Graham East is the CEO of EdAlive and ZooWhiz. This is a story about a teacher who is making a huge difference, by supplying educational software across the country.
What is your teaching history?
I guess teaching is in my blood. My parents were both high school science teachers. I started my 12 years as a primary school teacher in Toowoomba in 1976, then moved to Mornington Island, back to Toowoomba and finally to St Andrew’s School in Adelaide. My time in the classroom helped me to understand the incredible diversity in children and how they learn best when the material they are being presented with is appropriate for their needs.
During the mid ’80s, the personal computer arrived in the classroom. I was immediately transfixed by the educational opportunities it presented and set about using it in the classroom. I soon found that I, in partnership with my wife Barb, were sourcing and supplying educational software to schools across South Australia.
What prompted your move to Armidale?
I’d had the good fortune to spend time in Armidale during my childhood and knew what a wonderful place it was. Barb is a 5th generation Armidalian, so we knew that Armidale had a lot to offer our growing family and would be a good place to base our business.
So I said goodbye to the classroom at the end of 1988, and we moved to Armidale with our three little boys: Ben, Andrew and Chris. Laura came along the following year. We launched New Horizons nationally at the beginning of 1989.
You have another business called EdAlive?
We started EdAlive as our publishing arm in 2003. By 2000, sales of software to schools had begun to decline, but we felt that there was a substantial opportunity to supply curriculum based software to parents for their kids through schools. We adopted a club model, called it the Community Software Plan (CSP) and created our own titles to sell through it. Our first title was Aussie Maths Invaders.
It was an overnight hit! We ended up with a whole range of multi-award-winning titles that have sold 1,000,000 CDs all around the world.
You must have an exceptional team?
The intellectual property we have created is the culmination of many years of exceptional work by many dedicated, talented people. We can’t thank them enough for the contribution they have made. Some have stayed for over 20 years; others have come, made their contribution and moved on. Our products today are an amalgam of their many and varied contributions.
How has the internet revolution changed the way you do business?
We were all still buying vinyl records back in 1995, but by 2000 the CD had taken over. By 2006, sales of CDs had peaked, with the internet gaining popularity year by year. Now in 2012, demand for CDs is weak, with the internet being the source of choice for schools and homes.
Not only has the mode of delivery changed, but the proliferation of free services on the internet has raised people’s expectation of value for money, with many resources being available for free. The internet also allows users to be dynamically connected to their data 24/7. Teachers and kids are no different. They expect continuous, integrated access to learning and the results of that learning.
How have you responded to this change?
We realised some years back that we would have to move online or downsize and fade away. Sensing that the internet would ultimately be a greater friend than foe, we made our existing software available for internet download from www.edalive.com
We then embarked on an ambitious project to convert our key educational IP to a format that could be used as the basis for an online learning system. Our team did exceptional work, and by January 2010 we had a bank of over 17,000 activities covering maths, reading, spelling and word skills for kids aged 5 – 15 in an online format.
Where does ZooWhiz fit in?
Once we had the educational content ready for online delivery, we set about creating a kid-and school-friendly management system through which to deliver it and to give parents, teachers and kids the 24/7 access they have come to expect. www.ZooWhiz.com – our most challenging and comprehensive project to date – is the end result.
It’s packed full of tools for teachers, is fun for kids and gives parents the opportunity to connect with their child’s education. It lets parents, teachers and kids choose educational content that is appropriate for each child’s educational needs.
In this world of free online offerings like Skype and Google, we felt that a freemium model (a mix of free and paid premium subscriptions) would be the best way to market our new creation. By October 2011, we were ready to start testing ZooWhiz with family and friends and in some of the schools around Armidale. The feedback was emphatically positive, and we knew that we had a real winner. Kids and teachers just love it.
Growth was immediate. We were fortunate to have Senator Conroy, Tony Windsor and Richard Torbay in attendance for its official launch at PLC Armidale on 17 Feb. Since then, ZooWhiz has continued to grow and now has over 40,000 free users in more than 30 countries. We’re currently working on the premium offering and hope to be generating revenues by June.
Will the NBN help you?
The NBN will be a real boon to us. The transference of data and remote working is critical to what we do and with the increased speed of the NBN, all this will be so much faster and cost effective. It can’t come soon enough!
www.ZooWhiz.com has incredible potential. The internet has eliminated national boundaries, and we fully anticipate that ZooWhiz will be used by millions of kids, parents and teachers around the world in the years to come!
ZooWhiz is free for all, easy to use and highly motivational, so if you’re a teacher, parent or grandparent, get started with your kids today and tell others about this great Armidale/Aussie based online learning system!