October 27, 2016

Alpha Squirrel Guest Post: Using Technology To Improve Math Education In Brazil, Part One

This is the first of a three-part blog series* featuring Alpha Squirrel EdTech Expert Marc Faulder. Marc is an educator and Interactive Technologies Leader at Burton Joyce Primary School in the U.K. He has spent the past two years working with the University of Nottingham in England on a research project about using tablets and math apps to close the math gap for marginalized students. They used math apps from onebillion, a London-based nonprofit, to measure the impact that this intervention has on learning.  

Marc is traveling to Brazil with his team to continue the research project and scope out the possibility of launching the onebillion initiative in Brazil. They’ll also train teachers on the use of technology in the classroom.

The Journey to Brazil
Today I travel to Recife, Brazil, and it feels like the beginning of a great adventure. But whilst I wait for my connecting flight to Sao Paulo from Amsterdam, I look back at the 18 months which led up to this moment.

Unlocking Talent Through Tablet Technology
Unlocking Talent is a research project supported by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and the Norwegian Government. Led by the University of Nottingham in England, the project evaluates how onebillion is using innovative math apps to give marginalized children access to this critical math education. The apps allow children to learn at their own pace and in their own language. Beginning in the African country of Malawi, this research found that from six weeks of using the apps, children received the equivalent of 18 months of learning gains in math skills.

As this research continued, the university and onebillion questioned whether or not this way of working could be replicated beyond Malawi. This is where I joined the team. We ran a pilot study across the schools in the federation that I work for. We found similar learning gains here, as well as in other small-scale pilot studies from U.K. schools. In June, we launched the U.K.’s first large-scale evaluation of tablet technology and math attainment.

The apps are used with Early Years children that have been identified as working below age-related expectations. They work on activities set by the teacher in the app for up to 30 minutes a day. The learning is 1:1, personalized and self-paced. These children use this app as well as normal teaching practices and traditional interventions. When combined like this, the learning gains have been huge.

The findings from the initial U.K. pilot studies can be found here.

A Cross-Cultural Study
Today I travel to Brazil with Dr. Nicola Pitchford, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham, and Laura Outhwaite, a Ph.D. student in the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham. These two have been instrumental in the success of the research in both the U.K. and Malawi. Our initial trip to Brazil is a scoping visit and came about following a visit from researchers from CESAR Recife, an innovation centre that promotes transformation through technology, back in January. Marie Neves and Flavia Nascimento came from Recife to Nottingham to observe best practices in my classroom using both onebillion software and iPads to enhance learning. You can read more about this visit here: https://enabling-environments.co.uk/2016/01/19/brazil/

MarcFaulder

Inspired by what they saw and with a good knowledge of the schools they work with in Recife, Marie invited us to partner with CESAR and look into the possibility of bringing onebillion to their schools.

During our initial trip this November, we’ll meet with teacher training institutions, local and state government representatives and Portuguese schools in the area. Marie and I have also organized a conference for 30 teachers where they can learn some ways to best use iPads in the classroom and how to maximize learning gains when embedding this practice in a learning environment.

A Chance to Reflect
There is much to learn on this visit. Plenty of time in this trip has been dedicated to meeting professionals and observing current practices in Recife schools. This visit is about hearing teachers’ stories and learning about their ways of closing the gap in math. Our purpose in these conversations is to exchange knowledge and share what we are finding in the U.K. and Malawi.

The most exciting part of this trip for me is looking at different learning contexts from the same perspective; closing the gap in math. It’s easy to look beyond your home country and see what is different. But to make comparisons based on learning gains for math provides a common ground for any teacher, no matter what the context is. What are we doing to support the children who are working below age-related expectations? Whether this be 10 children in a class of 30 in the U.K., or 80 in a class of 100 in Malawi, teachers are united by the way in which will tackle this issue. Being able to share the same resources to close our gaps is such an exciting way to collaborate and bring these school contexts together.

