Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role in the company.
I am the co-founder and CEO of the company Knowmia. Knowmia started about two years ago with the vision of democratizing access to knowledge and to great teachers.My background comes from consumer electronics. You may be familiar with the ‘Flip videos’ the little cameras product of which I was also the co-founder about 10 years ago. My co-founder of Knowmia, Scott Kabat, was the head of marketing at that time and after Flip was sold to cisco we really wanted to take what we enjoyed doing, which was to affect people’s lives very positively by making complicated things simple, and using them in a different field. We aren’t actually educators; we really have no background in education whatsoever. Or role here is more to create the technology that provided the platform for teachers to become better teachers and for students to find greater knowledge using video and making the process of content creation and delivery much simpler and more enjoyable. Making these things accessible and fun are the reasons why we started Knowmia.
Is this the first app that you have worked on?
No. At flip video I worked on many apps, in fact a big portion of the flip experience was about video sharing where we worked on providing the most intuitive and fun ways of sharing video. I believe here at Knowmia we are doing the same thing but extending it as we also deal with content creation. It’s no longer about the camcorder, it’s about the app that allows the user to create great content which is then shared with other people.
What were the main aims with the Knowmia app?
We believe that video creation is still a challenge and when we looked at the market we noticed that there was certainly a gap in the middle. There are plenty of apps out there that are at the entry level that would allow a teacher to create content within 5minutes. They are great apps, we love these because they provide a way for teachers to get started. Then at the other end you have teachers creating ‘flash animation’ with ‘final cut pro’ and this is very inspiring to see, however there are very few that succeed at this level. This doesn’t seem like something the majority of teachers want to do or invest the time into doing. So we asked ourselves, what is the app that can be in the middle? What is an app that could be similar to iMovie but for lesson creation? Where you would learn the basic skills and produce a product, something that has a very slick finish. Don’t forget though that Knowmia is not just about our app, there is a whole web experience where we welcome content that is not just made on the app itself. We find that about 80% of content comes from the teachers who choose the app but teachers can in fact use any other app. There is in fact a whole section of the website that is dedicated to best practices. Visit www.knowmia.com/howto to see a collection of best practice from teachers all around the world and indeed how they create videos. We try our best to document best practices, advantages, disadvantages, challenges etc. and these videos can really be made on any app or software.
How long was the development process?
We have been working on Knowmia for two years. It has been tested and retested and battle proofed by teachers for two years now and we find that we are constantly adding more and more. If you look on the app store you’ll find that we have released so many versions. Every time we find a bug, every time we find a weakness, every time we get feedback and good ideas from teachers every time we get a suggestion we constantly implement it. It was designed with teachers and it was designed for teachers.
Are you pleased with the response to Knowmia so far?
Absolutely. There has been overwhelming satisfaction from teachers around the world. I think the vast majority of interest comes from countries where English is the first language such as Canda, USA, England, Australia and New Zealand but we have teachers from all over the world. There are also teachers who appreciate content in English because they would like to expose their students to content even if it isn’t content learning English. The idea is that consuming content in English will help with skills in English, whether it is Maths or any other content. We do though, have content in other languages. One of my favourite schools actually is based in Singapore where there is a teacher who teaches in German. It’s a German school in Singapore and they use our tools to teach content in English. It’s fascinating. Satisfaction has been very high and we make sure that we provide support for our community. We listen to every idea, we respond to every idea and we encourage our users to e-mail us through the address email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org where you will get a response immediately.
Was the app designed with the specific flip classroom model in mind?
Absolutely. Although I will put a caveat on that. What we found with many teachers in many schools is that the term ‘flip teaching’ has been high jacked by people who try to define what it is. You will not find the term ‘flip teaching’ in many places on the site. That’s because we don’t speak of it as flip teaching. We find that teachers are intimidated by the finality of the definition. There are many books and websites that are saying ‘unless you follow this model’ then you aren’t doing flip teaching. We don’t like that, we don’t like rigid things, we like to give teachers flexibility. That’s why we call it teaching with technology or integrating video into your teaching. There is no right or wrong, and we find that every teacher that we have documented in the video revolution project (www.knomia.com/vrp), have stories and insights that are completely different in every class, every subject. We want to facilitate the flexibility that teachers need in order to do that well. So we do support flip teaching, we love flip teaching but we do encourage people not to take the definition of flip teaching too literally and say that there is only one way to get that to work. Integrating teaching into learning is what is important as it is this that allows for customised learning and allows for individual pace and for repetition. We have endless testimonials that say how much even the smallest integration of video helps with credibility, creativity and engagement inside and outside the classroom. So it’s very important that people don’t just focused on the term flip teaching which has somehow been defined by others.
