The ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of Citelighter

Citelighter is fundamentally about helping students and teachers improve learning and performance. But here’s something even more fundamental: why did we decide to tackle these enormous issues, and how are we going about doing it?

In the video below, Citelighter CEO Saad Alam discusses the personal experiences that sparked his passion to co-start the company, beginning with a simple story about his brother’s academic struggles. He also notes our constant engagement with teachers to improve Citelighter’s functionality, and shares our excitement around creating a Google Docs-integrated platform—one that’ll let us study and enhance students’ research habits. Take a look!

The ‘Paper of Record’ Tackles the Impact of Online Education

The intersection of technology and education has spawned some thought-provoking insights and commentary in the paper of record last month.

The New York Times examined the impact and role of online courses in secondary education in three separate articles in November. One outlined a journalist’s experience taking an online course in from a University of Pennsylvania professor, describing the positives (peer grading, presentation of interesting facts, creation of a community) and the negatives (potential for cheating, poor production values, potential for cheating, and lack of credit).

That last issue, theother Times article notes, is receiving further attention: the American Council on Education has announced that a pilot project in conjunction with Coursera to determine whether at least some courses are similar enough to their tradition counterparts that college students should receive credit for them:

As the Times further explains:

“The council’s credit evaluation process will begin early next year, using faculty teams to begin to assess how much students who successfully complete Coursera MOOCs have learned. Students who want to take the free classes for credit would have to pay a fee to take an identity-verified, proctored exam. If the faculty team deems the course worthy of academic credit, students who do well could pay for a transcript to submit to the college of their choice.”

The unanswered question of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), however, is whether their dizzying expansion will channel their massive enrollments into tangible gain. As the Times’ most comprehensive piece on the subject observes, “Lower-tier colleges, already facing resistance over high tuition, may have trouble convincing students that their courses are worth the price,” whereas prestigious schools win prestige and plaudits for hosting free courses by respected and famous teachers.

As with any rapid change, this development prompts a number of questions. What will the fallout be for untenured professors, who may find themselves replaced in favor of MOOCs? Will such courses become a model for cooperative learning, or cheating? How will whatever changes take place filter down to the level of high school education.
As one professor said, “This is still brand new. It’s still the Wild West.”

Where do you think the growing integration of online learning and classroom instruction will lead?

klänningar. Vår Bröllopsklänningar axelbandslös klänning val grundas på en lämplig balans mellan skönhet och designprinciper . Bruden kommer inte att ha några problem, Bröllopsklänningar grab för mycket uppmärksamhet till gästerna, samtidigt som deras oskuld charm.

Interview with Knowledge Expert

We’re happy to showcase an ever-growing library of more than 2,300 Knowledge Cards, but it’s hard to imagine how it would have been possible without the dedicated efforts of our Knowledge Experts–like Anastasia Romanova, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration this year from Fordham University.

I recently talked to Anastasia, who just returned from a sojourn to Russia, to shed some light on what appealed to her about Citelighter, why she enjoys creating Knowledge Cards, what the process was like to first start creating the cards, their value to viewers, and potential applications.

What initially attracted you to Citelighter and how did you learn about us?

I first saw an ad for a Knowledge Expert position on my college job posting  site. The position sounded interesting by itself (creating projects on the topics you choose – awesome!), but the selling point for me was that Citelighter was a startup. Both of my parents are entrepreneurs and have founded several companies over the period of their careers, so I know how hard–but also how inspiring–it can be. That’s why I wanted to be a part of Citelighter.

When you were putting together your first Knowledge Cards, what were the main challenges? What was your thought process like for creating them in the most logical way possible?

I am not going to lie: my first Knowledge Card (Austrian Economics, I think it was) took me about four hours. Looking back now, that’s way too long! But I wanted to be very precise about each fact I captured, and I wanted these facts arranged in a certain way, so that they read as a whole article. Now, I realize that that is not necessary. A Knowledge Card should, of course, look like an article, but what people are really looking for is a collection of citations from very different sources, in different formats, offering different takes on the matter, that they can use in order to create their own project.

