Odd as it may seem, my goal was never to become an “edupreneur” (a hybrid term: Education + Entrepreneur = Edupreneur). When we started App Ed Review, Corey and I thought we would make a free database of educational app reviews that included app descriptions, evaluations, and ideas for using apps in the classroom. My students were using iPads in their classroom (or at least they had been given iPads to use in the classroom), and they were struggling to use them effectively. I reviewed the information and resources that were then available, and I quickly saw that a resource in the fashion I envisioned did not exist. Thinking back to my days teaching English at Leesburg High School, I knew that as a teacher I did not want a “checklist” of characteristics that an app had nor did I want a starred rating system. To me, I wanted a quick way to find an app and use it with my students. Nothing more, nothing less. I wanted a teacher-friendly resource that provides information I can use quickly and without further research. So, with that in mind, Corey and I began crafting App Ed Review. (If you would like to read more about how Corey and I realized the need for this resource, please read Our Story. The rest of this post will discuss the transformations App Ed Review underwent to arrive at our relaunching.)
App Ed Review was first presented to our College’s Board of Visitors in the fall of 2013. At the time, we had about 50 apps reviewed and we were nervous about presenting our work. Together, Corey and I presented App Ed Review to the Board, and they were impressed. They said lovely comments about App Ed Review, but I was worried we were playing to a home crowd. After that initial presentation, we continued to add app reviews to the website, and we presented at two more state conferences. These presentations are when Corey and I realized that App Ed Review provided something to teachers that they needed or, as Corey often said, craved. In fact, one of our colleagues who attended Corey’s presentation said that he thought our project was “cute” until he saw how the teachers in Corey’s presentation reacted when he guided them through the App Ed Review website. To our colleague, those teachers’ reactions really sealed-the-deal for him. At this point, Corey and I decided on two things: (1) research had to be part of App Ed Review, and (2) if App Ed Review was going to be successful, we had to market it.
- Because Corey and I are professors of education, we both believe in the power of research. The methodology we used to classify and evaluate educational apps had to be published so that it was vetted. Therefore, Corey and I went to work in collaborating on our first two articles that would eventually be published in the Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education Journal and the Journal of Information Technology Education. These articles gave App Ed Review a distinction that no other educational app resource can claim, which is App Ed Review is the only resource that produces and is guided by top-tier educational research. While others may claim it, App Ed Review is the only resource that can show it. Corey and I are extremely proud of that distinction. (And we are currently writing additional articles for publication.)
- The second concept was that App Ed Review had to be marketed. Being two professors of education, Corey and I had no idea whatsoever about how to do this. To us, marketing was making presentations and writing. So, from the fall of 2013 to current, Corey and I have presented and written about App Ed Review extensively. (If you want to see where we’ve presented, check out our Scholarship page.) As a result of those efforts, we saw our website’s daily visitors go from the low twenties into the hundreds.
With these two successes, Corey and I were happy about our progress, but we soon ran into financial challenges. Costs for maintaining the website, purchasing plug-ins, and other monetary restraints soon became burdensome. We applied to some national-level business incubators and grants, but those opportunities did not unfortunately pan out. We then tried to position App Ed Review in a way that app developers would pay us to review their apps after agreeing to our Integrity Promise. After several emails, notifications, and advertisements, that tactic unfortunately did not pan out either. At this point, we were facing a lot of challenges, but we finally caught a break. The Conway Innovation Center – a collaboration between Coastal Carolina University, Clemson University, and the City of Conway, SC – picked us up. With the guidance of Kevin Shea, the Center’s director, we took six months to plan and then relaunch App Ed Review as an affordable resource for teachers, schools, and school districts. Important to that effort was the creation and support of our Board of Advisors. This Board has helped us plan, position, and promote App Ed Review. Truthfully, I was very nervous about forming this Board, but they have been supportive and thoughtful in the advice they have provided. As we were developing the relaunch, Corey and I presented App Ed Review at the Conway Innovation Center’s grand opening, and notable attendees included: the Mayor of Conway, Conway’s Chamber of Commerce, the President of Coastal Carolina University, and several more distinguished guests. Our presentation that evening was a success and it was broadcasted on local television. This gave us further momentum going into our relaunch.
Now, on the eve before our relaunch, I feel we are prepared. We put the systems in place, we created a superior product, and we know that more work will be done. However, this relaunch marks a time to reflect on all the work we have completed to get to this point and enjoy that accomplishment. I hope you enjoy App Ed Review and please send me any thoughts, suggestions, or ideas you may have to [email protected].