Author Archives: John Pytel

We Want To Make GoSoapBox Free To Use

We love being in Ed-Tech. It’s exciting to hear that our product helps students learn. That’s why we started the company.

We’ve tried a few different business models and weren’t entirely happy with any of them. Charging for GoSoapBox allows us to generate revenue to pay the bills but creates a barrier for teachers to adopt the product. School budgets are tight and teachers don’t have a ton of disposable income to pay for additional tools. Our ultimate goal is to help as many students learn as possible. Charging for our product gets in the way of that.

So Here’s The Scoop…

We are considering the idea of partnering with an outside organization which would sponsor GoSoapBox and allow us to offer the product 100% free of cost to K-12 teachers and students

GoSoapBox would be custom designed / skinned with the partner organization’s logo and branding.

  • IT WOULD BE a well designed, visual branding layout.
  • IT WOULD NOT be a standard banner ad, or text based ad, like something you’d see on Google adwords.
  • IT WOULD NOT be a click through advertisement (no pop ups, or new windows opening)
  • IT WOULD NOT require student email addresses or any contact information
  •  IT WOULD allow us to offer GoSoapBox 100% cost free for K-12 teachers and students

We Need Your Help…

We created a very brief survey in order to assess the feasibility of this idea. The data collected from this survey will help us determine the demand for the free product and help in creating usage projections that we can bring to our partner organizations.

Please share this with other K-12 folks in your network. The more data the better!

If you are involved in K-12 education please do us a huge favor and take our short survey. It will only take 3 minutes. The survey is embedded below. You can also find the survey here

 

 

GoSoapBox Year One: A Visual Story

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It’s been just over a year since we opened our Beta for the first time, and it’s amazing for us to look back to where we started, and where we are today.  We truly consider our users as part of our team and are so appreciative of all your support.

We want to share some of the data and insights that we’ve collected to tell the story of GoSoapBox’s progression through this first year. You’ve all played a part in our journey so we thought it was only right to give you a behind the scenes look at our story.

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4 Ways Monopoly™ Teaches You About Startup Success

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It has been a long time since our last Blog and we apologize for the recent silence. We’ve been working hard on improving our product and appreciate all of the feedback we receive. We’re going to make sure to post more frequently on here.

This post is not related to product updates or features but is a unique recap of what we’ve learned about entrepreneurship through starting GoSoapBox, and what advice we’d give to students interested in starting their own company.

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New Features: SMS Integration, Quiz Progress and More

MobileDevices

We’ve recently rolled out a few exciting new features that we think you’ll enjoy. The development of GoSoapBox is driven by user feedback so if you ever have any suggestions don’t hesitate to contact me at john@gosoapbox.com

Social Q&A Reply Icon Upgrade

Each Social Q&A entry will now show the number of replies that have been added to it. This allows users to identify when a new reply has been added that they have yet to read.

Quiz Progress Indicator

Instructors are now able to view progress information about their Quizzes. Instructors can now see how many people are currently taking the Quiz, and how many have already completed it.

Re-Ordering Quiz Questions

Instructors now have the ability to re-order the questions within their Quiz. Re-ordering questions can be helpful to fix errors, as well as randomizing the order of questions for different classes.

SMS (Text Message) Integration For Social Q&A

We’re exciting to announce that we’ve now integrated the ability for students to text message in questions to Social Q&A. This assures that every student is able to participate during class, whether they have a ‘smart’ device or not!

Polling and Instant Polling SMS integration will be rolled out very soon as well.

* Due to costs incurred on our end, the SMS functionality is only available for students who have subscribed to GoSoapBox and is limited to U.S. users.

 

COMING SOON: PowerPoint Integration For Polls

Within the next 2 – 3 weeks we will be launching functionality that allows Instructors to embed the result graphs from Polls and Instant Polls directly into a PowerPoint presentation. Students will be able to respond to the Polls via GoSoapBox or SMS and the results will be displayed right on the PowerPoint slide. Instructors will no longer need to exit PowerPoint and open the GoSoapBox window in order to see Poll results.

Integration with PowerPoint has been our most frequently requested feature and we are very excited to roll out the integration. Once our prototype is available it would be great to test it with a few users before we fully launch it. If you are interested in gaining early access to the feature please let us know.

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Major Update and Changes

We’ve recently made some major decisions in terms of our business model, and want to give you insight into what decisions we’ve made, why we made them, and how it affects you.

