One of the biggest problems many people have with Khan Academy and YouTube Edu is simply the format. It’s not the fault of Khan or YouTube … it’s just that the passive video format is just that. It’s passive. Khan and others are introducing more interactive technology that acts as an added level of learning to the lessons but no one has nailed it quite yet.
A San Francisco-based startup called Net Power & Light Inc. wants to change that. And they’re working with one of the most popular (in terms of YouTube views at least) Harvard professors to show off what they can do. Net and Professor Michael Sandel have partnered to offer a more interactive way to learn using the Apple iPad.
Net’s software is called ‘Spin‘ which essentially turns passive video watching into interactive group learning. It’s like project-based learning but with the entire planet instead of just your classroom.
Right now, Spin lets you remix and interact with content from Harvard, Stanford, TED, and the National Geographic Channel.
“Teachers felt web-based learning wasn’t giving them the full experience,” Tara Lemmey, Net Power & Light’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said in an interview. “Education shouldn’t live by itself. It’s a world of together.”
So How’s It Work?
The Spin software lets you, like any video player, fast-forward, rewind, skip chapters, and pause videos. But it’s more than that. The software overlays video conferences you’re having simultaneously with other people in your group. You can pause the video and discuss it. It’s like a collaborative Skype session with the background being an informative multimedia presentation.
Start the video, get your group to join in, watch a bit, then discuss. This could be a great tool for any distance learners or students doing PBL remotely.
The software also features a shared chalkboard so all the members of your group can draw right on the screen. It also lets you have individual audio controls since there will likely be more than one conversation happening simultaneously. In a fun twist, you can actually shrink or enlarge a person’s picture on the iPad screen to lower or raise their respective volume.
Get The App
Professor Sandel is one of the first people to use the Spin software to create the Together Justice app (download it on iTunes). You can watch the 12-part video series (worth watching on YouTube and the first is embedded below) and view discussion guides. Sandel also said he’ll be using the app and software this semester in his class to connect with students in Tokyo, Shanghai, New Delhi and Sao Paolo.
“It offers great promise of convening groups of people, students and also citizens in general to engage in discussion and debate of important questions,” said Sandel. “It can potentially be a very valuable tool for civic engagement and enriching public discourse.”
“The global class is the next stage in the experiment,” Sandel said. “We would listen to one another and learn from one another.”
Prof. Sandel’s First Video (Not The App But Worth Seeing)