Last year, Anton with his co-founders joined BSA’s 2nd semester. The team left BSA early and moved to Silicon Valley to join Imagine K12, an accelerator specialized in education, to enter the US market, and to further develop Geddit, an application for teachers to monitor their classes and get instant feedback. Now Anton is back at BSA as a mentor, and we are taking this chance to talk with him about the future of education, Geddit and his motivation behind developing a business in still a very conservative market.
In one of the interviews you said that education system is a technology vacuum and people do not learn to work with tech in school. On the other hand, they say that Generations Z and Y, now entering the labour market, lack social skills, caused by the overuse of social networks. Any application used in class is just another distraction from the real world, yours as well – to some extent replacing real feedback. Have you encountered this argument and how do you feel about the problem at hand?
Yes, we definitely run into this argument all the time. Mostly we run into this argument with people who are not teachers. What technology allows us to do for the first time in the classroom is to connect students, who would otherwise be lost in the crowd and alienated as individuals, to their teachers. This means that we are actually allowing teachers to feedback students for the first time, which has not been possible before technology. Teachers understand us: when you have a classroom of 35 kids, and you need to teach 5 of those classes every day, we are dealing with 175 individuals. You might need to teach them 3 different subjects over the course of one day, and the next day you need to remember how every single of those kids did and what specific help they need. Without technology, this is impossible: people’s brain is incapable of dealing with all these different social connections.
What does Geddit do: does the application allow users to ask specific questions, or is it more about how students feel about a particular subject?
Obviously, Geddit allows teachers to ask precise questions, as a lot of quiz apps allow. What we have, however, are feedback forms from students to the teachers. In other words, it is not sufficient for teachers to know whether students got the question right, what teachers really want to know is what students were thinking when they were answering those questions: “am I scared and going to get this wrong?”, or “yes, I am totally confident and still get it wrong”. So what we are providing is the second dimension for teachers to teach students more effectively: we are combining the idea of precise question and correct answer with students’ confidence in their ability to answer it. It provides much more targeted response from each student, which otherwise would not be possible.
What are the biggest challenges for Geddit in the near future?
The biggest challenge is teachers’ time. Teachers essentially have a lot of things that they need to do and which are not really about teaching: administrative tasks, attendance, worrying about discipline, behaviour, paper work… Our task is to make sure that Geddit fits seamlessly in the ordinary teachers’ day without taking any extra time or making them spend the night before setting it up. They have a great load of homework to do, so our biggest challenge is to overcome this and make Geddit a normal part of teachers’ life. We are being helped by lots of other great tools that are entering the classroom right now and that make those other parts of education much simpler, much faster for teachers, so that more time can be spent on the actual teaching.
What do you feel are the next big thing in education technology in general?
I think we are going to see a rise in personalized learning. There are some great companies out there doing really amazing things with big data and education, and I think that this trend is going to continue. Currently, we see this at a consumer level: the app Duolingo for learning languages is already providing tailored personalized education on mobile devices in one specific vertical. I think we are going to see this spreading and entering classrooms. You can think of them like instead of books and lessons there are lessons that interact with you – lessons that give you feedback, push back on and involve your needs, so it becomes like virtual teaching assistants for teachers. That said, I don’t think that teachers are ever going to evaporate as a result of facing technology.
Why should or shouldn’t startups enter the education market?
If they want to make a lot of money very quickly – they shouldn’t. This is a space where it takes probably 8 years to get to a stage to which companies in other industries may take only 3 or 5. That is a function of the way education is right now – so “don’t enter for the money”. Why you should get into it for is to find ways to really benefit students, to improve student outcomes, to find ways to deliver better students, better education when it comes to technology. Technology is very cheap and it is an incredible multiplier wherever deployed. We should see technology being brought into classrooms, so anything that help student results either by making easy for technology to enter into classrooms, making technology work better in classrooms, or making applications that make people get in high tech later.
Thank you for the conversation.