Facebook has caught some flack recently…and no, I’m not talking about the overreactions to their News Feed redesign. As the site continues to gain popularity, particularly among students, concerns have been raised over how distracting it can be. One (fairly limited) study shows students who use Facebook have lower GPAs than students who do not.
Regardless of what the studies say, there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that constant digital distractions are a lot like other distractions—they don’t necessarily help you focus on your studies.
But one application-maker is trying to change that. I had a chance to chat with Michael Koetting, co-founder and CEO of Hoot.Me. He answered a few of my questions about how his new application can turn Facebook into a peer-to-peer study zone.
LG: Can you give me a quick rundown of what Hoot.Me is?
MK: We switch Facebook into “study mode.” What that means is we allow students and teachers to create study groups on Facebook. We pull information about the schools you go to from Facebook’s social graph and then we segment that into a separate application, and then use that information to create a totally different environment, away from your Facebook wall. You can actually engage each other in a collaborative environment with different features that are tailored specifically to education.
LG: So, if I were to go to Hoot.Me right now, what would I see?
MK: Right now, if you were to go to Hoot.Me, what you would see is a quick cross-section of what everybody relevant to you is working on. And so you would see live study sessions and you would also see past study sessions. You have the option to create a study session, or you can join any of those study sessions that you see there.
LG: How do students interact with each other on Hoot.Me?
MK: Once you enter into a study session, we provide group video-conferencing and “smart chat.” Smart chat allows you to type in math or chemistry equations in plain English and have them automatically reformatted to look the way they should.
LG: You said students can see past study sessions. How is this helpful?
MK: The nice thing about these study sessions is that everything in them is archived. So what ends up happening is we see a lot of kids come in and they’ll say, “Okay, I’m working on Finance 357 homework tonight, and I’m stuck on questions #7 and #8.” And other kids come and say, “Hey, I’m having the exact same problem. Has anybody figured it out?” And eventually someone will come in and say, “Yeah, I was able to work it out,” and there will be a little exchange back and forth for some clarification. And then all of that will be stored. So four hours later someone comes into Hoot with the exact same problem, and they’re able to find the help they need.
LG: Is this application free?
MK: It’s entirely free right now, and we don’t plan on charging for it. The paid side will involve an online tutoring component.
LG: What information does Hoot.Me draw from your Facebook profile?
MK: We pull school information from the Facebook graph and then you only see study sessions from your school. Once you open the application, you will get a prompt that tells you, “We think this is your school,” and you’ll be able to edit that. We’re not requiring anyone to insert their classes.
This is a great tool that I wish I had in college. The best part is everyone has access to Facebook so to be competitive in class, you have to know how to study and pool your resources in the most efficient way possible. I like that social interaction is actually being used in a productive way.