“The Social Way To Study”
Mike Lewis Breaks the New Wave of Education
Thursday, November 22, 2007
TEXTLetsCram.com celebrated its second anniversary this September with a makeover. Creator Mike Lewis’ original idea for a place to socialize and study recently became “School 2.0,” a sophisticated website rivaling the amenities of MySpace. With social networking sites on the rise, LetsCram.com provides the appealing social aspect while maintaining an academic atmosphere approved by parents and teachers alike. The new site allows students to create a personal profile, leave posts on the message board, create and access study guides, find friends, and even procrastinate.
Meanwhile, the business side has expanded, with the site now under the leadership of Patrick J. Dietzen, founder of the Goleta based company Sirigen, and with specialty LetsCram.com t-shirts designed and created by Santa Barbara clothing boutique Particle, which owned by the former State Street location True Grit. However, the site keeps its personal feel with its moderator team of students, many of whom were present from the start. Teams from high schools across Santa Barbara County spend hours moderating the site’s postings to keep the environment appropriate and on-topic, while Mike Lewis works from his computer at Dartmouth College in Massachusetts. Here’s an interview with the creator:
Patrick J. Dietzen
LetsCram staffers plan the site’s upgrade over the summer at Santa Barbara’s Coffee Cat.
You found your inspiration for creating LetsCram.com while studying for a history test in your junior year at Santa Barbara High. How did this idea develop into the site it is today?
I think the idea developed naturally. As the site became more and more helpful for students at Santa Barbara High School, I realized that people in the educational community outside of my own high school can benefit just as much as those already using the site. With the help of my former principal, Mr. Paul Turnbull, I was able to gain the support of the Board of Education and also of Santa Barbara Superintendent Dr. Brian Sarvis, who was instrumental in connecting me to new schools and individuals in the area. Today, our goal is simple, and that is to continue to reach out to new students, teachers, and parents in schools throughout Santa Barbara.
Word is quickly spreading about LetsCram.com, with articles in several local newspapers and with the support of county superintendents and administration. Soon Governor Schwarzenegger will hear about your endeavor, and there are plans for expanding user access to other parts of California and eventually other states. Is this what you imagined when you first began the project?
The original idea was simply that students who share the same academic material could interact on LetsCram regardless of their grade, school or city they lived in. It became more and more apparent that high school academic and extracurricular subjects transcend all schools, and that students everywhere could go to LetsCram for an equally helpful experience. I would love to get this idea to the Governor because I think LetsCram would help out schools all over the state and even in the country, but first I just want to get LetsCram integrated into the schools here. For that to be done, we really need teachers and administrators to help promote it.
Teenagers often feel like they can’t do anything because of their age and place in the world. From your experience, how do you respond? Did you undergo any setbacks because of your age or lack of experience?
I was overwhelmed by the support I received from my family, friends, and of course the amazing people at my high school. One of the most important things I have learned from this experience is that an idea can come through to fruition, regardless of your age or background. I think especially with ideas that are internet based, age is nearly irrelevant. If you have a good idea, explore it. See what there is like it out there. LetsCram started out as a hobby and turned into a passion for me. The only I was lucky to find the right people to help support me with this project, and because of their continued support I am able to try and achieve the goal I set out with: to help out students everywhere.