After consulting with thousands of educators, a mobile service is born.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of assignments and quizzes associated with his coursework in college, Brett Kopf (pictured left) was inspired to create a solution. After building version V1 and speaking to thousands of teachers, Remind101 was born. A safe way for teachers to communicate with students and parents via text, the product was built in close consultation with K-12 teachers across the country as a way for text-crazy students to get reminders about assignments and exams. “Our goal is to be the de-facto platform that enables teachers, students and parents to safely communicate on mobile phones,” says Brett, co-founder along with brother David Kopf of the San Francisco-based company. The dynamic duo, recognized in Forbes 30-under-30 in Education last year, haven’t slowed down since then. In this EdTech Digest interview, Brett discusses why their goal is already happening — and rapidly.
Victor: You have more than 400,000 teachers now on the service. What’s the plan to grow even further, now that you’ve had some recent funding?
Brett: We want to continue to build incredibly simple and safe products for our teachers. The company’s DNA was defined by talking with hundreds of teachers. They kept saying “please don’t make it complicated, we’re busy!” so we listened. It takes less than two minutes for teachers to sign up for our service, and only seconds for students or parents. We also built a teacher advisory board https://www.remind101.com/teacher-advisory-board to help us continue to build products that solve real problems for teachers.
Victor: When are you planning to expand internationally? Where is your focus?
Brett: It’s not on the near-term road map; we are really focused on K-12 education in the U.S. and Canada at the moment. We know the needs of global educators are unique and we’ll look to work directly with them when the time is right.
Victor: Tell us more how the app works. Why is it safe?
Brett: Great question! We assign every teacher a unique code and number. Students or parents subscribe to the teacher’s alerts by opting in to the teacher’s notifications. We make it safe in a few ways:
1. The teacher never sees a student’s phone number, and vice versa
2. We track a message history and make it impossible to delete
3. Students cannot respond back
Victor: What are the future products Remind101 is going to build?
Brett: Our vision for Remind101 is a product that helps solve teachers’ problems in a scalable way. One of the big issues we know teachers talk to us about right now is the ability to distribute homework assignments, readers and more. We’ll be looking to build new features allow teachers to send PDFs, PowerPoint and Word document to students so they can immediately access and consume them on their phone.
Victor: What are your thoughts on education in general these days? How does Remind101 play into that?
Brett: We’re focused on supporting the process around education and providing tools for educators that make their lives easier. Our goal is to take as much of the burden off teachers’ hands by applying technology in innovative and unique ways so they can spend more time teaching and less time on administrative matters.
Victor: What’s your future outlook for the edtech sector? What makes you say that?
Brett: We’re very bullish on the edtech sector. There are a few reasons why we think that. First, the pervasiveness of mobile technology across all income levels and grade levels means that computing tools have the ability to touch millions of students. Second, there’s so much smart innovation in edtech right now. Edtech companies are really tapping into the various unmet needs of educators and building smart solutions for them.
Victor: Any words of wisdom for either educators, education leaders, parents or students out there?
Brett: Mobile technology can have an incredible impact on saving teachers time, increasing student success and engaging parents in a meaningful way. For a long time, there was no safe way to do it, but now that there is, try to embrace it. Technology isn’t the solution in and of itself, but it’s a great supplement to support great teachers.
Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Are you an edtech leader, trendsetter, or the creator of a cool edtech tool? The 2014 EdTech Digest Awards extended entry period runs until October 18, 2013. There is still time to enter. For full details, write to: [email protected]