Doubling Down on Education

We talk a lot about education at our company. We serve education organizations to help them achieve their goals of helping teachers get better at teaching and, ultimately, increasing outcomes for children in classrooms.

So while we’re an education technology company, it’s no secret that we have people on our team who serve in a sales role.

And part of the process of selling our platform is demoing our platform. We often record these demos and then use Edthena to analyze, comment, and implement changes to our practice.

On one hand, it’s a testament to the platform that we’ve built that it adds value even to our own workflow. But on the other hand, it helps add fuel to all the outsiders who often ask “Why don’t you try to sell to other markets? This would be great for ____!”

Double Down Counting CardsThe blank can get filled in with salespeople, managers, doctors, public speaking… essentially any context where feedback on one’s role would be appropriate.

It’s tempting to let ourselves get distracted and go after all these different opportunities. But instead, we’re staying focused on education.

This is not to say that our technology will never be applied to these contexts. We can easily envision how our solutions could be re-branded and sold under a name other than Edthena some day.

Instead, it’s meant to convey we’re staying focused to make sure we develop the right thing for educators.

To make sure that we deliver nothing less than excellent product experience for all our existing users.

To make sure that we follow-through on our promises to current clients to have the best platform for facilitating the development of teachers (and other educators) within an education context.

PS-As a team, we’re each particularly passionate about helping transform how teachers experience professional development in this country, too. Many of us are former classroom teachers. Having an impact on Education in the broadest sense is what gets us out of bed each day and motivates us when working late or on the weekends.

Image credit: sanfranannie cc

Enabling an online master’s program at University of Kansas

Edthena partners with top teacher education and support organizations throughout the country. We’re constantly inspired and excited by the success we’re seeing when Edthena is put into use. This is the first in our Partner Profile series to highlight these success stories and innovative uses of our platform.

Martha Elford

Martha D. Elford, Ph.D.
University of Kansas

Martha Elford is a researcher at the University of Kansas who studies the impact of coaching for pre-service and in-service teachers on student achievement.

This year KU started a new, online master’s program for special education. KU needed a platform to help facilitate an observation and feedback process for candidates who might be based near or far from the faculty on campus.

What is your background experience with coaching teachers and using video?

As an Instructional Coach for five years at the KU Center for Research on Learning, I coached teachers by collecting observational data, and then, by using video. In the last two years as a researcher and coach with KU-CRL, we have been studying what essential and discrete behaviors make coaching effective.

As an instructor for the online Special Education Master’s program at University of Kansas, we use video in the practicum course to coach teachers toward best practices for instruction and classroom management as they complete the requirements for their degree.

kansas-logo[1]What was the need that Edthena helped solve?

The University of Kansas Special Education online practicum course is a great fit for Edthena.  Students upload their teaching videos; I watch the videos and give specific feedback using the comment tool in the program.

Edthena is one way for us to get a real-time view of teachers in their practice, thus to bridging the distance gap for practicum supervision.

How do the teachers react to using Edthena for an online coaching process?

Coaching, much like teaching, is such a complex and relational task.  It takes thoughtful consideration and intentional application of research-based strategies that are adapted for an online setting.

We’ve just begun using Edthena for coaching teachers, but I can report that the teachers have reacted positively.

They read the feedback delivered via the program’s time-stamp feature.  Some of them ask questions in reply, or make a comment of explanation.  Edthena provides space for an online dialogue related to the teaching practices demonstrated in the video.

How is Edthena helping you compared to tools or systems you’ve used in the past?

There is one feature that Edthena offers that differs from other online feedback platforms we’ve previously used; it is the Explorations feature.  I’ve just begun to use this feature, and I am already seeing its benefits.

In KU Special Education’s practicum course, it is important to observe teachers in a variety of settings. Explorations feature allows me to organize videos from a number of teachers based on a similar setting, or any established criteria.

Also, in the future, Explorations will permit me to set up different groups, similar to professional learning communities. Teachers can observe one another and provide peer feedback while I monitor the feedback and offer coaching for both individuals and groups.

Tagged , , ,

We don’t have an iPhone app, and that’s a good thing

This post adapted from a post appearing on Education Week

Often times, we’re asked about we’re asked whether we have an iPhone app. The answer is that we don’t. There’s a good reason for it, too.

The reality is that there are not infinite resources in a small company, and by offering the cross-platform Edthena Video Tool, we can ensure a great experience for all of our users across a variety of video capture devices.

Here’s a bit more on where we stand…

The deficit-based claim about Edthena by a competitor:edthena iphone app

Edthena doesn’t have an iPhone app. This is going to make uploading videos a cumbersome and inefficient process. You’ll need to take the video to a computer to do your uploading. We built an iPhone app that makes this very easy for you to upload your video directly to our site from your phone.

Edthena’s view:

Others may focus attention on their iPhone app and how it represents that their technology is more advanced or their technical team is more sophisticated. But the reality is that almost everyone is utilizing a specific third-party company to serve as the underlying technology to power this process.

