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SIX Interview Series: Shane Hill, Founder of Skoolbo

Author: Shane Hill
Published Date: 2 April 2013

Shane Hill is the Founder and CEO of Skoolbo, a team of educators providing free literacy and numeracy educational games. Children can play in a 3D environment with multiplayer races in Core Skills and follow adventures of Zalairos on ebooks. Shane was an Australian teacher who previously founded e-Learning websites such as Mathletics, Spellodrome and World Math Day. He is now living in Singapore where Skoolbo is based.

Congratulations on receiving the Social Innovation Leadership Award at the World CSR Congress and Awards 2013 in Mumbai. In your opinion, how does Skoolbo bring socially innovative solutions to education?

We were deeply humbled to receive the Social Innovation Leadership Award. Skoolbo’s dream is for every child to learn to read and gain a confidence with numbers. The internet and technology in general allow us the most wonderful opportunity to create and distribute learning resources that can have a tremendous impact at very little cost.

How can parents keep track of their children performance in Skoolbo Core Skills, and why is this kind of monitoring important? How have you defined student success?

Parents and teachers are able to track progress of children in Skoolbo Core Skills. This enables them to see detailed reports and helps pinpoint areas in need of additional support. Furthermore the successes of the child are shared and celebrated with parents and teachers. We believe in the immense value of positive affirmation with the child. We are expanding this to now also include grandparents who have a special positive role with the children.

We are very focused on student improvement. We analyse improvement indicators on the Skoolbo system and also correlate these with standardised testing. We define success by lifting standards in literacy and numeracy. Most specifically we want every child to leave 2nd grade being able to independently read chapter books.

Sometimes it’s the anecdotal evidence that tells the greatest story. Yesterday I received the following note from a teacher.

Thank you so much for this program. I have a young man in 4thgrade who has a severe reading disability and SKOOLBO has been one of the programs he has taken to!!! We are so excited to see how much he has improved.

Thanks a million…

How many languages are available so far and what are your goals for Skoolbo’s growth? Do you think Skoolbo could scale to reach a global audience? Do you think it should?

Currently Skoolbo is available in English, however we have twenty-six languages coming in the very near future.

Skoolbo has been designed from the outset to scale and reach a global audience. We believe that every child has a right to education and we are committed to making our resources available to all.

We are also devoting considerable attention to creating solutions for developing countries where both connectivity and power are major inhibiters.

Why is Skoolbo based in Singapore? Does locality matter to your work and are there plans to launch Skoolbo in different countries?

We chose to locate in Singapore as it was a place where we could bring together an outstanding development team. We have a group of highly passionate, young, capable developers who want to change the world for the better. Singapore is also a country with a rich education history and it is located within one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

The actual physical locality of our offices is not so crucial for the children, parents and teachers we serve. The internet enables us to reach a global audience. We will, however be opening an office in Los Angeles later this year. We are extremely excited about this initiative as the United States represents around 50% of Skoolbo users at present.

What will be the next steps in the development of Skoolbo?

We are currently working on four broad areas:

- New features and enhancements to Skoolbo Core Skills.

- The integration of twenty-six languages. This serves two purposes – learning to read in their mother tongue language and it will also pave the way for our language learning program.

- An ultra-low cost, low power tablet solution for developing countries.

- Friend Our World – a collaboration event with Peace One Day and Microsoft. Children will unite online to play friendship games of geography, languages and culture. The event takes place in September in the lead-up to International Day of Peace on 21st September.