In what ways do you think Knowledge Cards stand out from Wikipedia or other forms of learning?

Knowledge Cards are not wiki articles that tell you everything there is to know (important or not) about the subject you are interested in. They are more like guides. They tell you, ‘Look! Here is a fascinating fact about what you’re researching. Follow the link to find out more.’ Yeah, you’ll get a picture of the subject just by glancing over the Knowledge Card, but you’ll also want to click on the sources, you’ll want to find out more. A Knowledge Card doesn’t do your work for you, it encourages and makes it easier for you to do it yourself.

How did you become interested in producing the Knowledge Cards you’re responsible for? An inherent passion for the subject areas you chose, or curiosity that developed along the way?

I think I’ve dabbled in over fifteen different categories. I started with economics and business, simply because it was my major, I knew that stuff, so I thought it’d be easier to do them. But then I moved on to music and history and art and literature and poetry and fashion and… the list goes on. Basically, anything that gets my attention gets a Knowledge Card. Sometimes it’s something I like and want to share with the world, sometimes it’s something I’ve never heard before and want to learn more about. A lot of times, actually, I get an idea for a topic by seeing something interesting while researching for an entirely different Knowledge Card.

Given all the time you’ve spent on Knowledge Cards, do you think there might be interesting ways to further develop or expand on them that could make them more useful?

I definitely think that communication between Knowledge Experts and users is the way to go. When you create a Knowledge Card, you get to know the subject pretty well, and so can give advice on it and the best way to utilize the sources cited. I’m glad that the team is already working on it.

Another thing, I suppose, would be to let the users tag their projects to the related Knowledge Cards, so that others can get an access to a wide range of citations.

But, honestly, there is almost a limitless list of possibilities for Knowledge Cards, and that’s what makes being a Knowledge Expert so exciting for me!

-Junaid
Citelighter PR Director

Sitting Down with Citelighter’s Outreach Team

Outreach and engagement go hand in hand at Citelighter. We’re always eager to introduce ourselves to educators and students, get our tools in their hands, and solicit their feedback to further help us help them.

I recently sat down with our two guys in charge of outreach and engagement—Kevin and Sheraz. They work closely together and sit across from each other in the office, with Kevin’s legs dangling precariously closely to the sole blasting heat radiator, and Sheraz’s hand sometimes hovering over a giant red kill switch for the whole floor’s electricity system that looks suspiciously like a nuclear launch code trigger. I asked them to share what their roles entail and what projects they’re working on that are geared toward benefiting you, the user, when they’re not busy braving the hazards of life in the office.

What are some of your key long-term goals with outreach to teachers and experts in the field?

Sheraz: My key long term goal is to build a robust community of subject matter experts to curate Knowledge Cards. Bringing in high level experts, or curators, ensures a higher quality of information and analysis through Knowledge Cards and the new comments we’ve added for them. From a viewer’s perspective, you can learn about a topic and how the curator analyzes facts from a very professional standpoint.

Kevin: Our goal is to help teachers, flat out. More often than not, they are given subpar resources and are under-appreciated, and we want to change that by providing them with quality, cost effective tools that meet their needs. The Ambassador Program we’re developing serves as a bridge to connect Citelighter with teachers and to create meaningful relationships with educators and schools worldwide. Our Ambassadors are not only proponents of Citelighter and of useful technology in the classroom, but also of teachers.

In the course of your work, you’ve had to explain the concept and reality of Citelighter to folks many times over. What about the company’s vision really resonates with people?

Kevin: Surprisingly, I’ve found that there are multiple aspects of our vision that resonate with people. Educators especially see benefits or have ideas about how to use Citelighter that we never even envisioned, and it’s rewarding to know that you are a part of a company that empowers people through it’s intended uses, but also by allowing them to creatively mold the product for their own uses.

The time-saving and the efficiency aspect of Citelighter is key. Our goal was to give people their time back and unclutter their minds while allowing them to absorb content, not process, and this seems to be a real plus with users.

