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Learning Together just may be the anti-Khan Academy

together learn 3

One of the problems that I have with the whole Flipped Classroom movement is the idea that we can just give kids videos to watch and expect learning to happen. Many of the videos are simple talking heads or worse (I’m talking to you Khan Academy), simply a disembodied voice talking over slides or a whiteboard.

There’s no interactivity, no discussion. It’s simply a passive video.

Even the very cool TedEd stuff, which is a huge step up from Khan Academy math videos, is basically some kid watching a video alone.

But don’t despair. There may be a solution out there.

The people at Spin have created a handy mobile app that brings the interactivity and engagement back to videos. Called Together Learn, the app provides the chance for multiple people, in different places, to watch the same video in real time while at the same time having live video / audio chats while at the same time using a live shared chalkboard.

How cool is that?

The app lets you fast-forward, rewind, skip chapters, and pause a wide variety of videos while it lets you video conference. Think interactive Skype conversation with a cool video playing in the background that is the focus of the conversation.

So start the video, invite people into the gathering, watch a few minutes, discuss, highlight things with the chalkboard. Re-start the video. Mute yourself, turn off your camera. Move people around, enlarge or shrink their windows to mute or raise their volume. Pretty cool stuff!

The interface is pretty simple to figure out. It’s mostly dragging and dropping videos / people on top of each other.

Rumor has it that future plans include allowing you to upload you own stuff. Until then, you’ll just have to do with the thousands of video choices provided by Together Learn‘s partners.

The app seems like a very slick way to encourage conversation between teachers / students, students / students, and students / outside experts. A traditional face to face classroom might use Together Learn to connect with someone from the local museum to provide an outside perspective on a particular topic.

A blended classroom teacher might use the app to have “office hours” to discuss the required reading / topic. (Ginger Lewman and I even had a Skype-like call without the video background.) You could have kids work together in the evenings to review and discuss videos and content. There just seems like a ton of ways this sort of tool might change how we do online / in class conversation.

How would you use it?

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. meg ormiston #

    This looks like a very cool app. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am in the app trying it out!
    Meg Ormiston

    November 20, 2012
  2. Hello GlennW.
    I absolutely agree with you on the issue of just putting videos out there and expecting kids to learn. I’ve also heard many people refer to the khan academy (and videos like that) as being within the flipped classroom model. They are not part of the flipped classroom model. When I’ve heard teachers talk about them is if they are, I remind them that they are not. The model is one where teachers should create their own videos to fit in their classroom curriculum. This is not the correct characterization of the model. The flipped classroom model is not just watching videos. The flipped classroom model, if appropriately used, is not just the videos, it is a model that requires not just the development of content videos, but also interactivity that will happen in the classroom. The model allows for greater interactivity in the classroom since students watch the content videos outside the classroom. Ideally, the videos also should include activities. In a course where we are using this model, students have to complete specific activities before class that require them to engage in the video content.

    That said, the apps here do look cool. :-)
    rob pusch

    November 22, 2012

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