When Edtech Companies Team Up to Improve Learning

Nearpod, Flocabulary join forces for better student engagement.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

Nearpod, one of the most comprehensive student engagement platforms for K-12 teachers, announced that it has acquired Flocabulary, a leading video and student creativity platform unique in that it uses educational hip-hop to engage students and increase achievement.

Together, the two edtech companies are used by teachers in 97 of the 100 largest U.S. districts.

Combining forces, they will help schools and districts teach in the midst of what the founders see as a “student engagement crisis” more of which is discussed in the interview below.

Together they create a comprehensive student engagement platform that leverages creativity, culture, interactivity, and media.

“Creating awesome lesson plans is hard work and doing it with music is a hundred times harder,” says Nearpod CEO and co-founder Guido Kovalskys. “But in a world where student engagement is the biggest challenge faced by teachers, we are convinced that the future of educational content is much closer to Flocabulary’s unique combination of hip-hop and educational rigor than to a textbook, regardless of being print or digital.”

“Flocabulary has always been defined by our mission of bringing joy and creativity to classrooms. We are thrilled to join forces with Nearpod, which will significantly accelerate our ability to support teachers and help students engage with the rigorous academic content they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond,” says Flocabulary co-founder and CEO Alex Rappaport.

Founded in 2004 by teachers and musicians passionate about the transformative potential of hip-hop in the classroom, Flocabulary has evolved into an iconic resource for U.S teachers—and students. Following the acquisition, Nearpod will have a combined team of 200 employees headquartered in Miami, FL. As part of Nearpod, Flocabulary’s team of 60 will continue to operate out of their Brooklyn, NY office to grow and support the strong Flocabulary brand, as well as create culturally-relevant content using formats and genres that students relate to and that boost student engagement while being aligned to academic standards.

Nearpod will continue to invest in collaborations with respected content partners such as Common Sense Education, Newsela, PhET, iCivics, Desmos, and education.com as well as enterprise platforms such as Google Classroom and Canvas.

“Legacy textbook companies have failed to meet the needs of today’s classrooms,” says Nikitas Koutoupes, Managing Director at Insight Partners. “With close attention to creating innovative learning experiences that are relevant and fun, Nearpod is filling the void left behind by publishers. We’re excited to see Nearpod create the new category of student engagement platforms to respond to the needs of teachers, and the priorities of district leaders.”

Nearpod, recently named EdTech Digest’s Company of the Year, is among the most comprehensive Student Engagement Platforms for K-12 teachers. Nearpod works with any classroom technology from tablets and smartphones to laptops and Chromebooks to help engage students with activities such as Virtual Reality, PhET and Desmos and with more than 7,000 ready-to-run lessons created in partnership with leading brands like Common Sense Education and the Pulitzer Center. Beyond classroom instruction, the company revitalizes teacher development through Teacher Professional Learning content that cultivates classroom-changing strategies for educators.

Flocabulary is a learning platform that helps students thrive by bringing the K-12 curriculum to life. The company’s rappers, artists, and educators develop videos and activities that are captivating, relevant, and research-based. By engaging students in rigorous academic content, Flocabulary supports teachers in their daily instruction and helps students master standards, build vocabulary, and develop 21st-century skills.

In this interview, Nearpod’s Rajeev Arora responds to a few quick questions about the edtech companies combined strength.

What prompted you to join forces?

Rajeev: Acquiring Flocabulary was an easy decision and one made with student engagement in mind.

There is a massive opportunity for both of our platforms to combine forces and become the most comprehensive student engagement platform on the market.

Flocabulary offers thousands of incredible lessons and tools that bring hip hop infused education to the classroom, specializing in rich and diverse content that reaches students through a medium they love: videos. As we bring their content to our platform, we’re excited to reach 97 out of the top 100 largest school districts in the US and help more students connect to content and their teachers nationwide.

What do you have in common?  

Rajeev: Both of our companies bring teachers the ability to engage and delight their students through content that is relevant to youth culture and the way today’s students learn, giving each student a voice. Together, we will be a powerhouse to make sure students are engaged and learning in every class every day.

How will Flocabulary “flow” into and become “nearer” to Nearpod offerings?

Rajeev: This is going to be a seamless transition for our customers. We do not anticipate any changes in prices. Flocab customers will continue to see their favorite brand and access it at Flocabulary.com and Nearpod customers will continue to access us at Nearpod.com.

Additionally, we’ve seen a massive demand for consolidation as students are expected to maintain multiple logins. Nearpod and Flocabulary are beloved and widely used because we allow for engagement in simple and easy ways.

By combining, students will have an optimal experience, and teachers will find it easier to bring curriculum to life from one place. Usability is one of our core values and is baked into our DNA, so that won’t be going away.

What numbers or background do you have in support of a “student engagement crisis”?  

Rajeev: According to a Gallup poll, 91% of superintendents said student engagement is the key factor to student success, above test scores. Meanwhile, Gallup’s poll of high school students showed by 11th grade only 32% are engaged. That’s a big difference.

To keep students engaged and actively learning, teachers need to meet the YouTube generation where they’re at — especially when 80% of teens are turning to the video content site to gain knowledge on a subject, while another study showed that gen-z is resistant to being passive learners.

Lack of engagement has been shown to contribute to chronic absenteeism and poor academic performance as well, which is a rising concern among K-12 education leaders.

How would you define engagement? What does great engagement look like?

Rajeev: We define engagement as the students’ involvement and enthusiasm for learning. We aim for every classroom to reach 100% student engagement through our joint offering.

What is the role of technology in education?

Rajeev: Technology is a key tool for unlocking the learning potential in Gen Z students because technology is such a massive part of how they interact with the world. Kids today love to be creative and watch videos and tech and interact with their culture.

Nearpod brings a tech platform that gets kids actively involved in their learning and engages the whole child. Adding the culturally relevant content from Flocabulary enhances our ability to reach students where they’re at and provide content that makes them excited to come into the classroom and learn.

Incumbent education companies are failing to adapt their curriculum to digital devices and cover the topics increasingly essential for student success in tomorrow’s workforce. The industrial model of education isn’t working for digitally native students and the system needs to adapt.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Rajeev: This is one of the most exciting things I’ve worked in 20+ years of edtech. In the classroom, student engagement is what matters most and Nearpod and Flocabulary are the tools at ground-zero bringing engagement back into the classroom since the introduction of technology.

Nearpod’s powerful interactive and formative assessment tools, as well as content, deepen engagement and learning while Flocabulary’s relevant and entertaining videos bring excitement and joy into the classroom. Together we will be able to deliver 100% student engagement to many more schools.

Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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