Making excellence available to all
by Charles Wiles, Founder and CEO at Zzish
I’m a geek, but I’m also a parent, and one who works full-time. For years I struggled to feel fully connected with my children’s education. I had little idea what they were doing at school on a daily basis, and termly parents’ meetings were usually short on detail. By the time I got home each evening, the homework was done (or not), and I had little opportunity to get involved.
Yet I spent many happy hours playing online games with my son. Our favourite was SongPop, where we competed against each other to identify a song from the opening few notes. I was in the office and he was at home, but we played together and challenged each other in real time.
This got me thinking — couldn’t we do something similar for educational games? How about times tables, or algebra homework, or spelling tests? I started looking around for suitable apps, and failing to find anything, decided to build my own. It couldn’t be that hard. How wrong I was.
I’ve worked in the video games industry, where a relatively standard kit of parts supports a huge variety of fantastic games. Anyone with a great idea for a new game can build one fairly easily. Nothing like this exists for education. Everyone is starting from scratch, building their own version of everything — some good and some not so good — and all expensive.
Unsurprisingly, educators (including publishers, the public sector, teachers and schools) do not have access to the kind of finance necessary to develop a good educational app. Something that looks pretty simple (and pretty) on your iPhone could easily cost upwards of £500,000 to build.
For teachers and students to really benefit from an educational game, you need to build in components like adaptive learning algorithms, that adjust the difficulty of the game according to the student’s performance, and detailed data tracking so you can easily see where each student needs more help. I wanted to apply all the things I’d learnt at Google to my children’s education.
And that’s before you get on to the question of whether the game itself has any impact on students’ learning. This is a different question entirely, but no-one is going to spend £500,000 developing an educational app without being very confident that it works.
So I founded Zzish. Zzish is a platform that teachers can use to build the kind of educational apps that really work, both in the classroom and at home. There is one common interface for all apps, so data for each student can be tracked and recorded in one place.
Ultimately, we want teachers and developers to be able to build their own apps with only a tiny bit of technical know-how. In this way, a great educational app might see the light of day for just £5,000, not £500,000.
But until that day, we’ve also built Quizalize, a free and easy-to-use classroom quiz tool that teachers can use to create and share their own quizzes. It gives you an easy introduction to the Zzish platform, so you can learn how to use it just by using it.
“We’re growing at an incredible rate, with schools in 118 countries. We firmly believe that teachers are the people who know best what works in the classroom — so get involved, build your first app today and prove us right!”