A free video contest/program to support
American K-12 public education
Contents of this page:
1. The basics
What is WatchKnow?
It will be a free, non-profit, K-12 educational
video contest, currently under planning and development. Imagine tens of thousands of excellent short videos explaining nearly every
topic taught in U.S. public schools. WatchKnow will be a free (open content), non-profit
project, to launch probably this fall, to see whether we can create that. We
will set the topics and invite teachers—and everyone—to submit videos.
Videos will be rated, and, at a certain point, we'll select a winner for each
topic. We'll pay the winner(s) within each topic small prize(s), such as $75
but the amounts have not be decided firmly yet. We might award substantially
more for certain topics. You could think of it as an
American Idol for teachers, but we are not affiliated with American Idol.
The project is being carried out as a new program of the Citizendium Foundation, with
funding from a retired Memphis millionaire who wishes to benefit American
education. The project's Executive Director is Dr.
Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia and founder of the
For future updates, please add yourself to
How will it work?
For the beta project, we'll post around 500 topics. Contributors will
sign up and submit videos under any of those topics, and raters (anyone) can
sign up and rate videos according to how well they get the concept across.
We'll place topics into a list according to how many videos have been submitted
to them. Once the most active topics have more than five video submissions
apiece, we'll start picking winners. Winners will be chosen based on a
weighted score, with 50% of the score based on public ratings, and 50% of the
score based on a panel of teachers who actually teach the subjects, and
educational experts. We can't go into many more details yet, because they
haven't all been settled yet, but rest assured that we have many ideas and are
consulting many people about them.
How does this differ from what is out there now?
It's different from
TeacherTube because (1) the
topics are assigned in advance, (2) we have a goal of completely covering the
American K-12 curriculum, (3) we offer cash prizes for top-rated videos, and (4)
videos will be rated in part by experts, not just by the general public.
But indeed these other websites do have some examples
that illustrate roughly the sort of videos we want to create. (Maybe we
can do even better!)
Why do you think the project could succeed?
We are doing a beta project in order to determine whether this sort of
project can succeed. Here is why it might. YouTube has
shown that people are capable of creating and freely uploading lots of videos. TeacherTube has shown that there are a good few teachers who are motivated to
upload educational videos, without any possibility of reward. What if we
add that the videos will all be free (open
content); cash prizes will be awarded to winning videos on various topics;
there will be serious peer and public recognition for excellent work; and there
will be a
productive, useful community goal (namely, to cover all K-12 topics)?
Those are important differences that could
galvanize a new community. This is also a first-of-its-kind project and so
we hope and
think there will be plenty of participation. We understand that most
teachers (and their plugged-in, technophile students) are not able to create the
slickest, most professionally-produced sorts of videos. But we think that
the best will be good enough—and who knows, maybe they will be really
slick. Maybe giving people an incentive and allowing them to
compete will have that effect. But really compelling content is ultimately more
important than very slick production values.
Under what license will the videos be available?
The videos will be available under a Creative Commons Sharealike-Attribution
license. This allows anyone to reproduce and "mix and match" videos and
add value. It makes the database a public resource open to general use.
This is a strong reason for the open source/open content crowd to support us!
Who are the main partners in WatchKnow?
- The Citizendium Foundation and Sanger are spearheading the project.
- Funding, motivation, and inspiration for the project comes from a retired Memphis, Tennessee
businessman, who has a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation of
Northwest Mississippi. He wants to try something new to help improve
American public school education and has the full support of the Community
- An Advisory Board of distinguished free
content advocates, teachers, organization
representatives, and education professors has been
under construction and is expected to expand (and will be announced) following
our initial public announcement.
- A large panel of experienced teachers and other educational professionals will
be assembled for purposes of choosing topics and rating videos. If you are
interested in participating in that part of the project, see "Participation"
2. The justification of the project
Why are you doing this? What are the long-term goals of the project?
