Now more than ever, we need a dedicated and secure social network for students.
With15-year-old triplets of his own, Tony Feghali, CEO and Co-Founder of Skoolee doesn’t seem to have much choice. However, he also goes out of his way to create informal focus groups and find out what the kids are finding cool these days.
“It’s amazing what insight you can get just by buying a few rounds of frappuccinos. That’s when we knew we were on the right track with Skoolee,” he recalls.
At 53, he’s not exactly a ‘digital native’ and he believes that is part of what makes him such a good listener
“I’m pretty much from the punch card machines era, complete with Blinking CRT black/white monitors with beep beep beep…” he laughs. “
So I can really appreciate the power that technology has in transforming people’s lives, and having been involved in Education for decades now, I can see how EdTech will help us shift to a different model, one that focuses on coaching rather than teaching, deliverables and goals instead of being restricted by subjects. We need to build our tools and platforms to fit into and to facilitate this new reality for students, educators and institutions.”
As it turned out, those teenagers he spoke to were not using Facebook all that much. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the thought of sharing a social network with their parents didn’t strike them as particularly cool. While praising Instagram’s rich visuals and the immediacy of WhatsApp, they – like a lot of us – struggled to draw the line between personal and public, between their academic life and their social circle.I can really appreciate the power that technology has in transforming people’s lives Click To Tweet
Young people understand that what they do online can have long-term implications in the real world Click To Tweet
“Young people understand that what they do online can have long-term implications in the real world, and they felt there was really nowhere for them to showcase the things they were proud of, their academic achievements and interests, and as their thoughts turned towards university, this very clear idea emerged of how useful it would be to have a social platform dedicated solely to building their student profile, in the same way as we build a professional profile on LinkedIn.”
Skoolee, which is launching its Beta in February, will be available on web and as a free mobile app combining social network functionalities with productivity tools to help young people get more organised and document their achievements as they evolve.
We’re helping students build something they can be proud to show teachers, admissions officers and employers Click To Tweet
“We’re helping students build a dynamic ‘brag sheet’, something they can be proud to show their teachers, university admissions officers and even future employers,” says Feghali.
The platform will also offer the ability for students to track their progress and compare it with that of their friends, or with others around the world:
We’re updating the whole PenPal experience Click To Tweet
“We’re updating the whole PenPal experience. We know that people are inspired by these exchanges, and that the competitive element can also be a great motivator for students to achieve their full potential. All of that is facilitated by the right social environment, and technology can extend it beyond traditional geographical boundaries.”
A recent report by the Harvard Graduate School of Education entitled Turning the Tide strongly makes the case for students to document their extracurricular involvement, and indeed one of the biggest challenges in the University admission process has been that standardized tests simply don’t provide the full picture when it comes to a student’s potential. It is widely agreed that there is a pressing need to find better ways of evaluating students on criteria that go beyond testing.
“Think about Oxbridge, for example,” Says Feghali. “There is much criticism around accessibility and the fact that pupils from less privileged or minority backgrounds don’t get the necessary training to comfortably navigate the interview process, so they often don’t do themselves justice in talking about their accomplishments – awards, leadership, volunteering, arts, music, sports, etc.
“But what if the person in charge of interviewing had access to this amazing evolving portfolio? It would give students a much fairer hearing and help to level out the playing field a little,” Feghali believes.
What if the person in charge of interviewing had access to this amazing evolving portfolio? Click To Tweet
There are also implications that continue beyond education, which is why major technology platforms have been trying to crack this elusive market for a while now. Still, only about 8% of US high school students have a profile on LinkedIn. Feghali is confident he has the answer:
Your social profile is a valuable commodity, and you need to invest in it over the long term Click To Tweet
“We’re planning to build cross-platform integration into Skoolee, so that as students move through higher education and join the workforce they can migrate seamlessly to LinkedIn or any other network they wish. Your social profile is a valuable commodity, and you need to invest in it over the long term, share and display it, just like you do with your diplomas.”
Skoolee is launching in the UK supported by the UK Lebanon Tech Hub, an initiative backed by the UK government and funded by Lebanon’s Central bank designed to provide promising technology startups in the country with a launchpad to accelerate their growth and global expansion.
Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.