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Collaboration on WeVideo & Wakelet Spaces with Misbah Gedal (Ep 31)

/ Jason Sholl

In this episode, we chat with Misbah Gedal, Head of Partnerships at Wakelet. Wakelet is a content curation platform that is helping people organize the world's information into meaningful and beautiful collections. Misbah is super passionate about tech and education and shares news about the new Wakelet Spaces and how WeVideo can be used in collaboration projects. Follow Misbah on Twitter @MisbahGedal along with @Wakelet. Try Wakelet today at www.wakelet.com.

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Nathan Lang-Raad: Welcome to the Deeper Learning with WeVideo podcast. I am Nathan Lang-Raad, and I am super excited to have my friend from Wakelet, Misbah Gedal on today. He is the head of partnerships at Wakelet. He's super passionate about tech and education. He used to be a lawyer and then joined Wakelet in it's very early stages in 2015. And he's definitely worn a lot of hats since being there. Hey, Misbah, great to have you on the show today.

Misbah Gedal: How's it going, Nathan? Great to be here.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yes. I always enjoy listening to you and watching videos. You do a wonderful job of creating these really engaging videos on Twitter. And of course, we had the pleasure of, at WeVideo, our team connecting with yours, talking about some fantastic collaborative opportunities we have coming up. So I'm super excited to have you on the podcast, and learn more about you, and how you got into Wakelet.

Misbah Gedal: I'm excited to be here. And yeah, I'm super excited to be in touch with you guys and work with you guys. Obviously, we've seen a lot of our ambassadors and a lot of our community talk about WeVideo and Wakelet in the same sentence, so I think it only makes sense that we're having this conversation, and we're working together now and in the future. It's going to be awesome.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Absolutely. And I'm interested to hear more about how... We were joking before we started recording about you being a lawyer, and how did you end up going from the legal world to being in where you are today with Wakelet?

Misbah Gedal: I think that... I don't want to knock the legal profession. I think it's a really honorable profession and a lot of my friends who were at university with me, they have awesome careers right now doing stuff that they love. I think that with me, I always wanted to get... I always wanted to get involved in an industry that's constantly moving, that's very fast paced, and that isn't too corporate. And what I found was, even though I enjoyed the law, I loved learning it, I love practicing it,, I felt like what I was doing wasn't making as big of an impact as I wanted to. And I gradually became a little bit disillusioned with it because I think I would've be more than happy doing, I don't know, entertainment law, or just something a little bit more juicy.

Misbah Gedal: But I was in [inaudible 00:02:21] law, which it had its interesting moments, but I wanted to do something involved in tech because whilst I was doing law, I was seeing a lot of... I was always really interested in tech, and startups, and I saw these adventures that other people were going on, and I was like, "This is the perfect environment for me because I get to be super creative, I get to be myself, I get to make decisions which can positively affect a business, something bigger than just a law firm," if that makes sense. So I wouldn't say that I regret it. I love it. And a lot of the skills I picked up during my career in law, which was quite short lived, but a lot of the skills which I picked up there, I've completely transferred into what I'm doing now. So yeah, that's the story, really. I guess it wasn't so much a frustration. It was just more like I wanted to do something that's shifted the needle a little bit more.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Well, I'm a big believer and looking back at one's journey and reflecting on how all of the places we've been definitely prepares us and shapes what we have going forward. So I think it's fantastic that you were able to look back and say, "Hey, this was a good place for me," and then a amazing opportunity presented itself to you, and then you jumped into it, and then you're able to, again, use your past experiences to shape experiences now and going forward, so I think it's fantastic.

Misbah Gedal: Yeah, exactly. Like you said, I think reflecting on your past experiences is the only way that you can grow, whether that positive, or negative, or whatever it might be, if you don't know your own history as a person, you can trip up a little bit going forward in the future. And I think that it's also... I'm a really big... There's this thing... What I practice is metacognition. So what I tend to do is, I don't just react to things. I'll constantly question why I chose to make a particular decision rather than just doing it in hindsight, so I'm always looking back at my decisions, and using that to figure out what kind of a person I am, and I'll probably be doing that for the rest of my life. But yeah, I love what you just said. You summed it up perfectly. Reflecting on the past. It's not in a nostalgic way, but in a way where you're like, "What did I do wrong? What did I do right?", that type of thing.