We’re a bootstrapped company, and have opted to not raise outside funding because we feel it’s in the best interest of our product. We’re focused on making a great product, and we want to be accountable to our users, not our investors. By bootstrapping we are able to focus on making decisions that lead to the best product possible, and avoid the pressure of making decisions based on a return on capital investment.

Bootstrapping though requires generating enough revenue to support ourselves as we continue to build and unfortunately we’ve determined that our current business model will not be scalable enough in the future to allow us to grow and compete with competitors who have raised outside funding.

So what’s changing?

We are no longer going to offer the individual teacher subscriptions to GoSoapBox. Instead we are introducing an alternative model that keeps GoSoapBox totally free for educators.

Here’s how it works…

  • Instructors can ask or require students to use GoSoapBox in their class, just like they do with textbooks and clickers.
  • Students purchase a GoSoapBox subscription at a very low cost ($10 per year). This subscription entitles them to use GoSoapBox with any class.
  • Each student will now receive their own account to sign in with.
  • Instructors will have access to use GoSoapBox for free

Integrating student accounts also opens the door for improving student performance tracking and analytics in the future. We have some exciting ideas on how to innovate this aspect of the product.

What this change means to you…

1. If you are a GoSoapBox user you can choose to upgrade to the ‘student account’ model. Each of your students will create their own account, and you will be eligible for the additional benefits in the future (Text message response integration, student performance tracking, etc.)

2. If you signed up for a trial of GoSoapBox before August 1st you are eligible to continue with the original subscription model as promised ($90 / year)

3. We will continue to offer volume discount pricing & pilots for Schools, Universities, and Districts. For more information please email john@gosoapbox.com

4. We will also continue to offer free trials for new users, and students are not required to create accounts during the free trial period.

Thank you for all of your support along the way. It’s been an exciting few months since our initial launch and we really appreciate all of our users’ help.

We have some exciting new features that are ready to be rolled out so stay tuned for those!

Using GoSoapBox With PowerPoint

The most common feature request that we receive is for polling integration into PowerPoint & Keynote. A full integration is something that we are working towards but requires a heavy development effort.

We know that many teachers use PowerPoint slides to guide their lectures and we feel bad that we aren’t able to offer full slide integration yet, so we recently developed a new feature called ‘Instant Polling’.

Instant Polling is a simple feedback tool that relies on external sourcing of questions. If you have put together some questions in PowerPoint or Keynote, and don’t have the time to migrate those into GoSoapBox’s Poll or Quiz features, you can use Instant Polling.

Students get a simple menu of choices (you can control the number of these), and you see a real-time histogram of their responses.  When you are ready to move onto the next external question, select “Clear Data” and the histogram readies itself for new responses.

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Happy Teachers Appreciation Week!

Through our friends at Toodalu.com (another Chicago based startup), we have the opportunity to donate a percentage of our business expenses directly to a charity of our choice and we thought, what better way to show our appreciation for teachers than donating money to an education based charity of their choice? So that’s what we’re doing.

 

How It Works…

Any time we use our credit card at a Toodalu partnered establishment, 5% of the expense will be directly donated to a charity of our choice.

  • We have also linked our personal credit cards to Toodalu, and will donate those returns to the same charity.

How Do You Get Involved?

We’ve created a GoSoapBox event and have listed a few education based charities to get the ball rolling.

  • Vote for one of the charities already listed, or add in your own!
  • We have the opportunity to donate to any charity we choose. Feel free to add any education based charity around the world… just make sure to include enough info.
  • At the end of next week we will link our credit cards to the charity that has the most votes.

Teachers play one of the most important, and perhaps under appreciated roles in our world and we’re excited about this opportunity to give a little back. We don’t want to limit the voting to GoSoapBox users, so feel free to share the information with any other teachers in your life.

Thanks for all you do,

John & Dave

 

Monday 4/23 Update

Over the weekend we rolled out a truckload of updates which we think you’ll enjoy. As always, we’re going to continue rolling out new updates, so continue sending us your feedback!

 

  • Everything on the Event Page now refreshes in real-time.
  • New styling for buttons.
  • Students can now review and change their Quiz responses before submitting their final answers.

  • Discussions can now be locked/unlocked on demand.
  • “Quick Manage” lock / unlock  buttons have been added for convenience (you no longer have to click into a poll or quiz to lock / unlock it).

  • Images can be optionally added to Polls and Quizzes.

