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5 Education Lessons from Internet Week NY

Posted in Knerds on May 17, 2012 by

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to check out Internet Week New York (IWNY) Headquarters down in SoHo for the afternoon.

Internet Week is an annual festival of events, panels, and demos all about the thriving technology culture here in New York and what’s new in the world of the Internet. It’s not about education — at least not explicitly. But since we at Knewton operate in the intersection of technology, the internet, and education, I thought I’d see if I could find any connections to the education world in a tech event.

As it turns out, there were lots of lessons to be learned and applied to education. Here are 5 things I gleaned from a panel called “Digital Distribution, Now + Future,” where representatives from companies such as Vimeo, YouTube, and Buzzfeed talked about creating digital content and getting it out in the world successfully. I’ve also included my own ideas about how to apply these lessons to the education space.

Lesson 1: Viewers won’t react negatively to a brand if the content is high quality and entertaining.

In the online world, it’s ok if content comes from a brand (and is basically an ad), as long as it is genuinely good content. Viewers don’t mind if there is a corporate agenda or not, as long as it’s fun to watch.

Edu-spin: Instead of a company selling a product, think of a teacher as selling the act of learning. While one might assume that students would react negatively to a video that is trying to “teach them something,” as long as the video or game or lesson is high-quality and engaging, chances are the students will happily participate.

Lesson 2: Even if you don’t make a ton of content, make enough to inspire others to create their own.

The folks from Vimeo are not in the content-creation business… but the few videos they do make are about how to make videos. They want to inspire others to create content and show them how.

Edu-spin: Inspire your students to teach each other. Once students learn the basics of a new topic, have them create lessons or test questions to use on one another. They could create how-to videos on something they already do — like sports, blogging, or photography. By teaching students the art of teaching, you’ll empower them in a new way, and as a bonus, you won’t have to make all the lessons yourself!

Lesson 3: Going “viral” isn’t as important as reaching your target audience.

In the world of YouTube, there’s just too much content out there to expect that the right people will find yours by chance. You’ll get a lot more views and shares if you focus on putting your content in front of the people it’s meant for.

Edu-spin: The basic lesson here is Know Your Audience. One lesson won’t work for everyone. A question for 6th graders is different from a question for a 12th grader at a remedial 6th grade level. Create or find good content for your specific use. There is a lot of great open-source educational content, but you shouldn’t take it just because it’s the first thing you found. Use the amount of material out there to your advantage and find content tailored to your specific students and situation.

Lesson 4: The 4-5 minute range for online video is the sweet spot.

According to Vimeo, this is the ideal video length. Any shorter, and it’s hard to get any real point or story across. Any longer, and you’ll bore and lose your audience.

Edu-spin: This is absolutely true in online lesson videos. Just because a student might be required to sit through a 50 minute in-person lecture does not mean that they will do the same in front of a computer screen. In our Math Readiness Course, we keep all our lesson videos to the 5-minute mark in order to keep the attention of our students. If we can’t teach something in 5 minutes or less, we know it’s too big a concept for one video — and that we need to break it down further into multiple videos.

Lesson 5: Fuse the content/entertainment side of your material with the behind the scenes, educational side.

People want to see how you did it — what techniques you used, what parts you didn’t end up using, what it looks like backstage. Think about the popularity of deleted scenes, candid photos of celebrities on set, and DVD extras.

Edu-spin: Instead of thinking about the process of creating the lesson itself, think about the process of arriving at the correct answer to a question. Learning isn’t just about getting the final answer. It’s about the process of getting there, and the decisions that need to be made along the way. Why are you teaching this topic? How will it affect your students? How might they use this technique or information in their regular lives? Anything you can do to “pull back the curtain,” so to speak, and reveal not just WHAT they are learning, but WHY and HOW they are learning it, will benefit your students.

There they are: 5 lessons about education, from a non-education event. Have you learned any valuable lessons from unexpected places? Let us know in the comments!