Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Three Steps to Adapting the Web to Your Teaching Style: Been for Education

A guest blog post by Dave Yoon, co-founder and CEO of Been, Inc. www.beenpod.com/edu

Introduction: Harnessing the Web

A teacher’s role can shift from hour to hour, if not minute to minute—between lecturer, coach, guide, mentor, referee, and on-call problem solver (and many more!). And as web resources play increasingly larger roles in classrooms, teachers must adapt them to all the different roles and activities that make up her day.

If a lesson calls for a lecture, a teacher needs to have some way to have her entire class focus on the same resources, at the same time, perhaps through a series of resources. If after a context setting introduction, she wants her students to grapple with the topic on their own or in small groups, she needs to be able to set them free to explore at their own pace. With web content becoming more interactive, the exploration can be quite involved. And after that, she might want to take the class along on another group tour. With classrooms moving to 1:1, technology needs to help teachers move more effortlessly between such “synchronous” and “asynchronous” modes.

We developed Been for Education (www.beenpod.com/edu) to address this very thing—to enable teachers to adapt web resources more flexibly to the way they teach. We focused on making the interface simple, intuitive, and fun (for the students as well as the teachers). It’s graphics based. In addition to supporting seamless transitions between guided and individual activity, Been also makes collaboration and communication as simple as clicking on a “Been.” (Please also see our post on Synced Classrooms www.teachthought.com/technology/5-steps-to-the-synced-classroom)

3 Steps to Surfing Together with Been for Education

Surfing Together is a way to synchronize web content across your entire class, over the course of multiple pages on different sites. Teachers can lead students through a prepared tour and corresponding commentary or conduct it in a more free-form style. All participants in the session will access the same material, at the same time. Students also can lead their class or smaller groups of their peers through their discoveries. What gives Surfing Together flexibility is that at any time, either the leader of the session or any follower can pause the tour. And restart or catch up to the tour when desired. It takes just 3 steps to start Surfing Together.

Step 1: Sign Up for an Educator Account and Download the Been Browser Add-on

  • Click on the “Educator” button to sign up. You can also use your Facebook and Twitter credentials to sign up and log in
  • Your Educator Account will be activated within 24 hours and an confirmation email will be sent to you
  • Download the Been browser Add-on for the browsers of your choice, and on all the computers you want to use, including on student devices

Step 2: Create Student Accounts
  • You can type in student login credentials or upload student lists in a .CSV file. Student emails are not needed

  • Please hand out login credential to your students so that they can begin using their accounts. If they don’t have the Been browser add-on installed on their machines, please ask them to do so—it’s easy!  
  • Your students will automatically be your Contacts (and they will be Contacts with each other and you, but no one else!)

Step 3: Start Surfing Together
  • You are now ready Surf Together! Open your Been browser add-on by clicking on it. Click on your avatar (the left-most icon). Click on “Surf Together”
  • All your students will be listed. Choose the students you want in your session by clicking on them
  • Now click on “Start Surfing” to start the session!

  • Invitations to the session will be sent to your students; as they join your session, the number of “followers” will be updated
  • Go to a new page or refresh the one you are on to sync across all session participants!

Unleashing Your Students’ Curiosity
  • At any time, as you take your students to pages and sites, you can pause the session to allow the class to explore the site on their own or in smaller groups. (You can end the session as well.) This gives Surfing Together the flexibility that screen sharing apps may not provide
  • As an example, suppose you are introducing your 3rd-grade class to the wonders of ocean life
  1. Take them to http://www.arkive.org/fish/ using Surfing Together
  2. Each of the top 50 fish have their own set of photos and videos. Pause the session to let them explore: “Please choose your favorite fish and list 3 reasons why you chose that particular fish. Please also pick a picture or a video that supports one of your three reasons to present to your classmates.”
  3. After a period of exploration, ask students to present their answers. They can use Surfing Together as well
  4. Alternatively, after the individual activity, resume the session to take the class to an amazing video on the Arctic Sea: http://explore.org/videos/player/arctic-sea
  5. Pause and resume as many times as needed
  6. Participants can also chat during the session—asking questions or answering your questions

A Safe Environment: Been for Education Wraps Each Class in a Protective “Bubble”

A student’s educator and fellow students of that educator are the only ones who can see, search for, or send messages to that student’s account. Any firewalls restricting web content will continue to function when using Been. The contents of students’ Beens, Comments, and Messages are accessible to their educator. And educators can quickly reset students’ passwords to restrict the use of Been if necessary (to prevent unsupervised use, for example).

Making Web Resources Flexible

The web will become an even more integral part of K-12 classrooms over time. The importance of adapting web resources to the way you teach best can’t be overstated. We have designed Been for Education with a focus on making it as flexible as possible—flexible while being easy to use. Using Beens and Surfing Together, we think you’ll be able to better adapt the best of the web to the way you actually teach. Tell us what you think! Thank you.

Dave is CEO and co-founder of Been, Inc. He’s been a high school teacher of math and physics and has taught politics at the college level. Dave has a PhD in political science. Been for Education launched last month and is available to all K-12 educators: www.beenpod.com/edu
Follow us: @beenpod on Twitter


  1. Thank you so much for having us on Kleinspiration, Erin! Happy National Teachers Day!

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