Research shows that the first five minutes of class will dictate the quality of learning and retention that happens on a given day. “What research?” you might ask. This piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education, this piece in Middleweb and this video from EL Education, just to name a few. But as any teacher knows, the proof is in the practice, and I’m all too aware of this teaching dilemma.

I’ve tried all kinds of tactics to reign in the room and ignite interest (while taking attendance, answering the phone and the half-dozen other jobs that make a classroom work). I meet my kids at the door (although not as cool as this guy), greet them by name and ask about their lives. But this is not the five minutes that concern me–it’s the ones right after the bell rings and everyone takes their seats. However, I’ve got a plan for next year that I’m convinced will work.

Check123 is a curated collection of one-, two- and three- minute videos that I’ll be using to create a focus point for my students. I’ve successfully used videos before, but the time it takes to look for an appropriate video, watch it and then bookmark it has made using videos a once-in-awhile thing (or a full unit, like this one using Zootopia to teach Social Justice).

Though videos in general aren’t new or innovative, this platform is. The ability to find a short, effective video is the key benefit of Check123, but it’s also amazing to know that the videos are high quality. If you’ve ever googled a topic and found a million videos, then wasted your planning period wading through them, you’ll understand the value of vetted videos.

Check123 videos are validated and ranked by professional experts. The collection is divided into categories ranging from literature, to space, to the human body. A friend of mine is going to be starting his Much Ado About Nothing Shakespeare unit soon, so I was intrigued by “Conspiracy Theories: William Shakespeare.” True to the claim, this three-minute video would be the perfect “bell ringer” for students to tune into class and build background knowledge all at once. I had my own kiddos (9 and 12) peek around the site and Oliver, of course, headed right to the gaming videos, while my actress-in-training went to performing arts to learn about the Meisner Technique. They both poked around the site, much like they would their own video channels.

There are some really amazing sites out there that I’ve used and loved–Museum of Modern Art Educator Resources, for example. But again, most sites I’ve encountered are meant for students and teachers to explore, not to be used as a jumping off point, which is exactly why I’m going to try Check123 as a classroom starter.

One of the things I really liked about the videos was the ranking system. Check123 uses two systems. Next to each video is its Quality Rating (1-10) alongside two metrics: Informative and Entertaining. That way you always know the quality of the video you are about to watch.

Of course, as a teacher and parent, there’s always the fear that a video that seems completely innocuous is not. Obviously, you should always preview a video ahead time–I’d always rather err on the safe side. Most teachers who’ve been around awhile have a story or two to tell about a time when things weren’t quite what they expected on the internet (like Whitehouse.org, a parody site). Check123 offers “a safe, filtered environment; constructed specifically for education and curated by professional experts in different fields. All videos have been validated by humans, so there will be no surprise”–which is okay by me!

In addition to a Twitter Check123 handle, they make it very easy to zoom in on what you are interested in with social media as well, with Twitter handles for history, nature, SciSpace and arts. This site isn’t only for educators, but anyone who needs the “short story” version of all types of topics. Just as Twitter has changed the nature of real time reporting, using handles to find information is both new to education, while simultaneously being easy for most people who are tech savvy in the least.

However, what really intrigues me is that Check123 is branding itself as “building the world’s first video encyclopedia” because they “aspire to change the way people consume knowledge” and note that they “can’t do it alone.” I love the collaborative building of a platform of videos that arise from people’s interests and needs. As of now, the site has over 20,000 videos from all over the world, but with such a great platform and the really friendly vibe of the site, I can easily see people wanting to contribute.

As an educator, I’m always interested in what comes next. How will what I’m doing today in my classroom impact the future? One of the most exciting trends that I’ve noted with my own students and kids is their global worldview. With Check123, videos can be added from any corner of the world, providing students with the opportunity to interact with content that is fresh, exciting and alive. With the aforementioned “follow” option, students can start having new updates sent to their inboxes, perhaps fueling a small spark of interest. I love their motto, “Get Smarter!”

What is really innovative about this site is that it signals a change in the way information is gathered (crowdsourced), delivered (1,2,3 minutes) and vetted (by experts). These shifts lead to more engaged learners, who become “followers” of certain types of information. Every student will have a different learner profile, but I follow psychology, technology and “surprise me,” which is a cool variety.

As students engage with the site, the site will respond to their interest–kind of like good teaching! What a cool way to think about the future of education, right?

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