How Gooru is Changing the Way We Navigate Learning

“With the advent of Gooru critical information about the student progress can be met with instantaneous feedback, analyzed thoroughly, stored indefinitely, compared and contrasted clearly, shared easily, and accessed painlessly.”

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Gooru is an award-winning non-profit company developing a high-quality learning navigator. Because teachers have millions of free online resources at their fingertips, it’s often difficult and time consuming to create a learning experience tailored to the specific need of their students. Gooru is a free, personalized learning solution that helps teachers find and share web resources on any K-12 topics.

The Tech Museum of Innovation honored Gooru as a Laureate for The Tech Awards 2014 for its Education Award. Gooru was given the award for, “touching all corners of the globe in their efforts to use technology to solve some of humanity’s most urgent problems.” Over 600,000 teachers in 140 countries and all 50 United States use Gooru.

The team at Gooru is led by Prasad Ram (or ‘Pram’ as he prefers to be called). Pram used to be a research scientist and worked as the Director of Engineering at Google Research before he founded Gooru. Before Google he spent time at Yahoo! and Xerox. At Google he contributed to the development of some of most important contemporary innovations in technology: Google Maps, News, and Translate. In 2011 Pram joined forces with a young engineer and social entrepreneur Amara Humphry. Together they created Gooru and since then they have been a team ceaselessly compelled by the conviction that education is a fundamental human right too often denied.

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The team at Gooru describe themselves as “nerds with big hearts.”

But while Gooru is an incredibly important advancement in education technology engineered by some of the best minds in the tech world, it’s not entirely clear how Gooru works and how it’s managing to fundamentally change how learners interact with technology.

Imagine Gooru as a special teacher’s assistant for every individual student in the classroom. Gooru allows teachers, parents, and guardians to personalize the experience of the learner. It helps teachers track student progress and tailor instruction to meet the specific needs of every student. It provides real-time analytic tools and unlimited access to engaging, effective resources that can be accessed at any time and any place. Gooru uses real-time data to help students understand where they are and how to reach their learning goals. Assessment is instantaneous and digitizes the often tedious process of grading, tracking progress, and sharing that information with families and administrators.

The goal is to empower every student with learning data rather than use it for cold assessments and punishment. Gooru gives learners the power to use data is way that allows them to truly own their learning. It’s learning navigator, a “GPS”, that gives students clarity on exactly how far they’ve progressed and which resources they need to help them reach their ultimate goalsgoorupic5

Gooru is capitalizing on the renaissance of user personalization in media. They are realizing a new concept in education: automated personalized learning. Companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook have revolutionized digital media by personalizing user experience. It is something that is so common now we hardly even notice it.

The big search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo!) operate under the idea that what you’re searching for and what you enter into the search bar are not necessarily the same thing. For example: if you type “Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, and Rafael”; they crunch that data and make an informed assessment that, in fact, you are not looking to learn about renaissance art. Rather, you’re interested in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Search algorithms are built to cross-reference and filter a large catalog of data in order to deliver results that prioritize advertising goals.

Netflix gives us personalized suggestions for movies. It knows your viewing habits: what you are watching, how long you watched it, when you paused, what movies you didn’t finish, and what shows are your guilty pleasure that you watch over and over again. Netflix uses all this information to tailor the experience to fit the specific interests of each user. Pandora and Spotify can predict with staggering accuracy the song we’ll want to listen to next. Amazon knows the kinds of things you buy and the kinds of things you want to buy but refrain from putting in your shopping cart.goorupic4

Imagine a learning platform that captures the best of internet: engaging content, access to experts, and community building. Gooru is harnessing the most powerful tools in the information age and putting them to use for individual learning. Gooru can pair the massive amount of educational resources available on the web with an intricate understanding of the individual learner. These algorithms that match content to learners allows teachers to run classrooms with the kind of precision and efficiency that has previously only been available to social media platforms and search engines. This lets students engage in a kind of learning that harnesses the same qualities they have become accustom to with the internet: streamlined interfaces, social-life integration, user-friendliness, and personalization. Gooru is putting the power of big analytics in the hands of small classrooms.goorupic3

Students can interact with friends, teachers, and parents on the same platform that they search for resources and participate in learning assessments. All of this user-activity data can be store and processed to suggest the best resources for a particular user based on their personal interests, context, learning preferences, and proficiency levels.

Perhaps the most important thing is that Gooru’s technology is open. Major mobile device manufacturers, leading publishers, key education technology providers, and innovative startups can develop custom apps to bring the benefits of Gooru to their users. People with a strong vision for how technology can improve education can build on each other’s work in a way that maximizes benefits for students over corporate profits.

This is only the initial stage in a revolution in education. We have been using data to assess students for several generations. However we are only just beginning to harness the promise of technological advancements to service the needs of children. Data in the field of education has been gathered slowly, analyzed intermittently, and distributed unequally. With the advent of Gooru critical information about the student progress can be met with instantaneous feedback, analyzed thoroughly, stored indefinitely, compared and contrasted clearly, shared easily, and accessed painlessly.

Gooru is working to fulfill our highest ideals: education as a basic human right. No child should be left behind without proper skills and knowledge along with all the opportunities they promise. As the number of users increase, Gooru will collect data and usage information to gain a deeper understanding of human learning and cognition. They intend to work with policy makers to keep them data-informed about the impact of their policies. Gooru hopes to emerge as a tool that will not just move education forward but fundamentally reshape what it will look like in the 21st century.

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