Nathan Lang-Raad: I agree, Misbah. And similarly, I'm also, I always say, in my head a lot. It can be a good thing for people like us who especially are in a space, an education space, where we're really promoting the power of reflective thinking, and being able to look at a certain set of data, or a certain set of facts, and then be able to analyze, and look for patterns. It's a good thing, but I know for me, sometimes I have to allow myself to live outside of my head just for a little bit, to be able just to experience things as they come and not have to analyze every single thing that's presented in front of me.

Misbah Gedal: Yeah, that's the hardest thing for me to do.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Hey, so I'd love to hear more about your journey at Wakelet. And for those listeners who are new to Wakelet, can you sum up what the app, and what the technology, and the platform is?

Misbah Gedal: Yeah, sure thing. I'd say, in a nutshell, the easiest way to explain Wakelet would be just say the phrase, "Everything in one place." So Wakelet's a free to use platform. It's a curation platform. That's just a fancy way of saying that we allow you to capture any type of content that you find on the web and then put it all into one place. You can create beautiful collections of content, and this content can be anything from social media posts, to YouTube videos, to PDFs, to Drive files. Anything that has a URL can be added to a Wakelet collection. I forgot the other question. I was too wrapped up in the pitch.

Nathan Lang-Raad: No, I think that's... Well, I hadn't mentioned your journey at Wakelet, but I'm glad that you set the stage for that just by explaining what the platform is. And also, something that's very new, and that we introduced at the very beginning of the show with Wakelet Spaces, I'm curious about what this new update is, and how does it apply to educators?

Misbah Gedal: Yeah, yeah. So we launched Spaces yesterday, so it's a really good time to talk about it. So we're always trying to refine the platform, and the only thing that we do is listen to the educator community and listen to the people that use the platform, and trying to understand what it is that they want from the platform. So with Wakelet, organization is key. You can bookmark anything that you find from the web, create collections, organize it. You can also share things, which is awesome. So you can share as many collections as you like with your learning communities, with your friends, your family, or just keeping to yourself. And then along the way, we realized that a lot of educators and a lot of learning communities, they wanted to collaborate on collections, so they wanted to be able to share a link with somebody and then have that person collaborate in real time on that collection. And then not escalated more, whereas, "Okay, I want to hold class to be able to collaborate on a collection."

Misbah Gedal: And that led to some amazing impact stories, some incredible use cases where you'd have a teacher creating a collection about a particular lesson, sharing a code with their students, and then their students would be able to browse the web, and find something meaningful, a piece of content, add it there, and then also write why they found it impactful, or why is it relevant to the particular challenge that they've been given? So collaboration organizations always have been a big part of the Wakelet story. With Spaces, that basically takes that to another level. So rather than everything being on a collection basis, it's going to be a space basis. So let's say as a... Let's even just say for your team, Nathan. So let's say you're working on a particular project at WeVideo and you want people to create Wakelet collections all within the same space.

Misbah Gedal: So you just create a space, and then you will share a link with your colleague, they will click that link, join the space, and then their free to create collections of their own content, their free to collaborate on your collections that you've done, and then you've got this really awesome living, breathing environment where you've got so many different people collaborating on the same project. So the application [inaudible 00:09:08] are so endless. You've got teams at work, got friends and family, you've got people going on holiday, literally wedding planning, and then, of course, you've got the really significant, awesome learning outcomes, which can be achieved through it. So a teacher being able to create a space for her students, and space for... Another teacher being able to create a space for their extracurricular activities, or a personal portfolio, or something like that. So yeah, we're really, really excited, and it's version one, so there's going to be so many awesome ideas and feedback that comes from our community, which we're going to implement super quick.

