Edtech: Is it time for creative destruction?

A guest post by Bastian Kjar.

When groundbreaking new inventions come along and remove the foundations of old systems, it’s called ”creative destruction”. This expression was coined by the Austrian-American economist Joseph A. Schumpeter. In the 1930’s Schumpeter conducted research into the ways in which companies innovate and how they manage the process. According to Schumpeter  ”creative destruction” is a necessity in order to entice new customers. 

In a time when technological development is occuring at a faster rate than ever, companies have to innovate in order to not lose customers and eventually go bankrupt. Innovate or die.

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 In the world of education, creative destruction does not have the same influence, or so it would seem. If the school system fails to keep up with the needs of a changing society, it won’t go bankrupt. But a lack of innovation will leave students without the skills that they need to function in society. They will be missing skills in reading, writing and mathematics. Students with special needs or different talents will be overlooked in a system that herds pupils towards a career in academia.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

So said Henry Ford. The quote expresses the way that innovation demands that we look beyond the fixed limits. Take the school system today, where politicians, administrators and teachers seem to always be looking for a way to optimise by making a “faster horse”. More money, more teaching hours and more standardised tests. I think it’s about time that we built a car. Today we are lucky to have a lot of powerful technology at our fingertip everyday.. At the same time, researchers are discovering more and more about how people acquire how we learn. This is knowledge that society can use for technological development. Education technology, learning technology, didactic design; it has many names. But it’s actually all just new methods and techniques for teaching and learning.  These methods and techniques make use of social media, interactive ebooks, video, games, learning algorithms, tablets and computers. At Lessonalne we’re working to support that development in the hope of creating better learning and for students the world over. In the next few months, we’ll go into depth with the technology that seeks to revolutionise the way we educate ourselves today here on this blog. We’ll talk about current and upcoming trends, feature some interesting case studies and a range of interviews with researchers, teachers, developers and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Sometimes it’s enough to reboot your computer to make it run faster. But I think it’s time to buy a whole new computer.  

Bastian Kjar, friend of Lessonlane and education blogger. 

Read the original Danish language version below. 

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Teachers will be curators and technologies their canvas

" As educators we strive for students to engage with our subject beyond a superficial level. We want them to be active learners, learners who have a thirst for discovery and knowledge. Technology places the world in the hands of every student inside the confines of your classroom."
 
Last week I stumbled across this article in the Guardian by British teacher, Mike Britland, on how technology is redefining the role of the modern teacher. Working, as we do, in a world wrapped in education technology, it can be easy to forget that a lot of classrooms are still in the midst of an uneasy transition from books and pencils to tablets and laptops. 

Mike’s article is a reminder that many teachers are working hard to redefine their role and find a place for new gadgets and software in their lesson plans. 

I think Mike is spot on in saying that the best teachers will find success in curating interactive content that encourages students to explore the subjects at hand. Technology is nothing more or less than a facilitator for student discovery. Exploring answers is one of the best ways to learn for both students and teachers. Where students are delving ever deeper into topics, teachers are challenging their own preconceptions and answers and learning along with the students. 

But setting students free to roam the internet is not the teacher’s panacea. Teachers might not need to stand in front of a blackboard any more. But they will still play the most crucial role in providing a framework for their students to lead them towards relevant, valuable content and making sure that their pupils understand which sources of information are reliable and valid.

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We want Lessonlane to be the teacher’s friend in creating a technological framework for the classroom. Today we’re happy to be able to publish the first official screenshot of Lessonlane from the teacher’s point of view in order to illustrate my point. It works like this. You set up a lesson using content you pull from anywhere. You start the students on their learning journey by using the content to guide them in the right direction. Then the real learning begins, with students using the comment fields to spark discussion and bringing their own content to the mix.

Technology will find its place in the classroom as a facilitator for great teachers. 
 
By the way, have you signed up for beta testing yet? Get to it here

Troels Hauch Tornmark, 
Founder & Partner, Lessonlane (troels@lessonlane.com)

Switching it up: talking the flipped classroom with Anja Emilie Madsen

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This week Lessonlane is lucky to have scored an interview with Danish teacher and IT wonder Anja Emilie Madsen. Anja is behind the extremely popular Cool it and The Flipped Classroom blogs (in Danish). Below she gives us her take on The Flipped Classroom, a technique that is based on giving the lessons at home and leaving the homework for the classroom.  