I look forward to sharing more of my visit with you as it unfolds over the next two weeks.

*Marc submitted this post to Squirrels on October 24, 2016. You can contact Marc and follow his adventure on Twitter

August 17, 2016

Back-To-School Tech List: Grab The $15 EdTech Tool Used In More Than 100,000 Classrooms

RF School

If you are an educator looking for a cost-effective way to make mobile devices a more valuable part of the student learning experience, you’ve come to the right place.

You know how kids go shopping with their parents to pick up supplies before the school year begins? Teachers shop for supplies, too. Except, due to limited funding, they often end up spending their own money to purchase EdTech tools that improve the lives of our children. Oh, and these tools usually cost a lot more than notebooks, pencils and lunch boxes.

But not every popular EdTech tool breaks the bank.

Reflector 2 is $15 software created by Squirrels LLC that runs on the teacher’s computer and allows students to wirelessly display their iPads, iPhones, Chromebooks and Android devices onto the teacher’s computer screen.

A one-time cost of $15 per classroom makes it a modern-day unicorn… a rare budget-friendly classroom tool in an education market filled with price tags that frequently reach hundreds and thousands of dollars.

Yeah, we know what you’re thinking. “Of course you think Reflector is the best thing since sliced bread. You are the company that made it, after all.”

While we’re obviously a little biased, we’re not alone! We hear from teachers every day who tell us how much they love Reflector and appreciate what it has done to increase collaboration and sharing in their classroom.

Educators On Reflector 2
Here are a few of the sentiments educators have shared with us via our Reflector Twitter account.

Reflector 2 is perfect for any classroom with mobile devices. Educators in 1:1, BYOD and flipped/blended learning environments use it to wirelessly share both teacher and student device screens. Most teachers open Reflector on their computer, then connect their computer to a projector so the entire class can see what is happening on any mobile device that is wirelessly connected to Reflector.

Better yet, Reflector allows multiple mobile devices to connect to the teacher’s computer simultaneously. A mix of student and teacher iOS, Android, Chromebook and Surface Pro* devices can all be mirrored to Reflector at the same time.

AND EVEN BETTER YET… Every Reflector session can be recorded. That’s right. Teachers can record connected student mobile device screens directly from their computer. This is ideal when a student is giving a presentation from a mobile device, or when a teacher would like to pre-record a lesson ahead of time to play for the class later.

Tech Tips For Teachers
Reflector 2 was recently featured in a Tech Tips For Teachers article. Author Becky Shiring said that Reflector is a tool she desperately wishes she discovered while she was still in the classroom. The following is an excerpt from the article:

“While in the classroom, when I found an app I wanted my students to be aware of, I can remember painfully trying to walk students through finding the app in the app store, downloading it, opening it, signing in and then using it, all while circulating the room demonstrating from my tiny cell phone screen. It was exhausting. Not to mention that some students used Android and others iOS. This frustration could have been eased with Reflector 2.”  

If you would like to learn more about Reflector 2, you can watch our “How To” videos including How to Connect to Reflector 2 and How to Record Mirrored Devices on our YouTube channel. Or, you can visit our website to learn more about Reflector in the classroom.

As always, feel free to leave any questions or feedback in the comments section below.

*Microsoft Surface Pros require our sister app, AirParrot 2, to wirelessly connect to the teacher's computer because Surface Pros do not come equipped with a native screen-sharing functionality such as Apple's AirPlay or the Chromebook/Android Cast technology. 

August 2, 2016

The Squirrels Monthly Edcamp Roundup – July 2016

Summer 2016 has been one of the busiest seasons to date for us. Between launching a new product, attending the largest EdTech conference in the country and developing another new product that’s due fall 2016, we have remained committed to supporting educators. As we start to round out the warmer months in Ohio, it’s time to reflect on the Edcamps that made this summer one to remember.

