Q&A w/ TinyTap: Unlocking app development for teachers & students of all ages
May 27, 2014
Why did you start TinyTap?
Two years ago, a person with special needs who is close to me started using tablets very successfully. Immediately, we looked for apps he could use that would suit his specific needs, but nothing was quite right. Eventually, we came up with a way to turn any image into a personalized interactive activity in seconds. We used it to make apps based on his specific interests and needs, which he loved very much.
That simple tool became TinyTap, a platform that allows kids, families and teachers to unlock the power of touch devices by creating learning apps from photos and designs. It’s as simple as drawing on a piece of paper.
How are your products helping students learn in new ways?
Both educators and successful companies recognize the need for creativity and dynamic skills over discrete knowledge. TinyTap empowers students and teachers to become Tiny app makers by making their own apps about the things they love and know.
In order to make an app that teaches about a subject, you need to research and explain it – you have to become somewhat of an expert. Not only is this a proven way to really learn a new topic, it allows for a more active learning process where students are engaged rather than passively listening to a lecture. From the teacher’s point of view, TinyTap allows them to leverage the power of touch devices, narration and interactivity, creating entire digital lessons and assessments in real time. Educators can make personalized apps to help just one student or the entire world.
“Teachers are the new rock stars” is a common phrase nowadays – it implies that teachers, like rockstars, can reach beyond a classroom to connect with an audience of millions who share a common interest. TinyTap allows for exactly that – a teacher can create a profile and share the apps she makes with a growing community of educators and learners from across the world. The best teachers can also monetize their content as apps on TinyTap and the App Store.
What do you hope to get out of the co.lab experience?
We have several objectives in working with co.lab, including:
- Meeting teachers, schools and educational organizations. I’ve had a chance to meet with the San Francisco Children’s Creativity Museum and learn about their inspiring TinyTap profile, where kids are documenting and explaining the projects they’re working on at the museum. We want to meet more organizations that can benefit from offering these types of creative activities. There are also hundreds of U.S. schools registered on TinyTap. We want to meet the people behind these accounts and get their feedback on the product.
- Conducting pilots and field tests. We constantly see teachers posting their TinyTap apps and talking about class activities they’re doing with TinyTap, but we rarely get an opportunity to see classroom use firsthand. We’re hoping to see more of how TinyTap is used by teachers and students.
- Learning more about the U.S. education system. Being a Tel Aviv-based company, we have a lot to learn about the U.S. education system: What are the real needs, and how can TinyTap make an impact? How do U.S. educators perceive the current state of education and how do they see the future?
- Making new friends. Another goal is learning from other co.lab companies about their insights in the education world and meeting new friends from Zynga, NewSchools and other organizations working to inspire creativity and change how we learn and teach.
What’s your long-term vision for the company?
In the immediate future we are planning to launch a new version of TinyTap redesigned for all ages, as we’ve learned what a powerful tool TinyTap can be for teachers and learners of any age. We’re always adding new types of activities you can create – this week we’re launching an interactive video tool to help you turn any YouTube video into an interactive lesson!
In the long term, we see TinyTap becoming the biggest marketplace for learning apps: like an app Wikipedia for young learners, a place where they can learn about anything in any language in a fun interactive way – created by other students, families and teachers.
We believe that just like indie developers are making blockbuster apps that wow established commercial gaming companies, so can teachers make incredible learning apps that will leave the big publishers speechless. Who knows better how to teach than real teachers, who teach real students every day?
If you’re an experienced teacher who is interested in collaborating, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.