Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve by now heard of Sal Khan and his growing collection of YouTube video lessons covering a dizzying array of subjects. Khan’s popularity has sparked a debate among educators about the effectiveness of his methods and the role of online video lessons in education.
As educators debate, students appear to be voting with their eyeballs, as traffic to Khan Academy is exploding. Are tomorrow’s students destined to learn all their math lessons from the prolific Mr. Khan?
Not so fast, according to the founders of Educreations. The startup wants to give students lots of choices of online teachers – including the teachers they see every day at school.
“Khan has provided a powerful example of what’s possible,” says Educreations CEO Wade Roberts. “There are millions of great teachers in the world, but today you can only learn from them if you happen to be sitting in their classrooms. We want to help teachers share their teaching online so anyone can learn from them.”
Quick & Simple
It’s an ambitious goal. In order for Educreations to provide students access to all those great lessons, they’ll need lots of teachers to record the lessons and post them to the Web, which has never been an easy process. Roberts claims they’ve created a quick and simple new way for teachers to record a lesson and share it online in just a few minutes – from anywhere. And it’s all made possible by a magical little device you may have heard about – the iPad.
The Educreations iPad app, which launched this week as a free download in the App Store (iTunes link), transforms the tablet into an interactive whiteboard that records a teacher’s voice and handwriting as they explain a concept or work through an example problem. Teachers can add photos to their lessons from the iPad’s Photo Library or camera, or a Dropbox account, and they can animate the photos by tapping and dragging. Finished lessons are hosted on educreations.com, where they can be shared privately with a class of students or publicly with everyone.
How It’s Different
It’s not the first recordable whiteboard application that’s been developed for the iPad. Other similar apps include ShowMe and ScreenChomp. However, Educreations stands apart from the other apps in terms of features, design and ease of use. Handwriting in the Educreations app is smooth and fluid, and looks and feels just like using a real whiteboard marker. It’s the only app out of the three that allows you to move and resize photos while you’re recording to create animations. Also, unlike the other apps, Educreations lets you create multiple pages, so you don’t have to erase the screen to give yourself more room. It’s evident that team Educreations put a lot of thought into building the features a teacher will need to record a lesson on the iPad.
Roberts says he and co-founder, Chris Streeter, are aiming to create something like a YouTube for learning. “The overall quality of the lessons will continually improve as more teachers contribute and the data helps us identify which lessons are the most effective. Similar to the way Netflix and Amazon recommend movies and products you will like, our goal is to be able to recommend the lessons that will be most helpful to each student, whether those lessons were created by their teacher at school or by a teacher on the other side of the world.”
“We expect many teachers will develop massive followings, because they explain a complex topic in a fantastic way that just makes sense to students. We’ll know we’ve succeeded if a bunch of teachers on Educreations become internet sensations – because they’re that good, and the world can finally hear what they have to say.”