New Innovator: SlateState
Education-focused product makes technology in the classroom easier to manage
Neil Buckley: “Nobody else is approaching the issues around tablet learning in the way we are.”
Technology has brought great benefits to the classroom. However, it has also created issues around class management, especially where children, who may be more tech literate than their teachers, are using individual tablet devices.
In 2011, software developers Neil Buckley and Rodhán Hickey started working on a solution that would allow teachers monitor tablet use in their classrooms in real time. “The inspiration came from Rodhán’s wife, a librarian in a school trialling iPads,” Buckley said. “She saw at first hand the difficulties teachers were encountering and how the distraction element of the iPad was causing conflicts.”
Both Buckley and Hickey have more than 15 years’ experience each working on education products and e-learning systems for companies such as AOL and Microsoft.
“Our product is SlateState, which is a dashboard that allows teachers to see when students are on task. It can also provide educational publishers with rich data about how students consume their content,” Buckley said.
“Our approach is differed to traditional PC-based monitoring solutions and we have developed and applied for a provisional patent around our technology.
“Our business model is to provide the teacher dashboard for free and to charge publishers and app developers to connect to our system. There are over 4½ million iPads in use in US schools and around 10 per cent of Irish first year secondary school students are already using ebooks.”
In 2012 the company was accepted on the launchpad programme at the National Digital Research Centre. It has also received support from Enterprise Ireland under its competitive start fund. SlateState completed its technology in 2013 and began product trials in Irish schools and talking to publishers here and internationally. In January last year it launched an OnTask Reader product through the app store, while its dashboard monitoring product went live last September. Its next product will be a B2B solution for the educational publishing sector.
So far the company has received external funding of €70,000, which Buckley and Hickey have more than matched with sweat equity. “Because we are developers we were able to build the technology ourselves comparatively cheaply. If we had to go outside you’re talking maybe €500,000,” Buckley said.
“Nobody else is approaching the issues around tablet learning in the way we are. Our tool works across all devices and can be sold into four major market segments: schools supporting teachers in transition to tablet devices; educational systems integrators looking to add value; publishers seeking rich data analytics; and app developers looking to operate in education sector. The educational sales team for Apple has been very supportive and has introduced us to key players in several European countries and suggested helpful new directions for our technology.”
– OLIVE KEOGH