Slowly but surely, new technology is making its way into the classrooms of schools around the world. While educational institutions are not generally known for being quick to change and embrace new ideas, this hasn’t stopped apps aiming to improve the learning environment from popping up left, right and centre.
And Berlin-based startup Geddit is one of them. Run by a team of Australian founders, Geddit is a reporting tool that allows students to give teachers real-time feedback on how much they understand from lessons.
We caught up with cofounders Anton Troynikov and Will Madden to find out why they’re sick of secretive startups and how Geddit is about enhancing, not disrupting classes…
Hi guys, who are you and what are you doing?
Anton: Geddit is a way for students to convey their confidence with the material they are being taught, while they are being taught. This lets teachers adjust their teaching to the particular learning environment they are in at any given point in time. It also caters to the individual needs of different students. Basically the students have their iPhones and vote on signal bars on their phone – which the teacher sees on an iPad, for example. The voting ranges from “I understand fully” to “not at all”.
How did you come across your idea?
Anton: My friend approached us, he is a teacher and they were being given technology that they couldn’t use effectively. The real problem teachers were trying to address was getting feedback from students while they were teaching them. In modern teaching, you have formative feedback – so you are meant to get feedback from everyone in the class. The problem is that the methods were too difficult for the teachers to use. We realised we could simplify the technology if teachers have iPads and students have their own smartphones.
Will: We felt we could create something very valuable and solve a problem that people genuinely have instead of just making money off something.
Who are the founders and how did you find each other?
Will: I was working for a radiology imaging software company in Melbourne, Anton was working for IBM.
Anton: Before that, I did an internship at Google. We’ve known each other since uni, this is our first startup. Will went to high school with Justin Mann, who is the third cofounder, he is still working in a high school in Australia and implementing the product.
Students can be pretty rowdy, do you worry that they will abuse the method?
Anton: We’ve been live since our second week of development and what we found is students tend to become more engaged with the class by having a point of contact with the teacher, rather than switching off and playing Angry Birds. And if a student isn’t interacting with Geddit the teacher can see that this student appears to be disengaged and can intervene to find out what’s going on.
Where’s Geddit being used?
Will: Our trial school in Australia has half of the teachers using it full time – that’s over three hundred students. We’ve recently entered negotiations with the Vienna International School for a program there. We also have a research collaboration with the University of Eastern Finland, we’ll be helping train teachers that will be working there.
What makes you different from everyone else?
Anton: There are competitors in terms of education analytics. So there are the big players, such as Blackboard, but we are hoping to excel by being faster than them and by going directly to the teachers. We are the only ones who don’t interrupt the flow of teaching. So a big competitor in the question and answer space is a startup called Terascore. To use their app requires a big stop in the teaching process to discuss results. We hope to become a seamless part of the lesson.
What is your business model?
Anton: Our target market is individual teachers. We’ve learnt that educational institutions tend to make decisions very slowly, whereas teachers are always on the lookout for innovative products that can help them. So the majority of products we’ll have on Geddit will be free. Then, once we have enough teachers in a school using it, we hope the school will buy the product. In the mean time, we are talking directly to educational institutions.
Who is financing you?
Will: At the moment we are entirely bootstrapped. We are looking for financing now.
Is there something that you missing?
Anton: We need more developers and a product focused person. And someone for marketing, community monitoring.
Anton: Both of us would want to have lunch with Bill Gates, because in his annual letter he talked about the need to find a way to measure education outcomes and help the education system improve through collecting this data. This is our ultimate aim with Geddit.
Will: Education is such an important area, for everyone, at the moment. I heard a great quote from Elon Musk at SXSW: “In order for education to be effective it has to be interactive.”
Any advice you’d give fellow startups?
Anton: Just do it. Everyone is turned off by the risk of going out and starting something on their own. But even if you fail, it doesn’t matter because the next idea you have you will be even better prepared for. The most important thing is to try, get out there and get executing. And tell everyone – don’t hide your ideas from people, that’ a huge mistake. The only way you’ll reach your users and validate your idea and find out where you’re going wrong is if you test your idea again and again and again to as many people as possible.
Will: Being secretive at a pitching competition is like going to a comedy night and refusing to tell your jokes because other people will steal them. It’s the most pointless thing in the world.
Anton: If you have an idea that people will steal if you tell them, if it’s that easy to do the exact same thing, then you aren’t really differentiating yourself from the competition anyway.
Where will you be in a year’s time?
Will: We intend to have a more public launch on April 15 in Finland, and we want to raise a round of investments.
Anton: A big part of what Geddit allows is it gets a lot of interactions that we can use for a big data analysis, which gives information to teachers they wouldn’t have had before. We’d like to expand our team to work on this and explore what we want to do for universities. So university students could track their own learning and give themselves feedback – we’d offer it for free, then universities can buy it and use the data to show their teaching track record based on this student feedback.
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