Monday January 12, 2015 0 comments
By Steve Porter
FORT COLLINS - A Fort Collins man is aiming to revitalize the American education system with a new STEM-focused visual learning platform he calls Aristotl, after the Greek philosopher and teacher.
Alan Witty, a teacher, serial entrepreneur and businessman, believes U.S. students are falling behind their global counterparts in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills, and he attributes part of that situation to an education system that fails to make those subjects compelling and more easily understandable.
Witty, a New York native whose past includes online teacher, martial arts instructor and owner of a popular downtown Fort Collins bar, says a teaching position at Colorado Technical University he accepted in 2005 opened his eyes to how technology could be used to create a more engaging and visual learning experience.
"I began thinking there must be a better way to engage students, and that's how the company started," he said.
Witty, president and CEO of KShare Inc., said his Aristotl Learning Platform is a sophisticated yet simple-to-use virtual classroom and content creation tool that enables interactive online learning across a dynamic, multi-dimensional landscape.
With his software, Witty says, users can set up and run a real-time experiment in a virtual online classroom that can explain and demonstrate STEM concepts in vivid 3D detail.
According to Witty, Aristotl is a course creation and content management system that enables the development of fully interactive 3D STEM courses, which can be delivered in a classroom, online or through a combined approach.
Witty said he set out to create a learning platform that is both student and teacher-friendly.
"My thought was, how can I create a tool for the teacher that is as flexible as possible so they can bring their own flair to it," he said.
Witty said he believes visual learning is important to address the needs of students who are digital natives , and Aristotl leans heavily on the visual aspect.
"Let's give everybody a platform with everything people expect, but let's pull in widgets like 3D, animation, and so on," he said. "This tool is focused on that group of people who need to learn visually and also lets teachers add their own personal touch."
Witty said the platform encourages instructors to bring their own unique approach to teaching STEM with Aristotl's content creation tool.
"If we look at learning models, collaborative models work best," he says. "Today, you have to appeal to a student in the language they understand, and the world they live in is an extremely visual one."
Bill Van Eron, owner of Headwaters Marketing and an Aristotl advisor, said Witty is taking an innovative approach to meeting today's education needs.
"He's moving the mountain over to students, so the way teachers interact with students is in their world," Van Eron said.
But Witty said he's not just looking to market Aristotl to the U.S. education system.
"We want to be able to connect with people across the globe," he says. "I'm not going to tell people how to teach. I just want to give them a great platform."
Witty says a recent study indicates 40 percent of jobs now require technical skills, and with more and more foreign university students now returning to their home countries to begin their careers instead of staying in the U.S., the outlook for continued U.S. technical dominance is worrisome.
"I don't think the U.S. can keep (leading the world) unless we create a better education system," he said.
Witty launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign on Jan. 15 that aims to raise $150,000 to fund the first release of Aristotl. To learn more, visit <iframe src="https://www.indiegogo.com/project/aristotl-the-next-generation-in-stem-education/embedded/6457108" width="222px" height="445px" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>
Van Eron said he became an advisor to Witty because of the potential he sees in Aristotl's capability to improve education and - by extension - help ensure the U.S. remains at the top of global innovation.
"I don't think education can fix itself," he said. "It needs folks like Alan to create something that is far stronger than what it is today."
Witty agrees, and hopes the education system will embrace some help from Aristotl.
"It's my fundamental belief that, if we open our arms, we can find the next Einstein or Salk," he said.