260 days after I quit job to pursue my startup full time, piCards is ready to say — “Hello World”.
What’s with the name piCards? For those who don’t know, my startup name is 22bate7 — and now you must be thinking what’s with me and the weird names. If you noticed it all started with my own name — looks like one of my parents wanted an English name for me while the other wanted a Hindi one, they sat together with a Hindi-English dictionary and named me अभी-Now (Abhinav). That’s just a joke which you should not take seriously but while choosing our company name I did not have the luxury of getting a name of our choice. The rejection of all the names that I would have preferred and endless delays in the process left me so frustrated that I submitted names like Matiyamate, GuruGhantal, ZeroBateSannata and 22Bate7. Among these 22bate7 was the most preferred and I’m glad that we did not get other name from the list. I’ll tell you about this naming thing in detail in some other blog post but for now let’s search some rationality in 22bate7. And by rationality, I do mean rationality. “Bate” is division in Hindi, so 22bate7 is actually 22/7 — the rational approximation of an irrational constant pi. Like 22bate7, we’ll try to be rational and like pi, constant.
So if you’re with me till now, you must have figured out where the name piCards comes from. You must be sure of pi and if you are not sure about the cards part, just hang in there a little longer.
What exactly is piCards?
I think most of you must have watched the famous game show Kaun Banega Crorepati, it’s an adoption of the show Who wants to be Millionaire and if you have watched it, you must be aware of the audience polling life line where the participant gets help from the audience who respond to the question using remote control like device with four options. Those are the clicker devices commonly used for polling. Universities also use these devices as continuous feedback system. The teacher teaches a topic and asks a related question, the students then log their responses using the clicker devices and then teacher immediately gets to know if the majority of the students understood the topic that was just taught. A lot of research in this field points towards the improvement in learning outcomes by the use of such continuous feedback BUT unfortunately, it’s expensive(around $15–20 per device) and hence, cannot be used by mid-low income organizations. Can you imagine a school in India or some other developing nation spending around $600 for procuring clicker devices for class of average 40 students? That’s a huge one time expense and once they decide to introduce this teaching methodology, they need devices for each classroom — I’ll let you do the cost calculation yourself at this point.
OK.. fine.. clickers are costly but we do have smartphones and we do have polling apps — why not just used them and stop complaining like babies. Polling apps are a good alternative when students are allowed to carry smartphones in classrooms and from whatever I know about the US from whatever TV Series I have watched, students carry smartphones in classrooms. BUT smartphones in classrooms are a distraction and are not allowed in most of the schools until a certain age. So now what are we left with? Don’t fret — we have piCards for you!
Again back to the question — what is piCards? It is a system that promises all the benefits of clicker devices at minimal cost and that too without the students requiring any electronic devices. We replace the clicker devices with normal sheets of paper with QR Code like patterns printed on them(We call the sheet — piCard). The four orientations of the sheet translate to options A, B, C and D. Each student gets one such sheet. The teacher asks a question and students rotate and lift up their sheets and show it to the teacher who has our scanning app running in his/her smartphone. The app scans all the sheets at once. Yes, you heard it right — at once! Whatever is visible in the single camera frame, gets scanned at once. The teacher gets to see the responses instantly with counts of correct and incorrect responses. These responses are synced to our analytics platform where we perform question, class, quiz, subject and student level analysis to track each individual student’s performance over time and clearly find out their strong and weak areas.
Summing it all, piCards is a low cost audience polling solution that not just promises all the benefits of the clicker devices at a fraction of cost, but also tracks each student’s performance over time and clearly identifies their strengths and weaknesses.
Most importantly, we are not limited to just classrooms. One very strong use case is the NGOs collecting feedback from the people in remote areas. Clicker devices can’t be carried around in bulk and pen-paper feedback requires certain literacy level. Show-of-hand or mere verbal feedback, which could be the best alternates, are not the most efficient approach as it often happens that in a group, the opinion of a few dominant voices is perceived to be the whole groups opinion and the individual opinions lose weight. With piCards, everyone in group finds a voice and it’s been so effective that Teach70 replaced their pen-paper tests with our solution.
We developed a B2B product which, in most general terms, meant that most of the individuals downloading the apps from play store would never get to know what magic feels like. Bragging aside, it was during a discussion with one of my friend’s dad who is a Professor in Indian Institute of Technology(IIT) that I realised the need of anonymous feedback. He got excited about the product and said — “isko toh hum class mein use kar sakte hain lekin bacche convince nahi honge ki ye feedback hai evaluation nahi(translated: I can use it in classroom but students will not be convinced that this is feedback and not evaluation)”. My product was not good enough to support anonymous feedback at that time so I told him to hold on for a while and that “while” turned into some 270 days. We have two products right now — one is a full-fledged students’ performance tracking system and the other, a basic anonymous polling system with limited performance reporting at the class and question level. Our business comes from the full-fledged system but today we are also releasing the anonymous polling app. Currently it is available on Android phones only and it can be downloaded here — piCards: Anonymous Polling App
For those who might be interested in trying it out, just download the app and print the cards after downloading them from the “Get Cards” option in the app. You can get it touch with us at email@example.com