Developing a powerful iPad app to help teachers create and publish dynamic video lessons.
GUEST COLUMN | by Tony Dunckel
My company recognized that teachers wanted to create rich, dynamic content but lacked straightforward, affordable tools to help them do so. Teachers, concerned about how their video creations would be perceived by their students and peers, set a very high bar for themselves. To address this unmet need, in 2012, my company began designing an iPad App, Teach, which would join together the ease of use and ubiquity of the iPad with sophisticated animation tools and recording and playback capabilities that teachers needed.
Our goal was to give teachers advanced video development tools that were accessible and intuitive and a means of publishing their creations and tracking their students’ engagement.
Our goal was to give teachers advanced video development tools that were accessible and intuitive and a means of publishing their creations and tracking their students’ engagement. We planned to offer a feature-rich free app and a more powerful professional version with more advanced features. As we weighed our options for utilizing outside software development resources, we sought to achieve the right balance of cost and quality. While cost was a consideration, more important was having access to the ideal mix of technical experts at each stage of the development cycle.
We were convinced that, to achieve optimal results, our company (Knowmia) should empower an outside team to assume complete end-to-end engineering development responsibility. As a result, the project presented both technical and managerial challenges. We realized that there were different ways of managing and utilizing an outside development team. Since we were going to rely on them entirely, with no backup plan, we had to get the management part right. That meant treating the outside group as an extension of our company, not as an outsourcer working in a silo. We accepted the risk of completely trusting outsiders under our guidance and giving them full visibility into what we were doing. We felt that this was the only way to realize the maximum potential of the partnership and get things done quickly and correctly.
We made the decision to work with Gemini Solutions based on their track record of very positive results. The caliber of their software developers in Romania and their approach to client partnerships made them a good candidate for the working relationship that we were seeking. They are a full partner that thinks independently and takes the initiative without waiting for confirmation at every step, which was a good cultural fit with our company.
Together, Knowmia and Gemini built both a powerful video platform for education and a trusted partnership that has endured over several years. We rely on one another to make well-considered decisions about the best way to move forward, which is no different from the trust you establish with a local full-time employee, but with the flexibility to redeploy talent based on your changing needs.
Empowered by Knowmia, the Gemini team was successful in creating an iPad app that disguises its sophistication through ease of use. For example, the app enables users to record what the camera sees as they interact with graphic layers. Using their fingers, users can manipulate objects on the whiteboard in a very natural way, including grouping and rotating objects. They can record a website and their interaction with its content, in conjunction with camera input (enabling “face recording”) and then play it back in perfect synchronization and very high quality. It’s also possible for users to render movies out of multiple video tracks, compose them, and then add background soundtracks.
Much of this advanced functionality required very effective use of the Apple API, and Gemini devised many creative solutions. Our product development challenged evolved into an exercise in empowerment, resulting in a trusted partnership with the Gemini team and a very effective educational iPad app for teachers to create and publish dynamic video lessons.
Tony Dunckel is Vice President, Market Solutions for TechSmith Corporation, a company that in November of 2014 acquired Knowmia. TechSmith has been working with educators, coaches and business trainers for more than 25 years and was instrumental in launching the flipped learning movement. Knowmia features a vast library of video lessons created by teachers. Contact him through Twitter @knowmiaworld