A student standing next to the chalkboard is commonly referred to as corporal punishment in the education sector – at least among students. “Go ahead, kid. Show us how to incorrectly answer that problem and then go sit down in shame.” Or maybe that was just me in high school.
The Upside Down Academy is enabling students to take on the teacher’s role by getting on the whiteboard and working through various problems – math, science, English, or any other subject – but with confidence.
The education technology launched in November 2011 by Jared Cosulich in Oakland. Cosulich founded the project with no funding and has not raised any funds since the start. He has built and maintained the project on his own.
The Claremont McKenna College graduate has founded several companies including Community Walk, a consumer mapping technology, and Irrational Design, a marketplace for numerous websites. One of his companies, The Puzzle School, is the umbrella company for Upside Down Academy.
So far, the Academy has been used primarily as an educational tool by the Envision Schools in Oakland with students creating videos to teach other students about math problems they’ve recently learned. According to Cosulich, the site only has a few hundred registered users.
But those users are making the most of the platform they’ve been given to show what they know about solving a specific problem and also allowing others to encourage, critique, or correct their methods or answer.
“The primary goal is to make it easy to turn any educational material into project-based learning,” Cosulich said. “By having a student try to create a lesson of the material the effort becomes project-based with open-ended creative possibilities around how you teach the lesson.”
He said the idea behind the edtech is not to promote any particular work flow for a classroom, but give a protégé effect in which trying to teach a subject can lead to more in-depth learning by the student who is trying to teach the material.
Cosulich said he got the idea from Sal Khan, creator of Khan Academy.
“I appreciated the work that Sal Khan was doing with Khan Academy, but thought the person who was learning the most was probably Sal himself,” he said. “When you try to teach something, it forces you to confront the gaps in your understanding and try to fill them in. So I wanted to create a site where students could create videos to try and teach their peers, and, in doing so, would learn the material more effectively themselves.
“The fact that the videos are created by peers makes the quality assessment a bit different. Just seeing a peer work through the material can have a significant impact on your own learning.”