StumbleUpon allows visitors to discover new content from every corner of the Web with an algorithm that pulls up sites based on subject areas, interests, user views, and user likes. Recently, educators have taken advantage of this fun, social tool to find new resources for the classroom. Currin Berdine, the Head of Community Management and User Support at StumbleUpon, joins us today to talk about the ways that educators are using StumbleUpon to discover news and knowledge across the globe with their students.
Q: How did you first get involved with StumbleUpon?
Over four years ago a tech-savvy friend sent me a URL that highlighted how the Universe looks nearly identical to a human brain cell. “Awesome!” I exclaimed. “Where’d you find this?” He replied in an egotistical manner, “StumbleUpon, of course.” After that I became an avid Stumbler, and to this day I am still convinced that the StumbleUpon recommendation algorithm reads my mind.
Last year when I entered a new phase in my career, I wanted to join a company that focuses on the happiness of its users and one that builds a product I enjoyed using. I found what I was looking for in StumbleUpon. It is a fantastic place to work; every employee loves the site and we always work toward the goal of empowering users to discover educating, entertaining and enlightening content from every corner of the web.
Q: Was education and learning part of the original vision and goal of StumbleUpon or was it an organic evolution of the product in classrooms?
StumbleUpon’s co-founders Garrett Camp and Geoff Smith came up with the idea of StumbleUpon while working on their master’s degrees, and they both continue to have insatiable curiosities about the world around them. Their goal with StumbleUpon was and still is to introduce people to the most high quality, relevant content that they never knew existed. Our mission statement is to educate, entertain and enlighten, and it’s key that “educate” is the first in that list. StumbleUpon is a natural fit for teachers to use to help their students engage with material in a fresh way.
Q: What are some of the ways educators are using StumbleUpon?
Educators use StumbleUpon to keep their material fresh and relevant to their students, as they and their students can Stumble to find recent news and angles on Interests like Astronomy, Mathematics, History, Literature and hundreds more (plus you can enter your own custom area of Interest in our Explore Box for more niche discovery). StumbleUpon is a natural fit for Show-and-Tell, as students try to find news and ideas that their peers don’t know about. Also, students and educators frequently find sites that present concepts in totally original ways that they never look to look for on a search engine. Students and teachers can also Stumble specific content providers by following StumbleUpon Channels like TED, Harvard, Stanford, Psychology Today, Scientific American, The History Channel and more.
Q: Can you tell me a story about a unique way educators and/or students are using StumbleUpon for knowledge, learning, research, etc.?
We recently heard about a user who teaches English as a Second Language in Colombia and uses StumbleUpon to engage his students. He Stumbles through video sites during class and asks his students to tell him what each video was about to test them on their English language understanding. The format works well since students see authentic, recent videos that aren’t pre-picked by their teacher, making the exercise feel more like a fun game. He also Stumbles in certain Interests to find interesting articles about regions of the world to get his students to use their language in new and innovative ways. It’s important for a language teacher to teacher his or her students to use their new skills in all sorts of different ways, and StumbleUpon gives this instructor the tools to do that.
Q: Increasingly, people are learning through informal learning methods. How does StumbleUpon promote this or create new avenues for accessing information.
There’s such an abundance of information on the Internet these days that the challenge now is how to cut through to the high-quality content most relevant to your needs. At StumbleUpon we’re always working on back-end recommendation algorithms and user feedback to present the best and most relevant content possible. It’s a highly complex problem but we consider it incredibly important to the future of the Internet as an education tool.
Q: In what ways has StumbleUpon inspired new learning for you?
Even though the days of formal education are behind me and I work in an office all day, the experience of Stumbling makes me feel like I am not only exploring hidden corners of the world but that I’m traveling through the entire universe! I follow many Interests on StumbleUpon that unearth educational videos, articles and interactives I would have never found if I had simply been browsing the Internet. Astronomy, History, Fine Arts, Science, Literature and Writing are just a few of many favorite Interests. Every single time I Stumble I learn something new and I believe your students will, too.
For example, when I Stumble in News mode I find relevant and recent content to what’s happening right now in politics, health, business, sports and more. When I Stumble I don’t just read News content from the same monotonous sources but rather I’m shown articles from a variety of sources that are written by journalists across the globe. Each click provides something interesting and fresh.
Challenge your students to pick up an encyclopedia and just start reading. You’ll probably hear a lot of moans and groans. Now tell them to Stumble through the Wikipedia domain and they’ll come back spouting off facts fit for Jeopardy!
Here are some of my favorite Stumbles from the past week (You can imagine all I’ve seen over the years!):
- Space Exploration: http://www.lovethesepics.com/2011/05/46-fabulous-photos-of-endeavours-last-ever-spacewalk/
- Political Humor: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/cartoonists/2012/04/supreme-laughter.html
- Literary History: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/04/the-strange-stories-behind-famous-writers-pen-names-1/255619/
- Geophysics: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geophysics/question373.htm
- Classic Literature: http://nerdsguidetoreading.com/Nerds_Guide_to_Reading/Classics.html
Q: What are StumbleUpon’s plans to improve the platform as a learning tool?
Besides our constant efforts to improve the quality of content that we show to users, we’re going to make it easier to organize the sites you find on StumbleUpon and share it with others. We continue to add new Channels everyday that allows users to engage with their favorite informative publishers, people and brands. And, finally, we’re developing more features for our mobile products to enable educators and students to learn on the go.
Q: Where should an educator go for more information on how to use StumbleUpon in the classroom?
Our StumbleUpon New User Guide is an excellent starting point for any new user of our product. Following StumbleUpon on Facebook or Twitter is also a great way to get ideas to share everyday. You can always contact us for one-on-one support issues via our Contact Us form at http://www.stumbleupon.com/feedback.