Sheraz: To add to what Kevin said, at the end of the day, we’re here to provide information in a way that’s conducive to learning. Our tool allows for an organized way to gather research, and our Knowledge Cards allow us to capture information. The key is taking all this information and making sense of it so people understand it.

What aspects of Citelighter’s work do people seem most excited about or have the most questions about?

Kevin: I can certainly speak to this. The major thing people ask about is the development of a Citelighter app. People love Citelighter for itss intended purpose and are incredibly creative in new ideas for how it can be used, but without fail they always ask about when we will be developing an iPad app. iPads are a central focus for many schools now because of their effectiveness for teaching and also the cost-saving measures associated with them, so naturally people want to know 1) why a tech company doesn’t have an app and 2) when it will be in development.

What role does social media play in your efforts to reach out to educators?

Sheraz: Social Media is pretty much my area. It’s one of my go-to sources for consuming information. It allows me to connect with teachers, experts, etc on platforms like Twitter. I can identify with teachers who may be looking for a tool that will enhance their teaching experience–in other words, ours!

What kind of feedback have you received about Citelighter that has helped inform changes in how we actually develop our products and shape our work?

Sheraz: There’s been a lot of feedback rolling in every day that’s seen by the whole team, and it’s definitely allowed us to essentially tweak our product to the way people use it. PDF functionality, for one, has been in high demand and should be out shortly.

Kevin: We get feedback all the time and put it to use in the development pipeline. I actually received a message yesterday that inquired about our functionality across multiple sharing platforms that we will most likely put into development this week. It honestly just never crossed our mind but once it was presented by a teacher directly to us, it seemed so natural and obvious.

Thanks, guys.

If you have your own question for our outreach team, feel free to leave one in the comments section and we’ll aim to address it!

-Junaid
Citelighter PR Director

Thanksgiving Reflections from Citelighter

With Thanksgiving just a day away, we at Citelighter thought it would be an appropriate time for us to reflect on what we’re thankful for both personally and professionally, and to share it with you.

Saad Alam, CEO:  

Regardless of the long hours, my life is perfect because of the people that I have in it.  I am thankful for an amazing group of people that have come together around a single idea: to improve education.  They are the family, friends, investors, teachers, and students who have given the one thing they have that they can’t get back: their time.  Almost every waking moment is tied to this mission and the people who help push it forward.

Personally, what I’m thankful for is simple: the health of the people whom I love.

Lee Jokl, COO: I’m thankful for the friends and family who support and motivate me when the task ahead seems impossible, but remain honest and humbling when I need it most.

I’m also grateful for the opportunity to do something really important that has the potential to help millions of people in an industry that serves as the backbone of our society: education.  I’m equally thankful to be able to take on this challenge with great friends.

Sheraz Bhatti, VP of Community: I am thankful for the people in my life that push me to become my very best and motivate me to strive to make a difference. I am thankful for all of our Knowledge Experts who have come together and help us build our growing Knowledge Base.

Kevin West, Director of Outreach: After having moved just last month from dry and hot Arizona to the chillier climes of New York in the fall, I’m thankful for space heaters and radiators, even if sitting next to one going full blast is occasionally uncomfortable. I’m also thankful to interact and engage with so many amazing and dedicated educators across the country as I learn more about their needs and challenges in helping students learn.

Jon Ceresa, Director of Business Development: After watching my girlfriend suffer the recent loss of her father, I have come to grips with my own parents’ mortality. I am most thankful for my family and friends, as those are the ones whom I can never replace.

Professionally, I have been working on my goal of constantly learning new things. I would like to know more about computer programming and have been working to better my knowledge of the subject.

As for myself,  I’m happy to be able to call everyone above a friend and a colleague, and grateful to find myself in an environment where learning, discovery, and exploration are not only outlined as part of our collective vision, but embedded as part of our daily work.

