Shmoop Saves Students

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Bailey Cross writes, According to the founders of Shmoop.

According to the founders of Shmoop.com, “Shmoop will make you a better lover;” a lover of literature, history and life that is. With over 600 guides to books, poems and songs including “The Great Gastsby,” “Call of the Wild,” “Romeo and Juliette,” and even Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi,” Shmoop not only helps you understand literature, but makes you actually want to read it.”Three years ago, our CEO (Ellen Siminoff) was reading ‘Call of the Wild’ with her daughter. When they looked at other study guide websites, you could just see these other sites had low expectations for students,” explained Brady Wood, the Vice President of Shmoop.”They were all very negative and quite frankly, bad. I wanted to do something where I felt that we could enhance learning and make students excited about it and use technology,” Ellen Siminoff added. “We thought that there’d be a way to have a website that would help students with their homework but make it more interesting and make you actually want to learn the material that your teacher is teaching in class,” Brady continued. “We thought we could do that by making it fun, by showing you how the topic that you’re studying in class is relevant to issues that teens face in their daily lives, or current events, or even connect characters and topics with pop culture.” They did all of that and more. By comparing “The Great Gatsby” to Bravo’s “Real Housewives,” Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” to Angelina Jolie, and Henry James’s “The Portrait of a Lady” to Gossip Girl, Shmoop makes great classical pieces of literature that were penned centuries ago relate to your life today. Written by various authors from top Ph.D. programs across the country with humor and trivia, Shmoop’s guides are incredibly entertaining. In addition to many features including an analysis, a “Why You Should Care” section, and a dissection of the themes present for each topic, Shmoop provides a “Best of the Web,” providing students with carefully selected links to help with any other questions and sources for more information. Perhaps the most popular section on Shmoop.com is the music section. Taking songs like “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, “Kids” by MGMT, “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and “Hotel California” by the Eagles, Shmoop sheds light on the hidden meanings behind the songs. For instance, who knew that Lady Gaga had such strong ties to Shakespeare, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?”What exactly does Shmoop mean? According to Brady, “Shmoop is a Yiddish slang term that means to move something forward or to give it a nudge in the right direction. We wanted to move education forward and bring it into the digital age. Today’s students grew up with Wii and Facebook and YouTube. Old print textbooks no longer match the way that they experience the world and we wanted to move things forward and really catch up to where the students are.” The term “Shmoop” definitely applies when looking at their apps now available for download onto your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Kindle and Droid. “Their great for when you’re on the bus to school and you have to review for a test. Or even if you just want to have a really compact guide with you so anytime you have a few extra minutes, you’ll have a guide with you that you can review,” Brady said. As the 2 nd largest educational developer for apps at the Apple app store with around 600 apps, there’s plenty to choose from. So what’s next for Shmoop.com? “A big project for us this summer is that we’ll be adding even more books and topics that are great for middle school. We are also working on math right now,” Brady dished. That means by the time school rolls around this fall, pre-algebra and algebra help will be available in a fun manner. Also in the works? Games and quizzes for Shmoop.com where students can earn “Shmoints” that can be redeemed for Shmoop tee-shirts and other prizes. “At Shmoop, we’re going to give you a nudge in the right direction. We’re not necessarily going to give you the answers. A lot of times we’ll show you both sides of the argument but ask you to form your own opinion,” Brady cautioned. But with something so so readable and enjoyable, who needs more than a nudge in the right direction?