MindSnacks, An Interview with Jeff Evans
MindSnacks cofounder Jeff Evans is with us today. MindSnacks is a mobile app that helps users learn languages with several different games. It is now available on the Apple App Store. Jeff is with us today to talk about education and technology.
MindSnacks was founded out of a frustration with the current product offerings for learning a foreign language. My co-founder Jesse Pickard and I were college roommates, and had tried to learn Spanish on our own for years, with mixed results. We just couldn’t find a product that was engaging enough to maintain our learning commitments, and that didn’t require devoting large chunks out of every day to the learning process.
So, a couple months ago, we got together and decided to build our own tool for learning a foreign language that is fun, exciting, and convenient to use. After hiring our lead developer Karl, the team was formed and we got accepted into the DreamIt Ventures incubator program that just ended in August.
2. What separates MindSnacks from other language learning software?
There are few key areas that really differentiate us from other language learning products in the market. For one, the entire experience is built around being fun-first, but still maintaining effective learning principles. By building the learning experience around a series of mini-games with levels and a detailed scoring system, we make learning a fun, rewarding process instead of making it feel like work.
Second, all of our current games are being designed for mobile devices, because we believe you shouldn’t have to tie yourself down to a desktop computer or have to carry around a laptop bag anytime you want to learn something. With MindSnacks, you can pull out your mobile device wherever you are and at any time of the day and start learning. All of the games are designed so that you can learn in quick “bite-sized” fashion, instead of having to block out an hour or more of your day to study.
Third, we use a detailed curriculum designed by Ivy League language instructors and a unique learning algorithm to enhance the effectiveness of our product. This curriculum has been designed to focus on the most common and important topic areas of a language to learn, instead of just flooding the learner with irrelevant vocabulary. In addition, our learning algorithm uses principles of spaced rehearsal to make sure users retain the information they learn as they progress through our games.
3. What can be expect to see from MindSnacks in the future?
A lot, hopefully. Our first product that we launched a couple weeks ago is really just the beginning. Our next steps are to expand the product offering to new languages, most likely French, Italian, and Mandarin in the coming months, although we haven’t made a final decision on this yet. In addition to new languages, we also plan on expanding our development team and broadening out to new platforms beyond the Apple OS. Since we are still so early stage, we have lots of ideas for the longer-term vision of the company, but since they are being constantly refined and developed, I’ll save that for the next time I get invited to be on this blog.
4. Mobile technology is becoming increasingly popular and powerful. How can people harness mobile tech to change education?
It definitely is. We are big believers in the potential of mobile learning. Boiled down to simple terms, people nowadays have less time and less patience to absorb new information. Mobile technology fits well within this trend by allowing information to be delivered in an on-demand fashion, and in quick, short bursts. Mobile tech also allows learning to extend beyond the classroom and outside of school walls. Mobile isn’t the optimal platform for all types of learning obviously, and this extension is hampered by the inherent challenges that come with schools as a distribution channel, but the trend is taking place nonetheless.
5. What other develops in educational technology excite you the most?
I am a big fan of digital education products that focus on lowering the barriers to learning, for example companies like GrockIt, Newton and Easel, which are making the test prep market more affordable and available for the massive population looking for test prep solutions. I also think the virtual school platforms like Inigral and SuperCoolSchool, among others, are really interesting.
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