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Steve Mesler discusses how his mentoring program, Classroom Champions, brings star athletes into classrooms by using technology.

Steve Mesler: I think the way that we’ve been seeing technology transform education is that we’re able to utilize people in a way now that bringing the outside world into the classroom that maybe before it was a person had to physically go there and do something and, you know, they only had the capacity to do that once.  Now we’re able to stream people in and bring repetition in when we’re looking at behavior change.  Technology allows us to have that repetition that’s necessary for behavior change so I think to me that’s the biggest thing that we believe at Classroom Champions is that technology is enabling us to cause behavior change by bringing repetition into the mix.

Classroom Champions is in essence the flipped model of what we’ve been doing for eons in human history.  You’ve had the – whether it be an athlete or whether it be a prominent person who’s gone in to talk to youth – we’ve been doing that forever.  Well, at the end of the day as an athlete I would always walk out of a school and I’d go, “You know what?  If one or two kids listen to it it was worth my time.”  And when we put Classroom Champions together – and I say we, my sister and I.  My sister’s got her Ph.D. in education and social policy from Northwestern.  We wanted to do something that would be more impactful than that one off visit where you walk in, you give a talk to kids, it’s fun, it’s engaging, then you leave and you never see people again.  And at Classroom Champions we’ve taken that model and flipped it using technology where we have Olympians and Paraolympians across right now the US, Canada and Costa Rica.

And these athletes every month they’re able to focus on a different video lesson and send these to the classrooms that we adopt for them.  And they actually form personal relationships with these kids because the kids are able to send videos back and send content back to the athletes showing them off.  When you put a video camera – when you put something these days kids want to be able to express themselves to the world, not just the people in front of them.  And when you can give them that engagement so when they do that they’re actually sending it to somebody who is somebody, an Olympian.  The power of that is something that we’re seeing.  We’re seeing kids that are now happy to set goals and engage and persevere better because they’re understanding and because their mentors are teaching them those lessons.

And at Classroom Champions we believe that repetition causes behavior change and that’s what we see through the technology through the pre-recorded video lessons every month that the athletes send in, you know, just a few weeks before each month they record these videos.  And then the kids are actually able to a couple of times a year whether it be Skype or Google hang out, these athletes are then able to answer the kids’ questions.  And when you make that connection real, you actually put an extra mentor, an extra role model in these kids’ lives and all kinds of things wonderful happen at that point.

Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Dillon Fitton