See the English translation above and the original Danish below. 

What is the main way the flipped classroom is different to the normal classroom and what are the advantages of the flipped classroom for you?

The flipped classroom has fundamentally changed the way I think about preparation and teaching, how I convey my material and my role as a teacher. Firstly, it’s necessary to find material that’s suitable for the flipped classroom model. The material should be something “neutral” that isn’t dependant on particular learning tools. Ideally it should also be developed so that my colleagues can use it at another time.

Before I film video tutorials, I design some instructions. I think to myself: What’s the goal of this video? What should the students be learning? I’m very clear about my goals in the classroom and that clarity has helped me when producing video tutorials. 

When I’m teaching or in my role as an IT tutor, my archives of video tutorials are also my assistants. I can share them via link on our intranet for example. When students ask about topics that we have gone through in a video tutorial, I can ask them to rewatch the video. This frees up some resources so that I can help or challenge other students/colleagues. The goal with video tutorials is also to help students learn how to learn independently!    

The flipped classroom har ændret meget i min måde at tænke forberedelse og undervisning på, hvordan jeg formidler mit stof samt min lærerrolle. For det første skal jeg finde det stof, som egener sig til at blive formidlet via The Flipped Classroom. Det må gerne være noget “neutralt”, som ikke er afhængig af bestemte læremidler. Det må gerne være tænkt sådan, at mine kollegaer også kan bruge det på et tidspunkt.

Jeg designer også videovejledningerne forud for optagelserne. Jeg tænker: Hvad er målet med denne video? Hvad skal eleverne lærer? Jeg er meget tydelig i klassen omkring målet med undervisningen, og det har hjulpet mig til at producere videovejledninger.

I undervisningen eller i min funktion som it-vejleder, er mit arkiv at videovejledninger også mine assistenter, som jeg kan dele via link på fx intra. Når eleverne spørger om noget, der er blevet gennemgået via videovejledning, beder jeg dem om at se den igen. Dette frigører ressoucer til, at jeg kan hjælpe og udfordre andre elever/kollegaer.

Målet med videovejledningerne er også, at eleverne lærer at lære på egen hånd!

What role does technology have to play in the flipped classroom?

For me it plays a big role. I mainly record videos which I upload to YouTube. Then I can share them with links or embedding on the school intranet or on my blog. I work with YouTube because the file format can be played by all devices and shared easily on blogs, where I can set up an archive of video tutorials. 

For mig spiller det en stor rolle. Jeg optager for det meste screencast, som jeg uploader til Youtube, som jeg herefter linker til/embedder i Skoleintra eller på min blog. Jeg vælger Youtube, da den kan afspilles på alle devices og deles på Blogs, hvor jeg kan oprette et arkiv af videovejledninger.

How is that different from the normal classroom?

The students don’t have to struggle with homework they can’t work out at home where the teacher can’t help them. Instead, they do it at school, where the teacher can offer help. 

The students can be more active in the classroom. They don’t have to sit and listen to the teacher give long lectures. The students can spend their class time working with more problem oriented project work with support from the teacher. 

Eleverne skal ikke kæmpe med lektier, som de ikke kan finde ud af derhjemme, hvor læreren ikke kan hjælpe dem. Det skal de lave på skolen, mens læreren kan hjælpe dem.

Eleverne skal være mere aktive i undervisningen og ikke sidde høre på læreren, der holder lange oplæg. I timerne skal eleverne arbejde med mere problemorienteret projektarbejde med støtte fra læreren.

What is your favourite way to get your “flipped” lesson content to your students? (do you use video, audio, pictures, quizzes?)

I use videos. For example I might narrate over a slideshow, for example, or make screen recordings with a walkthrough of web 2.0 programs amongst other things.  

Jeg bruger videoer. Jeg speaker fx indover et slideshow eller laver en skærmoptagelse, med gennemgang af web 2.0 programmer mm.