Nathan Lang-Raad: That's really exciting. And I'm super happy that your platform is continually evolving as teachers are ensuring that students have access to high quality content. And especially dealing with where we've been the past few months with the pandemic, I think more than ever, we need to be able to support educators in a way that is seamless and easy. And with WeVideo, our mission and our vision is centered around students and teachers being their most creative selves, and ensuring students can make an impact with their voice. And then when I think about the [inaudible 00:10:31] app smashing between WeVideo and Wakelet, and being able to take a beautiful message, or video, or just an instructional video with this meaningful content for our teacher, and being able to curate content in a way that's easily accessible, and not only accessible, but exciting, placed in a visually appealing way where it makes the student more [inaudible 00:10:56] click on it, or easier to find it, and it's more engaging. I feel like the more that we focus on making it easier for teachers and students to access tech, then they can spend more time on the creativity portion. They can spend more time on just the aesthetic value that this intrinsic and creation, so any creativity. I'm curious what your thoughts are on that.

Misbah Gedal: Yeah, 100%. I think that you've hit the nail on the head. It's all about accessibility. It's all about making content, and making resources, and making useful information more accessible than ever. And I think that right now, there's a really cool culture that's happening in EdTech, and thus, the willingness for companies to work together. And I think that we all acknowledge that we exist in this amazing space that's just filled with these unbelievably passionate, hardworking educators. And that's such an infectious... Not to use that word right now, but [inaudible 00:11:56] it's a really infectious attitude that spreads through the rest of the team.

Misbah Gedal: And I think that, yeah, now it's more important than ever, I think, for EdTech companies to work together, and collaborate, and have those awesome integrations because I think that for any teacher, learning a new platform is always going to be difficult. I think for any person learning a new platform, it's going to be difficult. And we just want to try and make it as easy as possible to fit into a teacher's workflow that already exists. And every EdTech platform serves it's purpose, and very often, they all compliment each other as well. So I think that the creativity story with WeVideo is so nice, and I love, like you said, how accessible it is to help students without needing crazy equipment to create really nice memorable videos that they can share a message with, and share a voice, and share something that they're passionate about.

Misbah Gedal: And then having that come into Wakelet, and allow them to add other resources, and add other context, and contextualize that video, or vice versa, it's just a really nice harmonious way of doing things, but I completely agree with you. I think accessibility is the key thing. We spoke about this so much when we're looking at our collaboration feature a year ago, and we're like, "How can we just make it as easy as possible?" And it was a QR code, a link, a six digit code that the students can just use to plug into a collection without even having to add any credentials or sign up for any accounts that. That was the deal breaker for so many educators, like, "How can I make things really streamlined and not have 100 different credentials to use on a hundred different platforms?" So yeah, I completely agree.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. And I'm thinking too, with the beginning of the school year for so many and, teachers want to make sure, and we all do, we want to ensure that the time that we are spending with planning or creating engaging content, that the return on investment is huge, that the impact, that the yield is huge, and so we don't want to spend our time just creating tasks and this compliance based activities to essentially keep students busy. And what I've loved as of late, seeing the evidence for teachers creating a meaningful content in ways where students can engage in meaningful ways because we've always said the cliche statement, "If a student can Google it, then why? There's no place in the classroom for it." If a student can just acquire knowledge on their own, then what is the purpose of the activity? And so it really goes to the point that I think has been tried to be made for years now, that the interaction, whether it be in-person in a classroom or in a Google Meet, but the interactions have to go beyond just acquisition of knowledge.

Nathan Lang-Raad: It has to really be about building skills, ensuring and empowering students to collaborate in new and fresh, innovative ways. And just watching your videos, you have this presence on camera that you're able to communicate in compelling and effective ways. And I've seen students who they have a change they want to make in the world, maybe it's climate change, or maybe it's another local challenge, and they use their voice and they tell a story in such powerful ways. And I think those skills are what, as educators, we want to most instill within students. I think with you and I, and the work we do in EdTech, I think that that is our compass. Yes, the tech is cool, and the tool is fun to use, but in the end, we want to ensure that students are being able to build these skills that's going to ensure the success in the future.

