Flocabulary was innovating with educational online videos long before they became an established part of classrooms through the proliferation of tablets and notebooks at schools.
The growth of that medium helped the company get its videos into more classrooms, and over the years they've developed more than 600 videos covering all subjects across grades K-12, says CEO Alex Rappaport.
Now the company is taking its Week in Rap video series, targeted at grades 5-12, to a younger age. Created for grades K-5, Week in Rap Junior features a music-video-style tour of current events that integrates skills in reading and writing, analyzation, nonfiction reading and critical thinking to help students meet Common Core State Standards’ objectives.
Each video includes a quick news review, a quiz and interactive lyrics to deepen and reinforce the content.
"Our goal is to make learning more fun and accessible," says Rappaport. "We usually don’t think of learning as fun beyond kindergarten, but making kids smile while they learn is not a crime."
Flocabulary blends creativity with pedagogy and technology. The company's specialty is online hip-hop videos with a focus on core subjects, with lyrics written by performing artists and disc jockeys.
When it first launched in 2004, Rappaport says Flocabulary was primarily a test prep company, but it soon saw the potential to reach younger students across a broader range of subjects.
"We had this realization that while SAT prep is important, we want to make an impact earlier in students' lives, and we decided to focus on earlier grades and branch out to other subjects like math, science and social studies," he says.
Flocabulary Curriculum Director Emily Helfgot says Week in Rap Junior was created to serve grades younger than fifth, because they knew teachers were looking for something they could use in class that was more age-appropriate than Week in Rap.
"We knew some [elementary] teachers were using it, and they were hungry for a current events offering that offers the same rich content but isn't as hard hitting and is more age appropriate," says Helfgot.
Through these videos, Helfgot says they've found an audience craving content that is aligned with Common Core but isn't so math and science focused.
"It's helping to bridge the gap between, for example, social studies and science content," she says. "And kids just devour it."
Rappaport says they're already looking beyond the one-way communication model of online videos and pioneering new ways for students to become engaged through open education resources (OER) — educational material written by students for students.
"I think in general there’s this great OER movement happening around online video. Teachers are making videos, kids are making videos, they're mixing together and providing this kind of globalized content network. That's really opened up education in some amazing ways," says Rappaport.
Teachers can sign up for digital subscriptions to Flocabulary via the company's website.