  • Edcamp IT – Fort Worth, Texas
  • Edcamp Leadership Michigan – Jackson, Mich.
  • Edcamp Leadership Ohio – Gahanna, Ohio
  • Edcamp Literacy – Boston, Mass.
  • Edcamp PBL Ohio – Columbus, Ohio

We were honored to sponsor these events and hope our contributions helped exceed attendees’ expectations. Our donations went toward supplies, door prizes and most importantly, sandwiches (YUM)! We worked with five phenomenal Edcamp organizers who are passionate about what they do and want to share that passion with educators around them. Seeing that drive from these individuals inspires us every day to make software that promotes creativity and a fun learning environment.

Edcamp Prizes

Each of these Edcamps showed us what educators are talking about and what ideas are important to them. Here are just a few of the many topics educators discussed during the month of July:

  • iPad apps
  • Chromebooks and Google Classroom
  • New tech tools
  • Planning Edcamps
  • Becoming a connected educator
  • Formative assessment using technology

July was a great month of professional development for 550+ Edcamp attendees! The best part? This year isn't over yet! We'll be updating you about more Squirrels Edcamp sponsorships in the coming months.

EdCamp

If you are hosting your own Edcamp and are interested in a Squirrels sponsorship, fill out our Edcamp Sign Up Form. Sponsorship may include monetary or swag donations, discounts on our products and more!

April 29, 2016

Introducing the newest class of Alpha Squirrels EdTech Experts

Become an Alpha Squirrel at alpha.airsquirrels.com!

We’re excited to announce that we have selected our second class of Alpha Squirrels EdTech Experts!

This class of thought leaders and Squirrels advocates is made up of 19 teachers, principals, EdTech specialists, instructional designers, digital learning specialists and tech resource coordinators. They come from all over the United States, including Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee. We also added our second Alpha Squirrel based in the United Kingdom!

Check out our full list of Alpha Squirrels team members!

These individuals are experts and advocates for the global EdTech community. Alpha Squirrels attend and speak at industry conferences around the world to introduce fellow educators to the Squirrels suite of classroom screen-mirroring solutions. You can catch some of them presenting at ISTE in Denver and many other edcamps and conferences around the world in 2016.

Don’t worry – they talk about much more than our products. Alpha Squirrels might use or mention our apps during a presentation, but sometimes they aren’t included in the presentations at all! We want our Alpha Squirrels to be well-rounded EdTech thought leaders. Our goal is to assist them in their professional development journey and provide them with resources to help other educators improve the student learning experience.

In addition to Squirrels-sponsored conference attendance and speaking engagements, Alpha Squirrels receive:

  • Access to unreleased Squirrels products
  • Squirrels welcome package – T-Shirt, coffee mug/tumbler, sticky notes, water bottle, headphones, pens, pencils, etc.
  • Video interview opportunities
  • Free AirParrot 2 and Reflector 2 licenses
  • An Alpha Squirrels member certificate
  • “Alpha Squirrel” signature badges for Twitter, Facebook and email
  • Product training, press kits and talking points
  • A chance to visit Squirrels Headquarters
  • On-demand interaction with Squirrels product designers and managers

Congrats to all of our new Alpha Squirrels! We’re proud to have you represent us in the EdTech community.

Are you a teacher or EdTech professional interested in becoming a certified Alpha Squirrel? Contact Emily Carle Hafer at alpha@airsquirrels.com for information about our next class of Alpha Squirrels.

March 22, 2016

How Startups Can Compete Against Tech Titans

Apple released its long-anticipated iOS 9.3 update to iPhone and iPad users yesterday, bringing great joy to consumers and cautious optimism to app developers.

Each new iOS iteration has the potential to open a new realm of possibilities for developers. It could also collapse their business overnight by introducing a native solution that renders their app useless.

It happens so often that it’s known in the tech world as “getting Sherlocked,” a reference to a 2002 Apple update that made the Watson search program obsolete.

Getting Sherlocked is often considered a death sentence, but is that always true? In the case of AirParrot, the first app that allowed users to wirelessly display and stream content from their computer to Apple TV and Chromecast, it was an opportunity.