To be honest, we’ve heard varying reports about the success of uploading long videos on those apps, because it’s a lot of data that needs to be moved off the phone. The apps work best for three-minute videos captured at birthday parties, not 30-minute videos of classroom instruction.

And for all that focus on an iPhone app, how do others meet the needs of non-iPhone users? If there is an option, it’s secondary and not as good as the iPhone method. Get ready for a Java-based uploader and/or an 18-step method for how to compress your video.

It’s true that we don’t offer an iPhone app today — at some point we certainly will — but for now we have prioritized the Edthena Video Tool. The Edthena Video Tool is technology built in-house. This means we can manage and control the entire process. We can react quickly to any issues so that we can deliver on the promise of successful uploads by any user while supporting a multitude of camera devices.

We’ve learned from our partners that equity of access is a big concern when you start thinking about larger deployments. Not everyone has an iPhone. Our current partners confirm that requiring an iOS device is an unreasonable financial burden to place on their users or organization just to have an opportunity to try the “recommended method” for getting videos online.

The Edthena Video Tool enables any user to upload videos from an iPhone with the same level of drag-and-drop simplicity as a three-year-old camera. There is no first-class and economy-class treatment in our model. Everyone gets an excellent, headache-free experience.

As our company grows, we have plans to support native applications for both iPhone and Andriod platforms. But in the meantime, we’ll be staying the course with the Edthena Video Tool and directing our resources toward some really exciting and advanced features for our web application set to release this fall.

photo image credit: apples.jp cc

Quantifying the Benefit of the Edthena Video Tool

This post originally appeared as part of our ongoing series for Education Week.

The everyday experience of interacting with video online is best summed up as “instant.”

When you visit a site (including Edthena) and press the play button, the video starts playing almost instantly.

cute_kittens_20_great_pictures_1_by_skylertrinityrapture-d67m2f6[1].jpgWhile nearly everyone I know (including my 90-year-old grandmother) has watched a video online, very few people have actually uploaded a video. And the few that have uploaded video have uploaded things like “Cat mom hugs baby kitten.”

So most people don’t have an expectation that getting video online might take more than an instant.

Recently, we surveyed a segment of our users. Much of the feedback was really positive. But two people (seriously, only two) identified that their biggest frustration was, “The amount of time needed to upload a video.”

Sigh. Compressing and uploading videos is something that we’re doing a great job as a company.

I realized the best response to this mindset about everything needing to be more instant would be to share data to quantify the benefits of our video tool.

We’re inherently constrained by someone’s upload bandwidth. We can’t give someone more speed. But we can reduce the amount of data they need to send to our servers to dramatically speed up the process of getting a video online.

On average, Edthena users see an 80% reduction in the amount of video data they need to upload. I’ll go ahead and say… That’s a lot of savings.

But let’s look at what this means in specific terms for a real user who recently uploaded a video.

File Size

The original video was 28 minutes long and a hefty 2,737 MB. For comparison, the size of one mp3 song is usually 3-5 MB. The total amount of data we uploaded to our servver for this user was 129 MB. In this case, we achieved a 95% reduction in file size!

total file size edthena.png

Time for Upload

The user in question happened to live in Indianapolis. We don’t know her exact connection speed, but we can take the average upload speed for the Indianapolis-area based on speed test data (see note below). On a perfect connection, we estimate the original file would have taken at least 63 minutes for the user to upload. And then there would still be some time for server processing to make the video ready for viewing. With the Edthena Video Tool, the user had successfully uploaded the video and it was ready to watch in only 17 minutes!

time for upload edthena

Note: Speed test data is a measurement of burst speed versus sustained bandwidth. While it might be possible to send a small amount of data at the advertised “average” speed, users rarely get sustained upload bandwidth at these levels. Sustained bandwidth availability is needed for uploading large files. Additionally, Internet Service Providers can prioritize the speed test data in such a way that users experience better transmission speeds during the test. This is to say that the upload of the original file, if it had been attempted, would likely have taken much longer than our estimate.

Response to Heartbleed Security Threat

Earlier this week, a security vulnerability known as Heartbleed was announced. This was an important event because Open SSL, the underlying library in question, powers security and encryption for approximately two-thirds of the internet including sites like your bank.

heartbleedFirst and foremost, we have no evidence that leads us to believe this vulnerability was used to access Edthena data or Edthena servers.

Because Edthena focuses on maintaining a high level of security for our users, this was a major development that demanded quick action. This is how we responded:

  • Within an hour of the security patch being released, we successfully updated and restarted our servers. This means that we were no longer vulnerable to the security exploit.
  • Within 18 hours, we revoked our existing cryptographic keys and completed the necessary steps to generate and implement new keys for accessing our data.

In short, while Heartbleed presented a potential threat to our data, we acted immediately to deploy a fix and restore the highest level of security to our systems and for our users.

Essentially every site needs to take steps to upgrade security measures, and they’ll need to communicate those upgrades to users like we’ve done here.

You can test any site for whether they’ve installed the updates by visiting http://filippo.io/Heartbleed

Image from Heartbleed.com

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 688 other followers