Pop Culture in the Classroom and Students as Teachers

Kirsten is an award winning edublogger and the founder & editor of EDUKWEST, a growing online media network of educators and educational entrepreneurs ("edupreneurs") highlighting the best of transformational educational technologies and businesses.

To keep our students motivated and engaged is a challenge every educator is faced with every day. Today, I would like to introduce you to two approaches on how to bring ‘real life learning’ to the classroom.

NuSkool

NuSkoolNuSkool just recently graduated from a newly created incubator called TechLaunch.
The startup offers teachers and schools tailored lessons for grades 6 to 12. The idea is to teach students in core subjects such as Math and Science, English but also History through pop culture. The team believes that if we give students what they’re interested in they will enjoy learning core academic subjects much more.

This idea is not new in itself, the concept has already already been proven in other segments of education, such as lifelong learning or teaching foreign languages. If you take for instance popular language learning startup Voxy you will see a similar approach: learn a foreign language from the world around you which means that learners can indicate the topics they are interested in and Voxy tailors the lessons so that they are interesting and engaging.

Certainly, if we take a look at entertainment in general, it might be a challenge to identify and then curate the educational moments yourself. Let’s face it, teachers are busy and it’s hard to invest another one or two hours and work through a deluge of materials for an additional 5 min of classroom material.

This is when NuSkool might come in handy as they take care of the curation process and to find the teachable moments for you.

The service charges just under $10/month for individual teachers but also offers group rates and special rates for entire schools, districts.

I think, it’s a good thing that NuSkool has a clear business model and preferable compared with startups that give everything for free as it might ensure that the startup will still be around in two years and not go the way of the dodo like so many other education startups.

Let’s face it, to go all in with edutainment is challenging for schools. If they make the decision to go for it, they want to be very sure to have a reliable partner.

My question is whether what NuSkool offers is enough. There are already platforms like BetterLesson and others where teachers buy and sell lesson material. I think it’s only a matter of time until lessons around pop culture will emerge on these outlets as well. And, as we all know, teachers like to buy from teachers and not necessarily from startups.

My other concern is parents. We already have had multiple stories about parents who worry (freak out) over science fiction books read in class. I’m not sure that everybody will approve that their kids will be taught using Kanye-West-language.

 

Transforming Students into Tech Teachers

My second story today is about a teacher who flipped the classroom in a completely new and creative way.

As we all know there are billions of dollars spent on teacher training, Common Core and also how to use technology in the classroom.

Rob Zdrojewski who teaches at a middle schools switched roles with his students. Students become teachers who create mini lessons for their teachers that teach them the use of certain technologies. This might be the use of a computer or also how to use Google docs or Google calendar.

The teachers can watch their students’ videos at their own pace and whenever they want.
What I find nice is that the students also give their opinion on a product. This way the teacher not only learns how to use a program but also why, according to Mr Zdrojewski.

The students are highly motivated and enjoy creating videos for their teachers. The acceptance amongst teachers is also very positive and they like the concept of learning anytime, anywhere. Needless to say that the cost-saving is enormous compared with professional teacher development programs as a lot of software is either freely available or can be purchased at a low price.

I think everybody is a winner here, students, teachers, the entire school, and I hope this example is encouraging for some other schools to follow suit and try something similar.
For everybody interested, here is an interview with Rob Zdrojewski about his experiences so far.