Monica Brady-Myerov is not afraid of taking risks. As a young radio reporter she moved, alone, to Kenya to try to pick up freelance work. Now, almost 20 years later, she has left a career as an award-winning reporter for Boston's WBUR to start an education technology company called Listen Edition, which turns public radio stories into teaching tools.
"What's more important than listening?" she asks. "Your mother tells you to listen, your boss expects you to listen. Yet it's almost entirely absent from classroom teaching."
Through her reporting on education for WBUR, she learned that wouldn't be the case anymore. Listening and speaking skills were part of the new curriculum standards rolling out across the nation. In talking to her daughter's teacher about the standards, she learned teachers were worried about finding educational spoken stories and then writing lessons around them to align with the new standards.
Enter Listen Edition. The service, which launched in February, takes mostly three- to five-minute public radio stories on topics being covered in social studies and science curriculums in middle schools and, with the help of a few teachers who freelance for Listen Edition, creates lesson plans, including discussion questions, homework assignments, and assessments. A science lesson on acids and bases, for example, would begin with a radio story about how ocean acidification is affecting the fishing industry. And because the program is tied to students' dinner plates, it's more likely to pique their interest, Brady-Myerov says.
Listen Edition is one of a growing number of companies providing resources to schools across the country, according to Jean Hammond, cofounder of LearnLaunchX, a Boston-based education technology accelerator. LearnLaunchX accepted Brady-Myerov for its summer class of seven companies, giving her $18,000 in funding, free office space in Back Bay for six months, mentoring, and weekly classes designed to help people starting businesses like hers in exchange for a slice of her company. Brady-Myerov is starting to pitch other investors, too.
Trish Kelleher, a seventh-grade history teacher at the Orchard Gardens school in Roxbury, started using Listen Edition last year to supplement her teaching on World War II and the Holocaust. She plays students a radio story about Japanese internment camps in the United States. "If I had talked about it or had them read about it or shown them pictures, it wouldn't have been as meaningful," said Kelleher. "This was someone who had been in an internment camp telling their story, so it came more alive for them."
Listen Edition is being used by teachers in six Boston-area communities and has more than 400 registered users. Teachers, schools, and districts can buy a yearly subscription to Brady-Myerov's service. Listen Edition already has licensing agreements with a number of outlets, including WBUR, Vermont Public Radio, Michigan Radio, and the Public Radio Exchange.
Brady-Myerov likens starting a company to her early days as a freelance reporter. "It may fail, just like when I moved to Kenya it may have failed, but I'm thrilled that I did it and I succeeded," she says. "I have that same feeling, I guess, that I could take this leap and try it out." — Nick Pandolfo
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