The paradigms in education are currently being torn down and rebuilt. In the past decade, we have seen the advent of Khan Academy, MOOCs, and a surge in technology integration into the classroom. These developments have enabled a new paradigm called the “flipped classroom model”. This philosophy is inspired by a simple question: why should simple content delivery happen in the classroom, while critical thinking and problem solving are relegated as homework?
Imagine that all students entering a classroom already have a solid basis in the fundamentals of the material. Teachers can then build off this foundation to teach more advanced concepts, run engaging problem-solving sessions, facilitate group projects, and generally get students excited about the field.
There are some problems currently. How exactly can teachers ensure that students learn the necessary facts before coming into class? The obvious answer is giving them reading assignments or directing them to Khan Academy. This solution is both ineffective and incompatible with many students’ habits. Can these content-focused homework assignments be graded in some way? Entirely eliminating all homework grades is a big jump to ask of teachers, and is often a deal-breaker for teachers that would otherwise flip their classes.
These problems can be solved by thinking carefully about the needs of teachers, the psychology of students, and the capabilities of technology.
Teachers need a simple system for delivering custom content to their students securely and reliably. We will build a drag-and-drop web interface for teachers to construct multi-media lessons to be shared with their classes. Teachers will be able to easily add in videos from Khan Academy or Youtube, blocks of text (either from the textbook or written by themselves), and annotated images. Together, this sequence of information will constitute an organized, informational lesson that can be shared with the students via smartphones or computers. Imagine if a student can do their homework by swiping through screens of information on their smartphone on the bus ride home. This is our vision of true technological integration in learning, not 1-to-1 iPad programs or SmartBoards.
Other products that advertise as tools for flipped classrooms focus primarily on teachers generating original video lessons to share with students. We argue that this phase of the transition is over; more than enough high quality videos exist on the Internet, but there is no framework for combining resources into a single package that also integrates into the traditional, grade-driven educational system.
The true benefit of using technology currently isn’t utilized in other products in the space. We can keep track of every click, tap, and swipe done by a student while interacting with the platform. More than that, we can count to millisecond accuracy the time spend by a student on any given page or screen. These data can be analyzed to give teachers an extremely good idea of which students are learning the material as intended. This feature, coupled with “concept questions” sprinkled into the lessons delivered by Flipt, will make the learning component of a flipped classroom simple to implement and easy to grade.
Thinking long term, we can use this platform to amass a portfolio of high-quality multimedia lessons in all curricular fields. With a simple web interface to browse through previous lessons that received good reviews, teachers will eventually be able to find and share a high quality lesson with a few keystrokes and two clicks.
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People feel connected to other people when they have things in common. To date, every social network or professional networking website provides a trivial one-to-one bond between people that is entirely inconsistent for our love of communities and tendency to cluster into groups on the basis of shared experience.
People want to share things with friends: an experience, passion, talent, skill, hobby, ability, or interest. Yet there is no place on the Web where people bind together in communities around whatever things make us us: what we devote time to, how we try to better ourselves. I can meet someone at a party and friend them on FB, or sit next to them at some entrepreneurship talk and connect with them on LinkedIn, but there could be a person who I may never meet, just because they go to a different school.
That’s the problem, and that’s the gaping, friendship-sized hole in the current system. We need to be able to find these people. Not only with this enable meaningful friendships, but also productive collaboration on a large scale. And that's entirely possible.
When people sign up for the site, they will report basic demographic info before being prompted to enter every skill or interest they have: sports, fields of research, programming languages, fields of science, book genres, their college major, machine shop techniques, wet lab methodologies, college courses, anything that falls into the category of an interest, passion, hobby, or skill.
And now the fun is just beginning. Imagine we have this sort of data for everyone at MIT. Users will be able to search by first name, last name, email, major, dorm, or any declared interests, passions, or skills. These multifaceted queries let groups form that may never otherwise come together. If I’m living in Baker and have a website idea, I can search for every web designer in my dorm, and even narrow that down more by people who use the Django framework or jQuery. Once I have the search results in front of me, I can send a message to all of those people at once, to ask a question or meet up to discuss something.
Now to building community around each skill and hobby. With everyone brought together in one place on the Web, useful information can be disseminated to the community really easily. There can be a section on each page for relevant news events, featured articles, resources for learning a new skill, featured books, Pro Tips, question and answers, job openings, and whatever else we can think of. All content will be self-selected with an up-vote/down-vote system so users don’t get barraged with useless content. The best content can be emailed to users daily or weekly, they can go to a feed that shows them the updates from each of their declared interests. Alternatively, they can view each Youism profile page themselves and see all posts to the page.
There’s dozens of different individual or interest-based interactions that this site enables that aren’t available anywhere else. For instance, using Location Services, we can recommend various local events and Meetups to users based on their interests. Even more, a person can be matched with the single person in the world best suited to be their best friend.