Admit it: When you think of online research, it’s usually just a fancy way of saying you’re going to Google something — I’m guilty, anyway. Los Angeles-based Edtwist isn’t trying resist that, exactly, but it has created what founder and CEO Julie Lee said is a more collaborative and “learning-centric” environment, one in which students and other researchers can work together to sift through the Internet’s “data smog” and find useful information.
Lee said she spent a decade working in digital media for companies like Vevo and Universal Music Group, but after becoming a mother in 2007, she wanted to create a startup that improved education and learning.
So when you’re working on a research project, whether it’s school-related or not (“We want to help all virtual researchers,” she said), you can use Edtwist to search across Google, YouTube, Wikipedia and Edtwist itself for related content. Then you create a topic-specific “board” where you save all that information. Lee said there are other content partnerships in the works, so you should eventually be able to search even more broadly.
Edtwist isn’t just for finding and saving links. Things get more interesting once you give other users permission to collaborate on a board, sharing their own links and commenting on the ones you’ve posted. (Here’s a collaborative board of selfies created by a writing class at USC. Why selfies? Something something education, something something millennials.) And you can also share your board on social networks like Facebook or Twitter to ask for more help.
You can sign up on the Edtwist site right now, but one of the main ways Lee plans to reach users is through partnerships with libraries and other “knowledge networks.” She argued that one strategy for libraries to stay relevant and “reach as many learners as possible” – despite the shift to online reading and research – is by creating a branded, curated version of Edtwist, available online.
The startup has also partnered with UNESCO for its #AgentsofChange campaign, where the agency is giving young people an opportunity to direct research — and, in the case of a few select participants, an opportunity to present their research to the UN Assembly next year. If you want to see the early stages of that collaboration, check out the UNESCO account on Edtwist.
The startup has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from investors including Joanne Wilson of Gotham Gal, Ted Kang of Kylin Management, Rovi CFO Peter Halt, Snapchat Head of West Coast Sales Luke Kallis and Gradient X co-founder Michael Lum.