EdTech Q&A: Monica Brady-Myerov, Founder of Listen Current

EdTech Times spoke with Monica Brady-Myerov, founder of Listen Current, an educational radio platform. Listen Current makes it easy to bring current events, authentic voices and engaging non-fiction stories to the classroom, curating the best of public radio to keep teaching connected to the real world while simultaneously building student listening skills. Listen Current Premium provides teaching resources that connect the public radio stories to standards in ELA, social studies and science for middle and high school teachers. Premium also includes scaffolding for English language learners and struggling readers that includes interactive transcripts and slowed audio.

Company at a Glance:

Company Name: Listen Current

Founded: January 1, 2013

Founder’s name: Monica Brady-Myerov

Website: listencurrent.com

Twitter: @listencurrent

Facebook: facebook.com/listencurrent

Company category: EdTech curriculum tools

Product stage: In market

EdTech Times: What market segment is your company in?
We are in the secondary education market (grades 5-12) with a special focus on supporting English Language Learners.

ETT: Who are your core customers and how did you come across the problem you’re addressing? How did you define it, and what was your process in identifying it?

Our core customers are curriculum directors in social studies, ELA and science who are trying to find engaging digital content and meet new standards around listening. We also serve ELL coordinators who are looking for high quality authentic listening resources to help their long-term English language learners. We identified a problem that there are few if any edtech tools that build listening skills, despite the fact that the Common Core has an anchor standard in Speaking and Listening.

ETT: How did you develop a solution to this particular problem, and what was your process of arriving at it?

The solution came from Monica Brady-Myerov’s two decades in public radio and her recognition that there are ample non-fiction resources in public radio archives that are not being used in the classroom. She worked with classroom teachers to develop the teaching resources around the audio that make Listen Current immediately useful in class.

ETT: What it is that you’re doing differently than your competitors? And do you expect to develop other differentiators in the future?

We are differentiated in the market by our focus on audio. No other edtech tool is focused exclusively on authentic audio content and building listening skills.

ETT: Please describe your product development strategy and product stage. What should we expect to see from your company in the next 12 months? Describe your potential next milestones.

Our product development strategy is to meet the needs of teachers who are trying to engage students and improve their listening skills. We are always increasing the number of public radio stories and teaching resources in our collection and currently have nearly 800 curated public radio stories aligned with curriculum standards. We have ELLs supports on our Humanities collection and will continue to expand those resources over the next 12 months.

ETT: Are you a disruptor, and how so? Do you believe you will remain as a disruptor in the near foreseeable future? Why is that so?

We are disrupting education by focusing on auditory learning. This is a retro concept of using radio to enhance teaching and learning. What we hear from teachers is that students’ listening skills have suffered as more devices enter to market. But they don’t have time to teach listening without being able to embed it in content area teaching. There is a lot of change happening around who is responsible for literacy in a school and it’s not just the English teachers anymore.

ETT: Could you tell us about other startups or product builds that you have been a part of, and what your role was?

This is Monica’s first start-up. Listen Current’s COO Karen Gage led marketing at two successful edtech start-ups, WebCT and WIMBA, both of which were acquired by Blackboard.

ETT: Did you or do you currently have a mentor who is/has been helping you throughout the startup stages of the company? Who is that mentor?

Mentors have played an important role in the history of Listen Current. We were blessed with lots of mentors as part of the inaugural class of the LearnLaunch accelerator. Specifically we’ve worked closely with Ann Koufman-Frederick, a retired Superintendent. Ann helps connect us with educators, districts and education research. We’ve also been guided by Don McLagan, a retired successful entrepreneur. He’s provided guidance on company structure and management.

ETT: Where is education technology market going in the next five years, especially in your market segment?

I expect to see acceleration in technology adoption by K-12 school districts, and major shifts in technology enabled teaching strategies. Over 5 years we are likely to see a transition where the majority of students in public schools are given their own tablet or other computing device for learning. In our segment, I expect to see more competitors in the non-fiction content space.

ETT: What advice, if any, do you have for someone thinking about launching a company in the education technology market?

Now is a great time for startups in edtech. K-12 Schools are open to new products. Budgets are being disrupted by the digital revolution in classrooms. It’s unlike anytime in history. That said, the sales process is still long, complicated, and difficult to navigate. But I’m confident as more schools go digital, selling digital products will become much easier and faster.