How Justin Bieber and Education Technology Intersect

This blog will generally be about the day-to-day happenings of an early-stage education company company known as Edthena. But before we jump right into the details, I thought it best to start out with the short history of how I ended up writing this blog post to you–people of the Internet.

Justin BieberBy way of introduction, I’m Adam Geller. I began in education as a teacher in St. Louis, started an online community for teachers called Teach For Us, completed a principal certification program, and then worked on the national strategy team of Teach For America.

In that role, we focused on both near-term projects and larger, longer-term challenges. One of those projects we called the “scaling challenge.” The obstacle we faced was that, at a certain point, the existing Teach For America would require too many people or too many resources to provide the same high-level of feedback and support to teachers across the country.

These conversations primed me to be thinking about a solution to the challenge of having the right person in the right place at the right time in order to provide coaching and support for teachers.

Over time I realized this challenge was something I had experienced myself as a first-year science teacher. Though my principal stopped by a few times, no one with science expertise was ever able to visit my classroom to provide targeted feedback and coaching on my own practice.

The moment of inspiration came in August 2010 after I clicked a link that said, “Listen to this Justin Bieber song slowed down 800 percent.” So, yes, some might say Justin Bieber inspired me. (Hey Justin, if you’re reading this… let’s talk.)

So I see this link, and I click it. And on the other end was a song hosted by SoundCloud. The original song is gone, but you can get a sense for what I experienced by visiting any song on their site. With SoundCloud, the comments are linked to specific moments in time along the timeline of the audio.

Before pushing play, I hovered over one comment, and it said something akin to, “It sounds like four violins coming in, in harmony here.” I realized I had so much clarity about what was happening at that moment in the recording, even though I had merely been hovering over the comment. This is what led me to start imagining the possibilities of trying to translate the same experience to video, with the right tools to replicate the process of getting targeted feedback from an in-person observation.

In February of 2011, I left my job at Teach For America to set out building what is now known as Edthena. And by August of 2011, the first version of our prototype was in the hands of real users who had paid for access.

Edthena brings the process of observation and feedback online for teacher-coaching and improvement. A teacher uploads video of classroom instruction and shares with coaches and colleagues on the other end who provide feedback at specific moments in time. Our vision is to connect teachers to excellent coaching anytime, anywhere.

Cue the startup explanation phrases: We’re SoundCloud for video. We’re VH-1 Pop Up Video for teaching. We’re YouTube meets Path for workforce development. We’re AirBnB for virtualized coaching.

Ok, so maybe those phrases don’t fully apply. And potentially there are a few more details along the way. But you get the idea, and a flavor for what this blog is going to be like in the future.

Going forward, you can expect discussion about many different aspects of starting a company from building a prototype to building a product, from finding teammates to finding customers. And yes, a few words on investment, too, since that’s everyone’s favorite topic. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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