Do you think that the app is best suited to a specific age group of learner?
No. It is deliberately designed for any subject, language or age range. As we started Knowmia we noticed that the ocean is too large, meaning that if you look at every language, every subject, every grade then it is just too much so we decided to focus specifically on high schools and we started initially with STEM in high school; specifically English in the USA but this is just where we began. Since then teachers have started going in every direction. We have early childhood education, lower school, higher education, teachers using it in subjects we never thought possible, nursing and even including teachers using it to teach other teachers! Most of the content that we have, because of where we started, is geared towards STEM in high school but it can definitely be used for any other age group.
What can you tell us about the current Beta testing?
The assignment wizard it is called and I can go into the history a little bit about this. We started this project about 5months ago. Teachers came to us and told us that they are thrilled with the ability to create videos but that they didn’t know what to do next. Meaning that they created the video and then e-mailed the link to the students but they had no further insights into how helpful those videos had been. Did the students open them? Did they watch them? Did they understand them? There were no tools for the teachers to get feedback and we wanted to facilitate that two directional engagement. So we worked again with teachers to understand what that means and we created what we believe is the simplest, most focused tool on implementing something that is along the lines of flip teaching or blended learning or anybody that would like to get insight. If you go to the homepage for the assignment wizard you will see that we explain what it means. An assignment eventually is a collection of items (lessons, slides, questions etc.). The two most important things for the teacher is A) that it is easy to create and B) that at any given time they can see which of the students have logged in, when did they open it? How long did they stay logged in to each lesson? How did they answer these questions? This means that before the class starts they know exactly where the class is. Now they can cater to the specific knowledge in the classroom or they can even start dividing the class into sub groups and give specific tasks or assignments to kids who need more support or extension. Facilitating that insight is what we are trying to do. We aren’t playing the game of trying to create formal assessment, we aren’t trying to be the judge of knowledge, or even the distribution of knowledge. What we are trying to do is to facilitate the engagement which we do by providing the unique URL for the assignment which can be distributed whichever way is best suited to that school. We have just been overwhelmed by the number of assignments that have been created and what teachers have done with it. It’s great and we’ve already received lots of feedback on how to push even further and do more. One of the things that we are working on, and I’m not giving specific dates here, is the ability to create more tools for self-grading assessments. This will reduce the amount of time that a teacher needs to grade the assessment. Right now we support three types of questions. There are multiple choice, open ended and textbook questions and out of these three types of questions only multiple choices questions can be self-graded which automatically gives a grade. We want to provide teachers with more of these tools in order to allow teachers to reduce the time that they need to make an assessment.
What other projects have you got lined up?
Well we are constantly expanding. We already recently expanded to allow students to make content and to make it secure and make it meaningful to the students. We added the assignments wizard recently and are constantly adding more and more of these features and without going into any more detail, there are more things coming up that are very very exciting. Our hope is to get more and more teachers as the number one thing we need is word of mouth. Teachers telling other teachers that these are free tools that are available for them and they can create great knowledge and capture that knowledge and make it available for other students and other teachers. This is the number one goal that we have.
Ariel, thank you for taking the time to talk to us about knowmia and for demonstraing your clear passion in making teaching more effective. To find out more about Knowmia click on any of the links below:-
1) Knowmia Teach iPad App Overview Video
2) Overview Video of Web-Based Tools
3) Interactive Assignments - Assignment Wizard
4) Overview of Tools for Teachers
5) Content Library
6) Support Blog
7) Knowmia Teach App on the App Store
8) About student video lessons on Knowmia (allowing students to use our tools to create video projects)
9) Article about teacher profiles on Knowmia - A feature we recently launched