You have been running a flipped classroom experiment for the last several months. What would be your best piece of advice to other teachers thinking about flipping their classrooms?

BEWARE of the technique playing too large of a role. Find the tools that work for you quickly and start with them. When you have the ball rolling, you can try some different techniques.

This is my formula just now :

1. Record video with, for example, a smartphone> Upload to YouTube/Skoletube and share.

2. Make a screen recording with screen-O-matic (a tool found in Skoletube), upload to YouTube/Skoletube and share.  

PAS PÅ at teknikken ikke kommer til at spille en for stor rolle. Find hurtigt de værktøjer, der virker og start med dem. Når det virker, kan du prøve andre teknikker af.

Lige nu er min opskrift:

1. Optag fx med din smartphone> upload på Youtube/Skoletube og del

2. Lav en skærmoptagelse med screencast-O-matic (ligger også i Skoletube), og udgiv i Youtube/skoletube og del

Vh. Anja Emilie Madsen

The Dream Learning Platform: the survey results are in!

The results of the Lessonlane teacher survey are in. Over the last month you might have noticed that we’ve been asking teachers to take a quick survey about what they really want from a learning platform. It’s been exciting for us to tally the results and we’re happy to be able to present them to you today! 
We got responses from all over the world and from educators teaching at all levels from primary school to university and corporate education programs.  
But there were three key things that almost all of our respondents wanted from a learning platform. First, the ability to share content from anywhere. They want to be able to upload any kind of file without technical restrictions. Second, they want to be able to collaborate directly with students and parents. They don’t want to just present static content. They want students to be able to participate in real time with each other and they want to be able to contact parents to improve student learning outcomes. Finally, they need to be able to collaborate, share and plan with other teachers to enhance their daily teaching. 
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Don’t forget, we’re always looking for more inspiration and great ideas. You can always contact us to share your feedback. To sign up for our piloting program go to lessonlane.com

Startup Tech: building a sustainable Lessonlane

One of the key concerns where startups meet education is the ability of those startups to meet the needs of schools and teachers on an ongoing basis. Will the next great idea make it to reality? Will it look like what the schools signed up for? Can the product change when we need to change. Basically, is it sustainable? Working with schools is a great responsibility. And that responsibility has been at the forefront of my mind whilst developing Lessonlane.  

Brace yourselves because this is about to get technical. Lessonlane is built on a full Javascript stack. We’re using Backbone on the front end, Node.js on the back end and a MongoDB database. That means (in short), that we’re using the same programming language on both the front end and the back end. 

Why is that an advantage? Because Lessonlane doesn’t have any front-end/back-end developer divide. This creates the flexibility for developers to work on a broad range of projects and share specialised knowledge on a wider plain. Traditional back-end developers often have a much better understanding of code optimisation, for example. These techniques can be shared with front-end developers to build a better product. 

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                      Developer victory!  

But why is that better for the schools? I hear you ask. I have chosen to build Lessonlane on a developments structure that flexible enough to make it possible for us to really listen to the teachers and students we’re working with and build a learning platform they need. What’s more, the development process is faster. So when the needs of the class change, which they will, we can change too. And we can do so quickly.                 

In that way, sustainability is built into the DNA of Lessonlane development.

Mads Viktor,

Lessonlane Co-founder (mads@lessonlane.com).    

Teachers: tell us about your dream learning platform!

Building an online learning platform for the 21st century isn’t easy. There are the needs of students and parents to consider, not to mention the demands of administrators. It has to be well designed and functional, without being crowded with unnecessary graphics and features. 

We’ve told you that we think the future of online learning platforms is social. But now we’re asking the most important people, teachers, to tell us what you want from a learning platform. Which features of your current learning system could use a little tweaking? Which ones would you never (ever) use? Seen something on social networks you’d like to try out in the classroom? Let us know in the form below and help us to build a Lessonlane that’s perfect for you. Get your friends and colleagues in on the act by sharing this blog post.

Because we think happy teachers equal improved learning for everyone. 

