the coming months as they build out new features and apps for the site, including a home assignment tool that will provide teachers with real-time, meaningful feedback as to how their students use Knowmia videos.
In the meantime, teachers, Scott wants you to join him! “We’re always looking for educators who are interested in shaping the future of Knowmia and working with us, whether that’s by content creation or just talking to us. We’re always interested in networking with them and learning from them. Our doors are always open.”
If you’re interested in getting involved in Knowmia’s education mission, you can contact the Knowmia team here.