The above-described giant database of excellent educational videos could be
very useful to both students as well as teachers.
consult the database for "instant tutoring" on almost any topic taught.
This would help students who didn't understand an in-class explanation of a
topic, who are studying for a test, who missed a class due to illness, or who
want to explore related topics that aren't taught in class. By hosting
multiple video explanations of the same topics, we hope to accommodate many
different learning styles. The project could be a useful free resource for
Teachers could use the database to get fresh ideas about how to approach
material, and classes could be assigned to watch certain videos. We hope
that teachers would examine the variety of successful teaching styles and learn
from the models how to improve their own teaching. Finally, we hope that,
if the project is successful, it might raise the public awareness of good
teacher training and technique, and help the public to recognize and honor good
Why use relatively short videos? Why not produce course-length video
series with hand-picked, excellent teachers?
There are two reasons for this. First,
course-length videos would feature one teacher, using one curriculum, and this
may not be as useful as relatively short videos on many different topics, that
students and teachers could use to "mix and match" with their own curriculum.
But, as we say below, a successful long-term project might result in our funding course-length
video series. Second, we reluctantly concede that many students' attention
spans are pretty short, and it is not realistic to ask many students to sit down
and watch an educational video for a half hour or hour.
Why videos at all? Why not fund free textbooks?
We believe that reading many good books is absolutely essential to education,
and we support all sorts of free educational content (you can sign a petition to
this effect). But, for better or worse, students spend large amounts of
time looking at screens—television, the Internet, and video games. Video
explanations will introduce many concepts to students who might not get them any
other way, and will help solidify the concepts for those who do crack open their
Our requests of anyone interested in participating!
(1) Join our announcement list. Go to
this page and add your
e-mail address to our announcement list. This will be low-volume
and will help keep you up-to-date about the project.
(2) Please express your support. We want to demonstrate that
there is significant support for this project. If you are in the K-12
education world (a teacher or other education professional), a
long-time home school parent, or even a student—but especially if you can speak
on behalf of a school, school district, or education association—and you like
the project we're building, we would like to hear from you. Please send to
firstname.lastname@example.org a paragraph
that we may post publicly, using your name and title/position and
institution/company. Please put the word endorsement
somewhere in the title of your mail so that we can sort it properly! (We
may receive a lot of mail!)
Can I register yet?
Sorry, not yet. The system hasn't been
created yet. But if you are at all interested in the project, please do
to our mailing list. We'll use the list to give updates and info about
the project. It will be very low-volume.
Also, if you want to talk about the project,
feel free to do so on
the WatchKnow message board, hosted by the Citizendium forums.
Unlike most other boards, you need not be a
Citizendium member to participate on this particular board.
I am interested in choosing topics and serving on the professional rating
panel. How can I get involved?
We need and will set up a Video Review Panel, a group of volunteer
professionals to choose topics and to rate videos. (We will invite rating
from the general public as well, but 50% of the score for a video will come from
the Video Review Panel.) If you are an experienced K-12 U.S. school
teacher, or some other sort of education professional (e.g., education professor
or ed tech person), please send a short note with your resume/CV to
specify what grades and subjects you teach or have taught, or your familiarity
with curriculum/state standards. Please also briefly describe what sort of
practical experience you have, if any, in creating, using, and evaluating
My organization is very interested in partnering with this project.
How can we get involved?
We currently anticipate three roles and we welcome inquiries at
email@example.com, which we
will sort appropriately:
(1) Advisory Board participation. We are in the process of
constructing an Advisory Board for this non-profit project. If you are
interested in participating on the Board, we would like to hear from you.
We would like the project to be governed by a fine group of distinguished
teachers, education professors, education technologists, and free content
(2) Video Review Panel participation. You can encourage your
members or employees to apply to serve on the Video Review Panel. (See
(3) Other types of partnership. We are open to other types of
partnership, but we are not interested in marketing/advertisement.
