A pair of educators designs some very ClassEapps for learning.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
A public school teacher for eight years, Brent Wise (pictured left) is now the Director of Innovation and Extended Learning at Hilliard City Schools in Hilliard, Ohio. “During that time [when I was a public school teacher], I kept thinking to myself ‘there has to be a better way,’” says Brent. “I thought about that comment when looking at everything I did. The number one thing was instruction. There has to be a better way. There has to be a better way to engage my students.” Along with Chris Deis (pictured right), Brent co-founded ClassEapps, born after a conversation Chris and Brent had about that possible ‘better way’. Chris challenged Brent, saying, “Why don’t we create one?” And bam, they did! “It almost became a joke saying to ourselves, ‘Boy, if there were only an app for that,’” says Brent. Here, Chris and Brent discuss development, function, some of their thoughts on education these days.
Victor: What does the name mean?
Brent: The name essentially means that we make apps for use in the classroom. But it also grew to mean we do it in a “classy” way. We don’t want gimmicks or nonsense. We want to make teacher instruction more effective.
Victor: What is it? Who created it?
Brent: Chris Deis and I created the company and the ideas. We hire an app development company to create the code for us. Essentially ClassEapps is a company that strives to make teachers’ lives easier and more effective.
Victor: What does it do? What are the benefits?
Pick Me: Pick Me! will randomly pull a students name for you to call on and after they answer you record whether or not it was correct using the thumbs up or incorrect using thumbs down. The data is saved and ready to export to your email account at the end of class. The benefits of it is the fact you can formatively assess your students on the spot and share that data. It engages student participation, and even makes it into a game of sorts. Pick Me is the crown jewel of ClassEapps thus far. We are currently preparing an update that will make Pick Me impact instruction even more through feedback.
All Here! is an app designed for taking attendance, but it doesn’t stop there. Import rosters from Dropbox, add student photos, and make the attendance work for you, it’s that easy. Tap the student’s picture once to mark them present, tap twice to mark as absent, or tap three times for tardy. Better yet, if they are all here, simply tap the “All Here” button to mark them all as present. Need to email those absent students? With one click you can email all absent students, or even all students! Use the name game to learn student’s names quickly, match the face with the name! Create groups of students with just a tap and email that list if you like! The grouping function is the number one thing we hear feedback about. They love the ability to instantly group in a random way. The game you can play to learn the names is also a big feature for our teachers.
Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market?
Chris: Of course you can find similar products out there, we believe ours is unique because two teachers designed it. We were in the trenches and created a product out of need. We didn’t do it to make a splash, we did it to be functional. There are several other companies that are in our market, but we concern ourselves with creating the highest quality of app that a teacher would want.
Victor: When was it developed? Anything interesting about its development history?
Brent: It was developed on a winter night in 2009. Chris was driving home from taking his oldest son snow skiing, and we were having a conversation about school. I said to Chris I truly wish there was an app that could randomly choose my student but allow me to record his progress on the spot. Too often I call on students and at the end of class I can’t remember how they performed. Chris replied with “let’s do it”. The next day at school, ClassEapps was born.
Victor: Where did it originate? Where can you get it now?
You can download the app on the Apple App store or follow the link from our website www.classeapps.com
Victor: How much does it cost? Options?
Chris: Prices vary, we like to give random sales to give teachers incentives during those down times of the year. We are not concerned with making profits, we are concerned with making teaching more efficient.
Victor: What are some examples of it in action?
Brent: We find that a lot of our teachers display the app through their projector so the students see their names being chosen, or they see their attendance record. Teachers use it for review games, for formative assessment during class. I specifically used Pick Me to engage all of my students during lessons. I would probe questions and use the app to call on students to generate formative assessment data by recording their answer. I would then email that data to myself and save it as that particularly date for a reference point.
Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it not for?
Chris: It is designed for teachers. Nothing for students yet, although we are working on one.
Victor: Your thoughts on education these days?
Brent: Education is changing at a speed greater than we are changing in the system. Students needs are evolving to the point they need personalization in a bad way. We continue to address new needs with old solutions. We owe it to these kids to find the solutions in new ways. We are at the cusp of the biggest education revolution in my opinion. That is what my new position is all about in the Hilliard City Schools. I am the Director of Innovation and Extended Learning. We are opening an Innovative Learning Center next fall. (if you want to do a story on that, then you are really talking about the future of education).
Victor: Any formative experiences in your own education that helped to inform your approach to creating ClassEapps?
Brent: I would hide in class and not answer, even though I wanted to. There were kids that dominated the conversation, so I sat back. I realized I hurt my experience by not being more physically engaged. I also loved feedback. So we made it easy for teachers to give feedback and engage all students.
Victor: How does ClassEapps address some of your concerns about education?
Brent: It’s a step in the right direction, but not a solution yet. We are small and up and coming. We carefully design our apps so that we aren’t wasting our time and money, and the teachers. We need more solutions though.
Victor: Your outlook on the future of education?
Brent: We will get there as a whole. It’s not about funding. Stop thinking it’s about funding. It’s about innovation. We need innovation in all corners of education. We need to meet needs in a new way. That means find what’s important to our students and personalize education. We will get there.
Victor: Got a quirky story or interesting anecdote?
Brent: Chris has a great saying to districts that do not allow mobile devices “Stop blocking thousands of free technologies every day.” Let your students use their tablets, devices, laptops, etc.… Stop thinking with the closed view of “what could go wrong” think with the explosive view of “what will go right!”
Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of classeapps?
Chris: You can choose any app you want in the classroom, the one thing I can tell you is that classeapps is designed by teachers for teachers. We are here to support you in your effort and if there is ever a time you say to yourself “I wish there were an app for that” in the classroom, tell us and we will make it happen. No matter what you do, whether it’s classeapps or not, innovate your teaching and instruction.
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]