  • Histogram display format option added for Polls

  • High-resolution icons added for the benefit of teachers and students using retina display iPads.

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The Omari Effect

How a twelve year old and his bicycle deepened my appreciation for learning.

My name is Blair Kessler and I am a junior at Northwestern University, studying Economics and Entrepreneurship. This Spring I will be interning with GoSoapBox .

I spent this past summer working in the education branch of Outreach Zanzibar; a start-up Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Zanzibar, Tanzania.  Situated off the coast of mainland Tanzania and north of Madagascar, this archipelago lies approximately 8,500 miles away from sweet home Chicago.

It was my responsibility to implement an English based curriculum into Unguja Ukuu primary school, located in a remote village on the Eastern coast of the Island.  The village primarily served as the home to “fish-mongers,” supplying five star resorts across the island with fresh seafood.  It was the ultimate goal of many of the students I would work with over the next three months to be successful “fish-mongers.” It was my goal to challenge this intuition, by providing a platform in the classroom to best prepare them to continue their education, or at the very least become aware of what other opportunities are out there.

The Unguja Ukuu complex is split in half by the main road that runs into the center of commerce on the island, Stone Town.  On the right hand side of the road is the primary school and on the left is the secondary school.  Each school is spread across five tin-roofed, open-air classrooms, filled with hand crafted benches and desks facing the teachers’ podium and large black slate, that serves as the blackboard.  Behind the secondary school lies an open field that serves as grounds for the village’s cattle during the evenings and school’s soccer pitch during the day.  Playing soccer was a very rich and humbling experience. Students without shoes would run circles around me, across the field strewn with cow manure and “prickers,” not phased in the least.

Unguja Ukuu Students On The Soccer Pitch

For lunch students would pay 100 Tanzanian schillings (equivalent of $0.05) for a cup of pink bean porridge.  Curious of who this “mzungu” (white-person) was at their school, students flocked at the opportunity to eat and even share their porridge with me in hopes of learning a new word of English or teaching me a few words of their native tongue, Swahili.

Each student was responsible for supplying a notebook for each subject, comparable to a Blue Book, which was to last them the length of the academic year.  The students of Ungujua Ukuu never had their own textbook and were accustomed to being taught lessons by under-qualified teachers who showed up late and unprepared; a stark contrast to their peers in first world countries.

Despite limited tools, resources and technology, the Unguja Ukuu students were more engaged and eager to learn than any other group of students I’ve shared a classroom with before. I can only imagine how excited Unguja Ukuu kids would be to use an application like GoSoapBox!

One student in particular, named Omari, stood head and shoulders above his peers in terms of drive and curiosity.  Each morning and afternoon, Omari would meet me on the road into school on his bike and offer me a ride to beat the hot Zanzibar sun on the three-mile stretch, in exchange for sharing the English word of objects that we would come across on the ride, or that had occurred that day.  Personally, I don’t know many seventh graders anxious to tug a former defensive lineman on the back of their bike, just to soak up a few more bits of knowledge.  Omari taught me far more than I thought any seventh grader ever would, and it is his story and love for learning that has brought me to join an education based start-up.

Omari and I

Never in the last 20 years of my formal education have I seen an appreciation run so deep through a group of students, or such genuine interest and curiousity in learning as I did in Zanzibar.

As I reflect back upon the strong academic foundation that I have built, and the opportunities that presented themselves throughout my academic career, I have a new found appreciation for the people and institutions that allowed me to get to where I am today.  Driven by the conversations over porridge at lunch, Omari’s ride to and from school, and the genuine enthusiasm for learning that I witnessed in Zanzibar, my appreciation for the educational opportunities that lie ahead of me has never been stronger.

I hope that my story will inspire you to feel the same thirst for knowledge as Omari, who was eager to lug a 220 pound lineman for three miles on the back of his bike in order to learn a few new words of English each day. With today’s technology, we have access to a world of knowledge within a few clicks of a mouse. The next time you find yourself watching reality TV, or browsing Facebook, I challenge you to think of Omari and his friends sitting patiently on their wood bench, waiting for their teacher to show up to class. Do right by Omari and take advantage of the resources that are available to us. Be eager to learn something new, or better yet, teach a friend something new. There’s a group of kids 8,500 miles away who I know would appreciate it.

Unguja Ukuu Students Waiting For Class To Start

Unguja Ukuu Students Waiting For Class To Start

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.  Please feel free to reach out to me with questions or feedback at: blair@gosoapbox.com