Whether you plan to spend the day reveling in the company of family or just warily eyeing them from the opposite corner of the room, we hope you enjoy the time off and consume appropriately enormous amounts of turkey, or a suitable vegetarian variation.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Junaid
Citelighter PR Director

 

A Look at News and Trends in Education

When it comes to university-level education, American schools continue to consistently lead the pack: six of the top ten universities in the world are American. But Forbes education observer James Crotty strikes a cautionary note on this score: “However, if you believe that, in the age of globalization, the concept of an Ivy League of educational superiority will remain a uniquely American offering, think again.”

Citing a report by Marian Salzman that focuses on 2012-2013 education trends, he adds that some American universities will open centers in emerging markets—like Harvard’s new business-oriented program in India—and other countries are aspiring to develop their own Ivy League competitors, including a $10 billion bid in France.

Viewed from this perspective, it doesn’t look like brick-and-mortar schools are going to disappear in place of online education; given the prestige factor and the financial and social investment involved, a complementary relationship seems more likely.

Turning to younger students, Education Week’s Wendi Pillars looks to have a promising piece (albeit behind a paywall) on how advances in neuroscience can help with learning—in particular, reading. In her earlier forays into neuroscience, Pillars describes teachers as “brain-changers.” Based on what she’s learned of neuroscience, she’s altered her own teaching approach in significant ways:

“Strengthening long-term memory is not merely a matter of squirreling information away—but of returning to it and building upon it. It’s a continual process rather than a linear one-stop experience.

This realization has led me to plan for pointed repetition and the accurate, explicit spiraling of information over time, particularly for my younger students and language learners. I plan weeks in advance to be more strategic about review and transitions. I also ask fewer ‘on-the-fly’ questions, opting instead for higher-level questioning and opportunities to make connections from the start.”

Her insights raise important questions about the intersection of science, learning, and technology. Educators and experts in the field rightly keep a keen eye on how to best utilize technology to enhance learning in the classroom, but it’s worth asking how technological tools should be informed by what we know about the learning process in the first place. If nothing else, the scale and scope of technology’s application throughout education is undeniably huge

One interesting example highlighting the positives and negatives took the form of a recent experiment at George Mason University, where students conducted an entire class discussion over Twitter. The professor had his own doubts: “I was super-nervous because to me, teaching means a lot of talking—giving a lecture or giving a discussion…I was more scared for this class than I’ve been in years because the kinds of tasks that I associate with teaching I wasn’t able to do…”

No calamity ensued, but the experiment prompted noteworthy questions about what kinds of discussion is most conducive to learning; some students felt freer to express their opinions but others found the character limit constraining.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the experiment–and whether you’ve conducted or participated in similar “tests” in a classroom setting involving technology.

Why Citation is Important in the World of Words and Ideas

When you think “Citelighter”, one word probably comes to mind: “citation.” Whether you’re using our browser plug-in to cite a reference for a source you’ve plucked online, or you’re browsing our Knowledge Cards of cited facts, citations are certainly at the heart of what we do.

It only seems prudent, then, to discuss why citations are so important in the first place. I’ll begin with a personal take: as someone who graduated with a journalism degree, reported for newspapers, and written for various magazines, I learned the importance of citation as a matter of professional training. At the most basic level, as a writer and reporter, you always want to make sure that you have your facts straight and that you’re pulling your information from diverse places to safeguard against slanted coverage and confirmation bias.

At the academic level, the same principles apply and are broadly recognized by educators. Judy Hunter, director of the Writing Lab at Grinnell College, noted in her tutorial that “A citation is both a signpost and an acknowledgement. As a signpost, it signals the location of your source. As an acknowledgement, it reveals that you are indebted to that source.”  She succinctly observes that in an academic context, there are three crucial reasons for citations: one, ideas are “the currency of academia”; two, a failure to cite the origin of an idea “violates the rights of a person” who first came up with it; and three, “academics need to be able to trace the genealogy of ideas.”

For students and researchers, it’s critical to be able to examine one’s own body of work, as well as that of others, with a critical eye. A healthy and robust debate about ideas and opinions largely rests on the ability to understand where specific assertions and arguments came from, and whether they’re credible and reliable.