AirParrot was released by Squirrels LLC on February 15, 2012. Apple announced its native AirPlay solution for Mac on February 16, 2012. Sherlocked.

Apple’s iOS devices had previously been able to mirror to Apple TV, but this was the first Apple release that allowed MacBook computers to do it. The new mirroring solution from one of the world’s biggest tech companies directly competed for market share with AirParrot, an app created by a small startup.

AP 1

This story is common in the tech industry. Major companies unveil native solutions that directly compete with preexisting technology from smaller, privately held companies. The long list of Sherlocked products includes the following recent highlights:

  • 2016: F.lux, with the release of Apple’s Night Shift
  • 2015: Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, after the release of Apple Music
  • 2014: Dropbox, after the release of Apple iCloud Drive
  • 2013: 1Password, after the release of Apple iCloud Keychain

It’s easy to understand why less than one percent of apps succeed. Even if all the right market conditions are in place – cost, value, demand – and an app is developed and marketed to perfection, there’s always the possibility that a major tech company will render it obsolete with a competing solution.

But being Sherlocked isn’t always the end. Startups can turn being Sherlocked into an opportunity.

Leverage media coverage
Major tech corporations like Apple, Google and Microsoft are always in the news. A surplus of media coverage accompanies any new product or technology they announce. That media blitz is an opportunity for startups with alternative solutions that add value or serve different markets to gain media coverage.

Timing matters. Demand for news and information about newly announced technology is greatest when one of the major tech players is involved. Startup leaders should offer tech expertise, insight and alternative solutions to gain exposure for their products or services.

Rely on brand advocates
Companies that are in a position to be Sherlocked were in the market first with technology that’s in demand. They likely have a database of customers that includes thought leaders, early tech adopters and most importantly, brand advocates. These consumers can provide product testimonials and reviews. Fellow consumers are much more likely to trust the word of friends, family and people in their network than the word of a company trying to sell a product.

Squirrels took advantage of the AirPlay beta-testing period to grow its AirParrot user base and gain valuable brand advocates.

Differentiate the product
Sherlocked companies need to find ways to show consumers why their product is still relevant. The developer may need to devote resources to explore product enhancements to better compete with the larger corporations.

Three key differentiators separated AirParrot from AirPlay.

  • Availability
    Word spread through tech publications and message boards that there was an AirPlay alternative that was available immediately. Users didn’t have to wait through the AirPlay beta-testing period.
  • Compatibility
    Apple’s AirPlay solution was only available on new Mac models, making AirParrot a more accessible option for Mac and Windows users to mirror content to their Apple TVs.
  • Adaptability
    In addition to compatibility with older Macs, subsequent feature updates further differentiated AirParrot from Apple’s native AirPlay mirroring. Now four years later, AirParrot 2 has bridged the technological divide between MacBooks, Windows computers and Google Chromebooks, allowing users of any of those devices to mirror and stream their computer screens to one or more Chromecasts and Apple TVs simultaneously.

AirParrot is still a market leader in screen-mirroring technology today. It thrives because it’s a simple, cost-effective solution used by educators, developers, businesses and general consumers around the world to wirelessly share screens, test apps, extend desktops, enjoy music and make meeting rooms more collaborative.

So how can a tech startup survive when a tech titan adopts a similar solution? Leverage the inevitable influx of media coverage, rely on pre-existing product advocates to raise awareness and continue to add differentiators that make its product more accessible, compatible and adaptable than competing solutions.

To learn more about AirParrot, visit http://www.airsquirrels.com/airparrot/.

About Us

Squirrels is a software development company based in North Canton, Ohio. We create high-quality, budget-friendly screen mirroring and device management software that’s compatible with today’s most popular devices. To date, our software can be found in hundreds of thousands of classrooms, businesses and homes. Follow our blog for all the latest product updates, Squirrels news and technology insight!