The world of edtech is abuzz this week thanks to a smattering of exciting news. First, we had Stanford creating an entirely new position and office for online learning. Now something that signals a seismic shift in the edtech world.
Companies and startups alike are jumping feet-first into the edtech world, hoping to connect educators like never before. They’re doing this by creating their very own social networks with functionality that rivals Facebook and Twitter. But it all has an educational twist, making it clear that we’re going to keep seeing more and more organizations vying for the valuable attention of teachers, administrators, and students.
There are two new educational social networks that have basically launched this week. Both have already existed for a few months but they’re essentially now open and easier to use, making them actually viable options for everyone.
If you’re an early adopter, you’re going to want to pay attention. If you know an early adopter, send this to them or ask if they’ve heard of either social network. It’ll be like a fun quiz where you may actually know more than them!
First, we have the new apps from Learnist. I met with one of the head honchos from Learnist and saw the apps (now available here) in person. They’re incredible and signal a shift in the quality of edtech tools for years to come. The Learnist website is robust, relatively straightforward (there’s some new vocabulary you’ll need to ‘learn’), and it’s downright informative.
I saw a learning-board about Neil Armstrong pop up the same hour I heard about his passing (top right of the image below). That shows there’s a solid number of users and that it’s easy to update the site. All good things.
The Learnist apps are going to make Learnist in general take off. The apps facilitate sharing, tagging, liking, and learning. Learnist is designed to be an educational social network and it’s only a few months old. The apps are only a few days old. In other words, there are millions of teachers and students not yet using the site … but they will be. Very soon.
Second, there’s a new development with another educational social network. Taking a page from the early stages of Facebook, Lore (formerly CourseKit) is looking to change how teachers and students communicate. Lore wants to be a mixture of Edmodo, Blackboard, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. With the backing of people like Peter Thiel and big name VCs, it might be able to actually pull it off. Amazing what money can do.
Here’s a look at what a profile page looks like. Note the Facebook-y features coupled with the Google+ style sidebar.
Lore had been a teacher-centric site for you to build somewhat limited communication around a course. Invitations were only offered by teachers to their students. So you can see why it didn’t quite take off like Pinterest or even Facebook.
But now that’s changed. The site was totally redesigned in July and has a new look and feel. Students can now freely sign up and start establishing their Lore profiles in order to connect outside the virtual classroom. It’s called ‘Lore For Students’ and is currently used at more than 600 different schools. There’s course management tools, social network tools, and a lot more coming soon.
Like Learnist, many people are going to flock to Lore in the coming months as it offers a sexy and streamlined interface coupled with real academic tools that could replace ones you’re already using. Not bad for the price of free.
The overarching theme now of Learnist and Lore (aside from the first letter of the names) is that these sites are designed to function just like the most popular social networks in the world … except they were built just for teachers and students. To me, that says that it’s a very exciting time in edtech as companies are able to finally leverage the resources and data from the Facebooks and Blackboards of the world … then turning this into a very useful new tool that can be completely tailored to the education audience.
No longer will teachers, students, and administrators hope to fit their square peg (education needs) into a round hole (whatever Facebook offers). We can all now look forward to more and more dedicated tools that are robust enough to perhaps completely replace Facebook or other major social networks.