Misbah Gedal: Yeah. Yeah, a hundred percent. I think you're right. And I love that there's been this new wave of EdTech tools, which aren't necessarily focused on the logistical challenges, which teachers face, so things like submissions, and attendance, and that type of thing, but instead of focused on students being able to express themselves, and being able to tell the stories, and talk about the things that they're passionate about. And it's funny because I remember, I think it was last year, I had a really incredible conversation with a principal of a school in Canada.

Misbah Gedal: And she was explaining to me that like teachers at her school, they spend as much time developing the emotional intelligence in their students as they do in the academics, which I thought was really, really cool because I think that when you try and develop emotional intelligence in a student, the results are incredible, and they feel so much more confident in telling those stories. So the classes at that school, they're not only designed to just educate, and fill in this quiz, whatever. They're all designed to help students solve problems, create meaningful relationships with people, and things, and build up social skills and that. So I remember in the conversation that we had, and I wrote a blog post about it actually, that when it comes to tech in general, you have to...

Misbah Gedal: I think for educators, they have to think about what the learning outcome is and then work backwards from that. So rather than discovering a tech platform and then being like, "I'm going to use this in my class because it's new and it's fancy," without actually having an objective in mind, it just becomes equivalent of rolling in the TV 20 years ago. I don't know if you remember that, but when I was in school, the high point of tech in the classroom was the teacher rolling in the TV, this massive box, and then you'd just sit and watch a science video or something. It was super exciting, but I think that there's so much more emphasis now on empowering students, and helping them, helping them share their voice, helping them share the things which their passionate about. And I think that anything that we can do as tech companies to help empower that, I think that we're investing in the future there.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. I was chuckling with the rolling in the TV. I first thought it was some phrase I wasn't familiar with. I'm like, "What does it mean to roll in the TV?" And then now, then I totally got it. I remember the cart where you had almost a seatbelt that strapped in the TV because you didn't want the TV to fall over. That's how it was here in the states, but yeah. And then even thinking about it further with using technology, it was almost like some form of malpractice with the technology because really, the reason why we were excited is because we didn't want to hear the teacher lecture anymore. We get a break. We get to watch a movie. And it was so fun just watching a movie because it was different than the droning lecture.

Nathan Lang-Raad: And even if you extrapolate that to today, that's another challenge that we have with technology is that we want to ensure that the technology is helping to build. And I think it's fantastic that you mentioned this emotional intelligence, and being able to use technology to help students build on their strengths, and help them make a bigger difference. And it's disheartening when I see technology used as this another way of digitizing or digitalizing, I guess, a homework sheet, or doing a quiz on a Google form, or just consuming information, and not giving a tool to a student, so they can create, or they can work together in new, meaningful ways. And so I think that's something that another [inaudible 00:20:06] print aspect of the space that you and I are and now is making sure that tools are truly used to support students, and your favorite topic and word, metacognition.

Misbah Gedal: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And there are so many tools out there which are helping students do that. And I don't know, it's just interesting. I think that we... When we're talking about myself in particular, because we're not teachers here at Wakelet, so the only thing that we have to go off internally, if we didn't have the community by our side, would be our experiences of being a student, and the kind of things which we found memorable, and the kind of things which we didn't like. And I remember just back to having metacognition, I remember, when I was in class, I was so, so, so overzealous when it came to being the first to answer a question or being the first volunteer to do something. And I remember very, very early on having this moment in class once when I realized that I was dominating a discussion in a negative way. And up to that point, as a kid, I just always thought I was pleasing the teacher, I was doing something good.

Misbah Gedal: And I remember, honestly, I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember looking around at the class and realizing, "There are other people here that want to speak and maybe you shouldn't speak so much." I still struggle with that now, but I think that there are so many memorable parts of a student's life that happen very, very early on. And I think that in the space that we're in, like you said, the more moments that we can generate, the more a-ha moments, the more memorable experiences that we can generate in students, that's where the real benefit comes from. And it's interesting because with Wakelet, there's a lot of people using Wakelet, a lot of educators using Wakelet in pretty sophisticated ways, but they're not massively creative. So just things like newsletters, or sharing resources, those passive activities. But then when you turn it around, there's a whole bunch of educators who are using Wakelet to create those moments for their students.

