Many people may be all about SXSW just for the music. But there’s more to this Texas festival than sweet jams. The SXSWedu – a competition for early stage edtech startups – announced its finalists that will be pitching in March. Among them was Boston-based Listen Current, a venture that curates pieces of public radio for educators to incorporate into their lessons, so students can learn even more.
It’s been quite the journey the past couple of years for Listen Current, and I connected with the startup’s founder and CEO – Monica Brady-Myerov – to hear what’s it’s been like for the venture up until this point. Come to find out, it’s been a Boston-heavy beginning for the startup that’s now looking to make national waves.
From award-winning reporting to launching a startup
Brady-Myerov spent 25 years as a radio reporter. The bulk of her time – 15 years, to be precise – were spent with Boston’s own WBUR. For her reporting work on education, she received three major awards, including two Edward R. Murrow Awards and a First Prize from The Education Writers Association. However, two years ago, Brady-Myerov gave up that all up to get into the startup game.
OK, so it wasn’t as clean of a break as that. It was more of an organic transition that lead Brady-Myerov to launch Listen Current.
“I knew how much adults listened to public radio,” Brady-Myerov began. “It’s almost like an ongoing education for them. I had been working as a reporter for 25 years and I had my kids. My daughter was in the 3rd grade, and I always played public radio around them.”
“I thought the kids weren’t listening until one day they started to ask me questions about it,” she laughed. “I realized, ‘Wow, you really understand what you’re hearing.’ After, I went to the teacher and asked, ‘Why don’t you use more public radio in class?’…She was very receptive and loved public radio, but said it would be too hard to find the right stories to align with the curriculum.”
That’s where Brady-Myerov came in. She knew news and was able to curate stories that would enrich class curricula. So Listen Current started at her children’s school in Brookline, Mass., and she committed to it full-time.
Listen Current was part of LearnLaunch’s first cohort a couple of years ago and, because of the stint it did with the local accelerator, the venture was able to glean the know-how and financial resources to turn an innovative idea into a true company. With raising almost a million dollars in seed funding last February, the startup has been able to take on more team members, in addition to building out its site’s functionalities to help students learning English. And 2016 holds even more for the venture.
Bringing another learning tool to teachers
Still at LearnLaunch’s coworking space, Listen Current is looking to get the word out about what it’s doing so it can encourage more teachers, schools and students to use the audio sources on its site.
“There are lots of great tools and opportunities in the educational technology space,” Brady-Myerov told me. “It’s a fun time to be here…Even though we love Boston and are so excited to be part of the local scene, we’re positioned to be a national tool.”
So far, Listen Current has free listeners in all 50 states, as well as paying school subscribers in fourteen states and two countries who have access to additional functions. The venture is hoping that this year, it can push to have more educators take advantage of the learning tools available – if for nothing more than to have students pushed to their greatest potential.
“Research shows that any student can listen two to three grade levels higher than they can read…Teachers will tell us, ‘We love public radio, but these stories are too hard for my middle school students,’” Brady-Myerov said. “No, they actually aren’t and they can be used to challenge students.”
“They won’t be held up on words they don’t understand like they are with reading,” she went on. “If they keep listening, they will understand the context and will be so engaged that they want to figure it out. It’s a great way for teachers to push their students, giving them harder content to listen to and challenging them.”
Image via Monica Brady-Myerov.
This story originally reported it had paying subscribers in four (not fourteen) states.