Even if we can't work together, we would
endorsement. If you do want to endorse us publicly,
please send that mail separately from any mail about partnership.
What about technical consultants to construct the project?
We plan to hire one competent person/firm who
will serve both as the coder for the project and system administrator for both WatchKnow and the Citizendium over the long
term. Please see
this Craigslist ad,
and send your resume or proposal to
firstname.lastname@example.org who will
circulate it among the relevant decisionmakers.
Who will be able to submit
and rate videos?
Since this is a contest with cash prizes, and
focused on supporting the American public school curriculum, only U.S. residents
will be able to participate. Since we are a tiny start-up organization, we
simply cannot manage the legal and financial infrastructure that opening up the
project worldwide would require. We hope that our many friends around the
world will understand—and we do welcome similar contests in other
countries, of course. We wish there were a way to solve this problem, but
we believe there is not.
Kids under 18 will be able to participate, but
they must register with the help of their parents/guardians, and will be
identified only by their first names or a pseudonym.
Will I need to use my real name?
Unlike the Citizendium encyclopedia project, you will not
need to reveal your name, but you will probably need to confirm your identity by
using a free credit card verification service. Since this is a contest
with real stakes, we need to be sure who the video creators are. We also need to
know who video raters are; otherwise, people might "game the system" by creating
many different identities in order to boost their own videos' ratings, and
unfairly affect the outcome of the contest.
4. The beta project
When do you anticipate launching the
We are aiming at fall 2008 at the latest. If we can set up something
simple but useable more quickly than that, we will. It depends.
beta project, will you commit to awarding prizes for all topics?
Yes—even if we decide not to go through with a full-fledged project, we are
promising to award money for all topics. You need not worry that we will
close the project without identifying and awarding a winning video for every
What will count as a successful
Success will depend on three factors: (1) whether we get vigorous ongoing
participation, particularly after our initial launch in the fall; (2) whether the winning
videos are useful and pedagogically sound enough for us to continue to support
an ongoing contest; and (3) whether there is enough support from our partner
organizations and individuals to continue to rating videos credibly.
What will you do if the
beta project succeeds?
If the beta project succeeds, then we will add many thousands of topics
covering the full K‑12 curriculum. The full project will probably require
years to complete, but we should have fun doing it.
5. The long-term project
How much prize money would be available for a long-term project?
The fund at the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi is currently
worth $850,000. To this, many millions of dollars will be added in coming
months and years, as our benefactor transfers ownership of various assets to the
foundation. The large bulk of his fortune will be willed for the use of
this project, if it succeeds. These assets could themselves generate a few million dollars
per year, an ongoing source of funds which would be available to the project. In addition, if the
beta project succeeds, we have little doubt that there would be no shortage of
funds to support it from other foundations and from general public donations.
How long would the full project take?
We have no idea at this point how long it might take to award prizes for
every K-12 topic we hope to set (tens of thousands of topics) for the full project. It depends on
several factors, but most of all it depends on how many video submissions we
receive. Probably several years. We will probably want to continue
to accept new video submissions for a topic, even after a prize has been awarded
for a topic; so the project might not have an "end" at all. Of course,
that is far in the future.
Do you have any ideas for what you might do
once the K-12
curriculum project is well under way, if it is successful?
If the project is especially successful and the funding is available, we
might recognize the very best of our teachers by asking them to create full
course-length video series, which use specific textbooks and specific teaching
We might also expand into post-secondary educational content, but K-12
education is our first priority.
WatchKnow is a program the Citizendium Foundation,
which is a project of the non-profit (501(c)(3)Tides Center,
and funded through a donor-advised fund of the
Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi.
To donate to the WatchKnow project, send a check to:
Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, 321 Losher St.,
Hernando, MS 38632.
The check should be designated for the "Technology in Education" fund.
Questions about donations should go to 662.449.5002 or
TomPittman@cfnm.NO-SPAMorg (remove "NO-SPAM").
General questions about the WatchKnow project can be directed to Larry