Happy learning,

Claire, the Lessonlane team. (claire@lessonlane.com)

The Learning Journey

It’s a cliche but it’s true; learning is a journey. And yet we don’t think of that journey in the same way that we used to.

Learning is no longer something that we do in those years before we’re old enough to drive; going from kindergarten to primary and high school and then on to university. Instead, education is a lifelong process that gets you from A to B, with some pitstops in C, S and in my case even Z. It’s something that we return to again and again to master new skills, develop our minds and for the pure joy of exploring something new. Education is no longer linear and we should not treat it as such.

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Lessonlane Co-Founder, Troels Hauch Tornmark

It’s in this spirit that we are developing Lessonlane. We believe that education is an experience you share with a bunch of like-minded people at a certain point in time, drawing on the knowledge and expertise of your teacher, facilitated and inspired by your classmates. Then you move on to something else, before revisiting the process again. As a teenager that education experience might be your history class, as a young adult (or old adult) it could be a tutorial group at a university and later in life it might be a corporate masterclass, a local community college or a MOOC.

However they’re engaged in education, students need to reorient themselves from the tasks of everyday life towards the process of learning. Teachers need to be able to effectively engage students. Technology is already facilitating our learning, but we can’t hope to optimise the process with a hotchpotch of loosely interconnected systems that are often messy and at odds with each other. Lessonlane is an integrated platform for teachers to provide dynamic content directly to their students, keeping them on track to learn collaboratively.

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Lessonlane Co- Founder, Mads Viktor

With Lessonlane, teachers can prepare student for the classroom; drawing content from books and journals, YouTube and podcasts. They can share lesson plans and content with other teachers and then track student engagement at home to optimise content for the best learning outcomes the next time they meet face to face. And students can engage with learning online the same way they do in the classroom, socially. Lessonlane brings social interaction to online learning, allowing students to comment, ask questions and draw conclusions on lesson material with their classmates.          

Naturally, we can’t wait for you to try it out. I hope you one day you will think of Lessonlane as the compass that led you along your learning journey. As a student and as a teacher.

Troels Hauch Tornmark

Founder, Lessonlane  

troels@lessonlane.com

Some CSS3 Magic and a weird cat-guy

We did a quick test of some CSS animations on the site. And then had some fun on Google Hangouts while waiting for a call..

We’re hiring!

Lessonlane is disrupting the global education industry, building the social learning platform for the 21st century. We are right now building a team that can build for take-off, and be an integral part of designing the future of education. And we are having a blast doing this.

Currently we are looking for the following superstars for our Copenhagen based office:

Developers needed - Technical co-founder opportunity

You can apply for the positions here: lessonlane.com/hiring.html

Internship - Global marketing and communications

Update: We are no longer accepting applications for this position.

Lessonlane is disrupting the global education industry, building the social learning platform for the 21st century. We are right now building a team that can build for take-off, and be an integral part of designing the future of education. And we are having a blast doing this.

We are now offering an unpaid internship in Global marketing and communications that could lead to an executive position after your graduation.

We offer great influence on both the nature of the internship, the projects and the Lessonlane product. We crave your input and 

Responsibilities:

  • Work on strategic or operational project(s) from scoping to execution and delivery
  • Projects could both be in PR, marketing planning, execution or partnership management.
  • Conduct research and analyse data to derive meaningful insights
  • Work closely with the founders on transforming insights into great products and features.
  • Communicate findings in a compelling and implementable way
  • Copy writing, PR and community management

Desired profile:

  • Bachelor degree; or equivalent marketing degree.
  • Experience in technology or digital media strongly preferred
  • Experience with SEM & PPC, Facebook and twitter marketing execution.
  • Highly analytical with strong problem-solving capability
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills in English
  • Fluency in other major languages a big plus
  • Responsible, driven and to the point

We want to conquer the world, so do you. So expect to have a big say in how the product is designed and deployed.

Please write a short “Why am I the right person”, attach your CV and/or portfolio to lessonlane.com/hiring.html

We are looking forward to hearing from you.

Any questions please call one of the founders Troels (CEO) +45 2282 5933 or Mads (CTO) +45 6127 7123.