To take one example, look at this Knowledge Card on facial symmetry; it contains two entries that are letters in the scholarly historical journal Antiquity, and you’ll notice that in arguing their cases, both authors eagerly cite several past studies to make their points.

So by using citations, you’re contributing to a credible, quality, and ever-expanding repository of knowledge—both for yourself and for others.

Junaid
Citelighter PR Director 

Introducing Our Knowledge Card Revamp

Our fact-capturing tool is great for students looking to write their papers, but the other side of Citelighter—our Knowledge Cards—can be equally helpful for anyone interested in learning and research.

We have a host of Knowledge Experts who are constantly curating and cultivating content from both online and offline sources on a wide variety of topics. These experts pluck snippets of cited facts related to their areas of interest or expertise—say, men’s fashion in early 19th century Europe—and upload them into Knowledge Cards for public viewing.

Recently, we fully revamped the design and presentation of our Knowledge Cards to make them more accessible and easier on the eye, and so we’d love to run you through some of the highlights!

Let’s stick with the card I just linked—“Men’s Fashions of the Regency Area.” At the top you have, of course, the title, along with a brief description that gives you a high-level summary of the content. To the right of that you can see who created the card—in this case, our wonderful Anastasia Romanova—and hover over her lovely picture to view her profile and visit her Facebook page. Right underneath that, you can see the total number of views the page has received and you can share the entirety of the knowledge card.

The section below that header area is where you find the key content of the knowledge card: the fully sourced and cited facts themselves. Here you get a few selected sentences from the source itself along with the article title and source name. By hovering over any given fact, you can easily choose to share it via e-mail or social media, or save it to your own Citelighter account.

And finally, to the right, you can see Knowledge Cards on related topics–in this case, more fashion. (Although personally, I’d really recommend staying away from “heroin chic” as a style to emulate.)

Currently our Knowledge Card collection is being viewed by thousands of users daily, and with an ever expanding library of content, it’s growing every day. If you have suggestions for how to further improve it, or would like to become a knowledge expert yourself to help contribute directly, we’d love to hear from you!

-Junaid
Citelighter PR Director 

Interview with Gary Bender, University Technology Lead

As part of our ongoing endeavor to connect with educators across the country, our team loves to elicit feedback on our fact-capturing tool as well as broader commentary from thought leaders and experts in the field. Kevin, our Director or Partnerships, recently had the chance to chat with Gary Bender, who serves as head of the Technology Training & Development Group at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and who has spent 33 years in K-20 education.

Kevin demonstrated the Citelighter toolbar for Gary, who came away pretty impressed with its functionality. “It’s the ideal tool for me to use when I am looking for scholarly articles on the use of technology in teaching, or if I’m doing research on a favorite topic such as learning–or just web surfing and come across a resource I want to remember,” he observed, adding, “It’s great because it is integrated into my web browser.”

Asked how Citelighter might be useful in a university context, Gary said that it’s important to be able to quickly gather and organize information for student researchers. “We have many students who are learning how to do research as well as assisting in research, and tools such as Citelighter can enhance the research data gathering and organizational phases,” he noted.   He added that he thinks the tool would be valuable for its broad application: “Whether they are in freshman English or Petroleum Engineering seminar, students need to learn organizational and research skills that will be foundational regardless of career choice.”

We were equally curious to know how technological advancement in general has shifted the position of technology experts like Gary who work in university systems. He offered that as technology takes on an increasingly critical role in everyone’s lives, it’s compelled more educators—even those “who have stood by the sidelines”—to become active in fostering that integration. “Faculty are looking for greater support and ideas on how best to either begin the process of integrating technology into their teaching or are looking to expand what they are currently doing,” Gary noted, further adding,  “We’re the office they come to, for help, questions, discussion, and ultimately confidence building as they incorporate technology into their teaching.”

In many ways, we here at Citelighter seek to play exactly the same role for educators on a larger scale—so don’t hesitate us to send over your own questions and comments!

festklänningar alla olika så jag valde en annan klänning, vet hur man använder kläderna temperament, vilket är vad vi väljer att klä sin middag.