This year more than ever technology is impacting where and how our students learn. In this episode we discuss everything from how the internet has changed the distribution of information to the amount of tech in classrooms. We also talk about Educeri, a large educational app we built for a curriculum development company and how served their business needs while also creating a platform that got their lessons into the hands of even more teachers!
Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday. This is Cris here, CEO of Bixly sitting down with Alexandra who works with us here, and I’m going to call for the purposes of this episode, our education extraordinaire. I’ll let you expound on that as we jump into questions, but today’s topic, we’re going to be talking about tech in education and how we’ve seen technology shift over the years, how it plays into the educational space and how, of course we, as Bixly can help you with that. So Alexandra, how do you see basically technology in the education space shifting and how has it shifted over the last few years, 10 years, whatever?
Well, the basic trend as with almost every other area of our life is that technology is becoming more and more central to what we do in the educational space. Just from starting with hardware, students are using laptops, iPads in the classroom, smart boards and things like this installed in nearly every classroom across the United States. So you’re seeing this type of technology and the hardware interface being in the classroom. And then on top of that, right now, because of COVID, so many students are remote learning. And so, that’s another layer of technology that we’re using, both the laptops and the software that is running behind the scenes whether you’re using Zoom or some other platform. Increasingly, just across the board, more than ever before, we are seeing that students are interacting with technology as a core way for them to go through their educational experience.
And then on top of that, it’s really being integrated into the curriculum. So, I mean, in my day we had computer classes like Mavis Beacon, and maybe a little bit of basic, but these days students are learning robotics, they’re learning electronics. They have the opportunity to learn programming, maybe an elective type course, that sort of thing. And I’ve even seen specialized high schools that are focused on tech, and that’s really exciting as well. And so, not only are we seeing hardware in the classrooms, technology as being integrated into the curriculum and also software being core to the way in which students are experiencing their education, all of this tenfold over time.
Yeah. That makes complete sense. Myself, I have four kids and they all have iPads and they’re using these for school and they’re doing spelling lessons on them and they’re doing educational type games. Again, we had a typing tutor, Mavis Beacon, whatever it was and that was all you really did on a computer. And of course, tablets didn’t even exist. So I know, and for me personally, I’m seeing so much more technology being utilized by my kids in their current education than I ever could have dreamed when I was in school.
Yeah, absolutely. And then on top of that, you have the informal education of you to me, MOOCs, YouTube resources, podcasts, people are accessing more information empowered by the internet through just being able to access this stuff online and researching their own areas of interest and that’s really exciting for me.
Yeah, because it’s not even that formal education. I think even specifically I was doing repairs at my house and it used to be you’d go into some sort of a store like a Sears or whatever, and you may talk with the technician or you go by the Home Depot. Now you can just pull up YouTube and actually educate yourself on how to do your own plumbing or how to do some electrical additions, which when you’re dealing with electrical, I recommend hiring a contractor because that can just get dicey. But the point is though education, not only in the formal classroom setting, like we’re talking about with your primary grammar school type education, but also just education in general for the mass population has exploded as it’s so much easier to get access to all these new avenues of learning.
Yeah, absolutely. And then I think compared to, again, when I was in school, even more so the in-classroom experiences integrated with an online experience. So when you and I were at university, we had a website called Blackboard, which I think a lot of universities use and there are tools like this, the school website and resources online that teachers are frequently using as an extension of the classroom. And these are just more ways in which we are seeing tech impacting the way in which our education is delivered to our students.
Yeah. So I’m trying to think how we can utilize technology within the educational space, because we obviously talked about all the hardware and we’ve talked about some learning, but very specific custom software type solutions, how we could see those fitting in. And so, I’ve thought even personally of situations where schools are starting to have to deal with more health requirements and safety standards and that sort of thing. And so, the ability for these schools and these districts to create custom applications that are doing temperature checks or are allowing the students to fill out some kind of a self evaluation on health to see if they’re actually ready and prepared to come into the classroom, not only from a mindset standpoint, from a health standpoint.
And so, again, custom software, that’s very easy to build out if you need to do something that’s different and unique. And we have the ability to do that here at Bixly which is really, really cool.
Yeah, and there’s tons of opportunities for custom software, especially as we have mentioned that the classroom is really extending beyond when students are sitting in the classroom, it’s really extending onto the platform on the internet. And so, if you’re using tools that are online, making sure that they’re not an inhibition to your students, that they’re not so frustrating to use or clunky and maybe a couple years old, but making sure that they’re modern so that it doesn’t become a stumbling block for their learning. We really want to make sure that that’s streamlined and is as helpful for the student as possible.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And for me, thinking through customers that we’ve worked with in the past in the education space, similar to medical, there can be certain regulations, things that you’re trying to deal with. I say really safety precautions, because if you’re talking formal grammar style education, even high school, you’re potentially dealing with minors. And there is personally identifiable information that needs to be ensured that it’s taken care of in the proper manner. And some of these out of the box type solutions that you might have, some of them may be able to follow those safety protocols, some of them may not.