Misbah Gedal: So we've got a student ambassador program that we launched at the beginning of this year. And the feedback from that has been absolutely phenomenal because... So the first time, for many, many students, they'd been given a task that helps them come out of their shell. So I was having a conversation with a teacher called Tamara, and she's based in the UK actually, and she was talking about her experiences with the student ambassador program. And we give the students six tasks that are the six Cs, so don't make recall what they all are right now on the spot. It's like collaboration, [inaudible 00:23:00], critical thinking, and then the other ones. And she was telling me that, Tamara, how a lot of the students, they all reacted so differently to the different tasks. And one of the tasks was a task where a student needs to pick a topic and then create a presentation to present to the class. And she said that she had one of the students who were so quiet and who really didn't do much to contribute to lessons.

Misbah Gedal: And this kid did this super powerful, impassioned presentation on the Black Lives Matter movement. And she said she was so gobsmacked that the kid had finally found a place to put that passion and their enthusiasm into. And I found that really emotional because I was like, "That's incredible." And they did the presentation on Wakelet, shared it with their class. So I think it's all about... Not to go on and on and on, but I think it's all about creating those moments. And I think that with platforms like WeVideo, they're magical. I remember, whenever you were a kid and you first turn on a piece of technology that blows your mind, like your first cell phone or something like that, there's something really cool about playing with video, and having it play back, and see what you've done. So I consider WeVideo to be right at the forefront of that, of creating those memorable learning experiences.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. Of course, I agree. And it's those moments that you just described where students are doing things that are making an impact, more than just on their community, but globally and around the world. And that's where, when I look back and think, "Ah, I'm so proud of the work that's being done in education," not necessarily because it's the latest feature, but because of how empowered students are becoming to, for example, the Black Lives Matter, and climate change, and just, there's so many issues that students have opinions on, and so many issues that students want to do work in. And we are able to say, "Here is a tool to make your voice heard. Here is a tool to better help stoke your creativity, and help you with your creative processes, or with Wakelet, to be able to share something beautiful, and so that others can find your message." I think that's so important.

Misbah Gedal: Exactly. Yeah.

Nathan Lang-Raad: Oh, Misbah, this has been fantastic. We are out time, but we could go on and do a three-hour podcast for sure, so let's agree to do this again. And I know that you and I are going to continue to work together. I know the listeners will be excited to hear how we will collaborate, and think of ways where our communities can collide, and do amazing things together, so I'm super pumped about that. And I would love to share your Twitter handle, any other social media platform that you are on, so our listeners can connect with you.

Misbah Gedal: Yeah, I'm mainly just active on Twitter. You can find me on @ and then my full name, just Misbah Gedal. I'm usually stalking the Wakelet profile and commenting on stuff like that, so if you just go onto the Wakelet Twitter, you should just find me... I don't know, what do they call it? There's a word. What's the word? It's like a... Loitering, that's it. You'll find me loitering.

Nathan Lang-Raad: I was going to say meandering, wondering, but okay. [crosstalk 00:26:54].

Misbah Gedal: Yeah, yeah. I just want to say a huge shout out to all the incredible educators who are preparing for school. I know a lot of you are started already. Honestly, it's been such an insane time period right now, and you guys are under so much stress, and pressure, and uncertainty. I don't know how you do it, but you inspire everything that we do. And I know you're the same as well, Nathan, it's crazy. Right?

Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. Yeah. I'm right there with you, Misbah, and I can echo that right alongside of you. I often say that I think teachers have one of the hardest jobs out there and they truly are one of our heroes of society. So I think you and I will continue to support teachers, and do whatever we can to help make their world a place where they can make the biggest impact, and they feel affirmed and supported. So that's something that I will continue to do because again, teachers are the ones that are making our students the most successful selves.

Misbah Gedal: I couldn't say it better myself.

Nathan Lang-Raad: I appreciate that, Misbah. Hey, thanks again for being on the show.

Misbah Gedal: No problem at all. I appreciate it. Thank you so much, Nathan. Thank you.