Case Study

Educators International

Educators International, a UK-based charity, is bringing a revolutionary tech-based approach to education in developing countries. E.I. produces classroom-friendly educational apps and works in partnership with developing countries to help them implement system-level educational reforms.

Using Tech To Teach

Educators International has several apps used for educating students, each custom-built for the student’s home country. AssessmentsbyPhone, the app used by teachers to access and analyze student assessment results, is powered by Backendless.

  • PhonicsbyPhone Assessment
  • Assessment Scoring
  • Class Assessment Stats
  • About PhonePrint

Backendless: Tell us a little about your company. What did you set out to accomplish with an app?

Michael Stark, Director and Trustee: [We are a] charity comprising a network of highly-skilled professional volunteers, working in partnership with developing countries to help them reform their educational system. What unites us is a passionate belief that every child and young person in the world should get a decent education. As an absolute minimum, we believe children should have the opportunity to acquire the ability to read, write and understand numbers. Shamefully, for most children, that still does not happen. Despite vast investment in basic education over the past two decades, there remains a huge gulf, even in these simple measures, between the outcomes for children attending school regularly in developing as opposed to developed countries. Educators International has used the power of volunteers to develop highly innovative methods of teacher training and teacher-led assessment. We build these methods around mobile phones, a game-changer because they are now in the pocket of teachers even in the poorest countries.

What compelled you to build apps to solve such a large-scale problem? How has Backendless helped make this solution a reality?

It is our belief that teaching, however good, is worthless without continuous, reliable, teacher-led assessment. But teacher assessment is only of value if you collect the data and analyze and use it in the classroom the very next day. And none of that is possible without the mobile phone that every teacher in the world now carries with them at all times. And the phone becomes a terminal to Backendless. It serves to download the training, listen to it (maybe repeatedly), download the app, generate the randomized assessments, print them using PhonePrint, carry out the scoring, report the results to Backendless, and receive back a graphic display of the aggregated or individualized data. It’s the perfect, completed, continuous loop.

Continents Engaged
Teachers Assisted
Students Reached

[T]he Backendless contribution is central and pivotal – none of the rest of [our system] would hang together without it!”

- Michael Stark, Director and Trustee, Educators International

What aspects of Backendless technology make this possible?

We’ve found that the best way to record students’ results is to upload them straight onto a database. In a classroom or even remote location, that isn’t really possible because a laptop or other terminal may not be available / may not work / might disrupt the teacher from dealing with other students. Backendless offers the means to upload that data straight from the student’s desk, using the phone they already have in their pocket. Secure, fast, reliable.

Walk us through the process of how a teacher uses your app in their classroom.

The process is simpler than you imagine. First, the teacher downloads training podcasts from our website to their device. The teacher then studies them, acquiring new knowledge and techniques. Next, the teacher delivers the new content in the classroom as soon as the very next day. As the children progress in their understanding, the teacher will then decide to assess some of them. The teacher uses our apps to generate randomized assessments on his or her phone (possibly the night before) and prints the assessments using a PhonePrint printer.

Using the printed assessments, the teacher orally assesses each child using the paper print-outs and notes each child’s results. The student never needs to touch a device. After class that day, the teacher goes online and uploads the results to the Backendless databases.

Some of your teachers operate in areas with limited connectivity. How does your system account for this?

If the teacher is offline (e.g. in a remote rural classroom), the app is capable of storing the data just saved locally on the device and uploading it to Backendless when next in a network area.  However, this is rare. Whenever possible teachers prefer to see a “successfully uploaded” message right away, and get back an immediate summary/overview for the whole class, with comparison with previous time periods etc. Often their headteacher will want to see the full dataset as it affects his/her own school – they don’t want to wait a week or more for some classes to upload. Fortunately, the number of locations where a teacher can’t get internet at all on a smartphone, all day long, is rapidly shrinking.

Tell us a little more about how you are able to utilize Backendless to achieve the results you’re looking for to help all these kids.

The key part of the programme, and the element built with Backendless, is AssessmentbyPhone. Access to the long-term (i.e. over the course of a full school year) data is what we call TrackingbyPhone – but in truth, these apps can’t be separated from PhonicsbyPhone and MathsbyPhone, which are the interventions (training apps). Without these, there would be no point in assessing because the teachers wouldn’t have the training to adequately teach the students, and the students would be continuing to fail! We transform teachers’ capacity to teach via a set of audio and video podcasts that they download and watch/listen to on their phones. These podcasts are held on our own ISP’s servers. Overall, the Backendless contribution is central and pivotal – none of the rest of it would hang together without it!

We understand you’ve worked with another member of our community to bring your apps to life. Would you like to share about that experience?

You can see that I believe strongly in Backendless. And the man who should take the main credit for our applications, who has harnessed all this for us, is the incredible Simon McCorkindale of FUNX. He has created all this software, and steered us through its development and continuous improvement, for the past five years, totally free!  This man deserves medals for what he has already achieved – and there is much more in the pipeline!

[Editors Note: You can learn more about Simon’s company FUNX and his other Backendless-powered properties like Digital Copel here.]

Closing Thoughts

The Backendless mobile backend as a service platform is providing the functionality necessary for Educators International to change the lives of tens of thousands of children across the globe. If you would like to help E.I. make a difference, you can support their efforts by purchasing their custom-designed Bluetooth mini-printer from PhonePrint. 100% of the proceeds from PhonePrint sales go toward supporting E.I.’s mission.