Thursday, May 19, 2016

Teachers Turn Pop Culture Into Engaging Online Learning Videos

As I browse through the video lessons in the PlayPosit database, I am continuously impressed by the creative ways teachers transform traditionally non-educational videos into engaging learning experiences. For me it would be hard to envision the educational value in a Katy Perry music video or a clip from a recent Simpsons Halloween special. But, of course, I should never underestimate the creativity and tech-savviness of the teacher community!
Among the most interesting video lessons like this I've stumbled upon are those centered around figurative language. I believe that is because English teachers recognize the prevalence of similies, metaphors, personification, and so on throughout popular culture—recognitions that an average person will miss. So what are some ways teachers have taught these literary devices using music videos and television? In this post, we'll dive into specific video examples with embedded questions. 
Also, for creative uses of TED Talk videos in the classroom, I recommend our recent post, Six Ways to Use TED Talks Effectively in Your Classroom.
1. Let Michael Jackson Teach the Lesson
Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but Michael Jackson's Thriller is filled with literary devices that are easy to miss the first time through. While official music videos made by the artist are certainly engaging, a video with the lyrics as the focus (as in this lesson) highlights the figurative language of the song. You will also notice that the embedded pauses help focus the student's attention on the significance of certain lyrics.
2. Use a Mashup of Songs, Songs from TV, and Movies
Why settle for one song or television clip, when pop culture is filled with thousands of examples? In this video lesson, students are tested on whether they can recognize the literary device in clips from Step Brothers (a Will Ferrell film), The Goonies, Katy Perry videos, and much more. Moreover, the quick change from one clip to the next increases student engagement and makes the student feel like a gameshow participant. 
3. Use Songs Written about Figurative Language
While figurative language is a challenging concept for many students, a number of YouTube stars have created great music videos to make the concept approachable and fun. This video lesson is built from aFlocabulary rap.
 4. Use a Clip From a Popular Show, Like The Simpsons
I love this lesson (and not just because I'm a huge Simpsons fan). In this "Treehouse of Horrors" clip, the narrator recites Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven while characters from the show act out the poem. The cartoon is entertaining and embedded questions teach basic figurative language concepts. For example: "Poe uses napping, tapping and rapping in the poem—these words can be considered as two types of literary devices—what are they?" 
There are plenty more examples like these out there, so take a look.

Developing a Video Solution for Low-Bandwidth Classrooms

The Challenge
Most classrooms in the United States are Internet enabled. At first glance, that number seems hugely impressive. It suggests that the vast majority of students have access to broadband capabilities. The challenge is that while most classes are Internet enabled, less than half are actually Internet capable. In a speech at Mooresville Middle School in North Carolina, President Barack Obama noted that “The average American school has about the same bandwidth as the average American home, even though obviously there are 200 times as many people at school as there are at home.” 
The goal of Obama’s ConnectED initiative is to equip every school in the country with high-speed broadband by 2018 at speeds greater than 100 Mbps. Given the current rate of implementation, however, that timeframe looks to be delayed. Most estimates show full school Internet capability as not feasible until at least 2021. That leaves us with at least five more years of classrooms with insufficient broadband.
Beyond internet capability, not every student has access to a laptop or tablet necessary for most ed-tech tools. This digital divide is especially stark between low-income and affluent students. 
Trouble Shooting
Since PlayPosit is a platform used to deliver interactive video lessons, low bandwidth is a common challenge for us. Typically, each student opens up a video lesson from their own device, but that means there may be more than 30 videos simultaneously streaming on a network that might only be able to handle a few.

We want students to be able to watch video lessons together as a class, regardless of device, firewalls, and bandwidth. In order to accomplish this we needed to re-think our standard solution. 
Rather than relying on each device streaming videos simultaneously we decided to put the teacher in control of the video delivery experience. With our new tool, called Broadcast, teachers stream a single video to their class and when the teacher’s video reaches the moment a question has been embedded, students respond together. The question pops up on whatever device the student has available—phone, tablet, laptop—and is viewed effectively, since it is only the single teacher’s video putting strain on class bandwidth.

As a start-up, you launch a product to tackle a pain point that you know exists within your industry. In your journey to solve that pain point, you realize the magnitude of other challenges preventing the effective use of your product. It is your job to continually adapt to the landscape and find the best way to make life easier for your end user. In our case, that’s teachers. 

Winners of the Challenge Cup Education and Milken Penn GSE Competition

*note this is a repost from 2013
PlayPosit honored with recognition and funding from both 1776 Challenge Cup and Milken penn GSE competition. The D.C. based 1776 rewarded PlayPosit with $100K in investment for taking first prize in the education category. The very same week, the team travelled to Philadelphia for the Milken Penn GSE competition where they won the McGraw Hill Open Ed award and earned a $15,000 grant.
As the 1776 website describes, the competition aims to "identify the most promising start ups in the world tackling the biggest challenges" in the health, education, energy, and smart cities categories. Last week, the winners from cities all over the world convened in Washington D.C. to compete in the national and international finals for their respective categories. After winning the domestic category (and being guaranteed a 50K investment), PlayPosit went head to head against the Iraeli based - an impressive language learning application with 130000 downloads in its first month - and won.
Within the same week, PlayPosit competed in the Milken-Penn GSE Business Plan Competition for funding from seven different prizes. Among which, the McGraw-Hill education prize is given to the company that best leverages open source content for the experience of learning. eduCanon was awarded this prize for its ability to support the growth of educators and students using OER.
It was a big week for the PlayPosit team. Co-founder, Swaroop Raju, noted that these investments “will help PlayPosit expand its team, accelerate the company’s growth, and establish itself as the leader in the interactive video space”.