Two educators pair up to create an unbiased educational app finder.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
“We were inspired to create Teachers With Apps after we developed a couple of educational apps ourselves and saw the so-called educational apps being promoted in the App Store,” says Jayne Clare (pictured, right), a special education teacher who co-founded the company that is an educational app finder with Anne Rachel (pictured, left), an early childhood educator. “They were consistently selling like crazy and our app soared to the top initially, but then got lost in the sea of apps being released under the educational category everyday. We wanted to create a reliable, unbiased resource for people to locate really good educational apps. Our ultimate goal has always been to benefit the students who use apps in both the home and school setting.” Here, Jayne and Anne discuss their passion for quality, what drove them to persist – and the value of a coupon code.
Victor: What’s in the name?
Jayne: The name is a very literal term for us. We are teachers, and using apps with children and students. This practice helps us determine which apps are truly educational. Recently, we have acquired the shortened nickname, TWA, which is kind of funny because we feel like we are flying these days!
Victor: Describe it like we’re at ISTE or FETC and it’s loud and you have about a minute.
Anne: Teachers With Apps is an Educational App Discovery site. Our mission is to help parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators, therapists and anyone else, wade through the vast number of “educational” apps being introduced on a daily basis. Both of us, Jayne Clare (Special Ed) and Anne Rachel (Early Childhood) are life long educators. Coincidentally, we both started out as Art Majors and quickly found our place in education. We are both dedicated to the idea that quality mobile educational apps are not only the tools of the future, but the tools of today.
Jayne: In the last year, TWA has also added consulting services to our repertoire. When we started this venture, we would get back to all the developers who requested a review. If we had decided not to feature them on our site, we would explain why. We found ourselves giving out free critiques left and right. As our site’s recognition grew so did the number of requests. Out of necessity, we began getting back to only the developers who’s app we had decided to feature or review.
Victor: What else is out there and where do you fit in, or go beyond, I should say?
Anne: There are many app review sites. Many that we have great respect for such as, Digital StoryTime, Musicians With Apps, Fun Educational Apps, just to name a few. We think what sets us apart is that we are both teachers, all our reviewers on our team are teachers, and we field-test all the apps with students. Also, we only post reviews of apps that we feel comfortable recommending. We don’t do negative reviews.
Victor: Tell me more about the origins of your work.
Jayne: Teachers With Apps was started in November of 2010. We started out as app developers first, in 2009, and quickly saw the need for an educational app review site. At the time, there were very few resource sites to help people discover the kind of apps they were looking. One very specific void was educational apps for students and children.
Victor: Is everything that you’re offering free?
Anne: TWA is a free service available on the web. We do charge for our consulting services, however. That information can be found under About on our top navigation bar.
Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days?
Jayne: Wow, that’s a loaded question. It needs a major overhaul! Unfortunately, the bureaucracy has become so cumbersome that we have lost sight of what’s best for the children. We could go on and on but we’ll leave it at that.
Victor: What led you to where you are today, what experiences informed your current approach?
Anne: “I was always encouraged to be open to new ways of thinking, teaching and learning. I feel that kind of thinking allowed me to be open to this new mobile platform long before others were taking note.”
Jayne: I learned early on, that what really stayed with me or turned me on were project-based activities. I can still remember, in 5th grade, drawing the flower and labeling the parts, instead of just looking at a picture in a textbook. Teaching has always been a creative outlet to me and I carry that through in my approach to teaching. Technology has always been a turn on to kids and can be a very creative approach.
Well, we have a Blog within our site that is informative. It’s a place for us to share our exciting discoveries, as well as voice our concerns and frustrations.
Victor: Your outlook on the future?
Anne: For the future, we’d like to see an environment that genuinely puts the students first, let’s them progress at their own rate without shame or glory and allow them to study and celebrate what they are passionate about.
Victor: Got any quirky stories?
Jayne: Well, this is one thing that makes us laugh to this day. Often when developers send us a promo code, they send detailed instructions on how to redeem it. We have to laugh, because even though at his point, we redeem a minimum of 10 promo codes every day, there was a time that we didn’t even know what a promo code was. When we first started out as developers and we were applying to different review sites to have our app to be considered for review. They often have you fill out a form with your app name, etc. When we got to the part that asked for a promo code, we didn’t even know what a promo code was, that’s how naive we were back then. We just put a question mark in the blank space! We laugh every time we think about it. We’ve come a long way.
Victor: Final thoughts, parting advice, message you want out there?
Jayne: We feel TWA is valuable because we are a reliable, honest resource for Educational App Discovery. We know which apps work with students because we’re using them with children and students everyday. We don’t take kickbacks or feature an app because the developer has advertised with us. Our fundamental goal is to reach as many children as possible and help them succeed.