And depending on your school, your district, even their country that the school is in, building something custom that’s going to uniquely fit those parameters and those safety precautions that you have in place is really important. And again, custom software, that’s where that comes in. So for us, particularly, I wanted to touch on one actual formal type education project. And it was for a company called DataWORKS that I know you have some connection to. I wanted to talk through that application and then just what did we do for them and what were the unique scenarios that they were coming up against that didn’t let them do an out of the box solution?
Yeah, absolutely. So DataWORKS, I actually worked with them before I came to work for Bixly. And so, I can speak a little bit from the client side because I was on their team when we were building the app together. And DataWORKS had a product where they were delivering — they do teacher training — but their main source of business was actually delivering curriculum materials to teachers in classrooms. And they did this via digital download.
It’s a relatively small company, very heavily researched-based in cognitive models. And that became the most efficient way for them to deliver that material to teachers, into school districts, into individual schools. They didn’t have a big publishing house behind them to basically create big textbooks and that sort of thing, that’s a much bigger endeavor,
Right. And this was single type use content?
So you would have a license for an individual teacher or for an individual lesson. And of course, as is natural, as we may do with music that we download or movies that we download, teachers would share it with each other because it’s a great resource or even the principal might share it with the entire school. And unfortunately, that was a really big problem for DataWORKS as a business model because technically that is stealing. They weren’t really paying for the multiple use licenses like you mentioned.
And being such a small company it was something that we really needed to defend, to be able to make sure that we were getting the proper compensation for the value and the use of that lesson material. And the solution was of course, a SaaS model, software as a service, and being able to put these well researched lessons, this very in depth curriculum behind a secure paywall to make sure that we were getting proper value in, proper payment for the value that we were offering to the teachers and to the schools.
Yeah, because you’re trying to utilize a way that the customers or the schools, the teachers that are getting the software that they’re able to now have a different way of connecting to the library, but they’re still able to get this content. And like you said, still make a profit on the DataWORKS side and follow compliancy the whole way along.
So yeah, I remember it was a pretty involved process and again, it was a shift, nothing that was extremely unique because we’ve seen this of course, with your Spotify and your Netflix and all these services that are opening up a library, but there was a lot of little quirks that went into making sure that you could have multi-user accounts and have the ability, like you said, to have a safe and secure paywall, to be able to handle subscriptions if you don’t run into a payment that happens on time, what happens to the accounts, all that kind of stuff. So it was a really fun, really unique project. And from what I understand, the feedback from the customers has been great and they seem to be utilizing the software very well.
Yeah, yeah. The teachers have loved it since day one. And I think there’s always that trade-off where you grumble from being able to feel like you own the lesson to being moved to the software as a service type model, whether we’re thinking of Adobe or Microsoft or other companies that have had to face that transition. But I think the advantages of course, that you have access to the entire library of lessons, much like with Netflix, you have access to the entire library of movies that Netflix has on offer as opposed to buying each movie individually. And so, that was actually a really great value add for the teachers. So far we’ve heard really, really great things. They really enjoy having access to this and being able to pull up a lesson on their smart board and dive right in and work with their students.
That’s good. And that’s what’s so great about working with Bixly is you can come to us with a project idea that may be similar in some ways to another product, it may be completely different and there is a particular need that you have that needs to be fixed. And we don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel, which is great. We can look at what other industries are doing, what other verticals are doing. And obviously we’re not going to just completely rip off what they’re doing, but there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.
And so, in some ways I’m know I’m going to get this wrong, but it’s the idea of copying someone is the highest form of flattery in a way. And so, coming to Bixly, we want to talk through the problem that you’re facing, lay out a really good solution and then be able to look outside into the larger industry. And again, mimic in ways, things that have already been done to make your project be unique and very specific to what you’re trying to do and who you’re trying to reach. So if someone is trying to connect with us and they want to talk about the project more, how do they go about doing that?
Well, the best place to do it is to go to bixly.com. There’s a couple of things that you can do once you’re there. One, you can sign up for our free download, which is going to start setting you on the path for planning out what your custom software might look like. If you’re not ready to have those conversations yet, but you want to learn more about how to plan out a custom software project, we have a free digital download, there for you, that will walk you through the process of doing wireframes and writing user stories and that sort of thing.
If you feel like you’re ready to dive in and have a conversation, which you do not have to have all of your ducks in a row, that’s what the conversation is about. It’s exploratory for us to maybe make a few suggestions …
And it’s free.
… and point you in the right direction.
It’s free. There’s a big button, free consultation on our website and they’ll actually be chatting with you and they’ll get the CEO touch.
That is correct. For what that is worth.
No, it is good. And I do enjoy talking about projects with our current clients and potential leads. And it’s always, like I said, interesting to see how they are thinking that they’re going to solve their solution. And then usually I come in with some other idea, and we meet in the middle and everyone walks away in a good place.
Yeah. And so, whether we end up being the right fit for you or not, or we can maybe suggest some third party solutions if we know things that are already out there that might fit your needs, either way, we’re completely open and happy to talk to you about finding you the solution that’s exactly right.
So thank you so much everyone. I appreciate this time that we’re able to spend talking about education in tech. Thank you, Alexandra for your insights. As always, like we said, go check us out on bixly.com and hopefully I will talk with you on one of our free consultations.
Originally published at https://blog.bixly.com on January 6, 2021.