We kicked off a new Producteering forum initiative recently and hope to continue doing Producteering interviews with senior software executives, product development managers and thought leaders in the ISV space on a bi-monthly basis.
About Thinkronize: They are a leader in the digital delivery of K-12 educational content in the US and are dedicated to enhancing the education of youth with highly effective technologies in a safe, relevant, easy-to-use format. Thinkronize and their netTrekker search product suite has been honoured over 20 times for their contribution to education. The company currently serves over 12 million students in all 50 states of the US.
Can you give us a quick insight into the school educational system in the US and what role technology plays in it?
Steve: Sure, I’d be happy to. Over the past 13 years, I have worked in the educational space, primarily K12. Within the US education system, technology and the way I focused on it has been as an enabler and an equalizer. A lot of what I did and really used was focus on how technology can bring new opportunities to students and to equalize opportunities to students. So even as you look at our product Nettrekker and some of the things that I did when we rolled out the Nettrekker Differentiating Instruction version, we added a “Read Aloud” feature, again as an enabler, so that all students that are accessing the resources can be served and can gain benefit from the materials that were found in Nettrekker.
Your Nettrekker suite of products – it’s won over 20 awards, including the prestigious Codie awards for the best education solution in 2007. That must feel really good to be working on such an innovative and useful product. Can you tell us a bit about what differentiates your suite of search products?
Steve: Yeah, it actually is quite humbling to work with such a group that has such a great reputation and honor in so many different formats. Actually my first introduction to the company was when Nettrekker received two Codie awards at an event back in 2005. The reason that it differentiates is because it’s more than search. It’s really bringing the educational context to digital resource. By that, we’ve set out a complete K12 taxonomy.
So, regardless of what subject area you’re teaching, we have a taxonomy that defines the various aspects of, say for example in math and then geometry, and then the various aspects of geometry, we have a taxonomy that will build that out and each and every resource that we select, gets placed in that taxonomy. So as opposed to just being an individual resource hanging out there, we bring an educational context to it by placing it in that taxonomy. Then, as talked about earlier, we have the state academic standard which bring additional context to those resources.
Other ways that we differentiate are through the tools that we bring and the metadata that we wrap around the resources. So every resource has a variety of metadata elements that enables students and teachers to more intelligently search on the resources. So instead of just doing a key word search and finding a whole host of resources, we wrap metadata around it, which enables them to more accurately meet their particular needs.
Do you look for any specific engineering skills or mind set in your development or engineering teams?
Steve: I think the strongest thing that we look for is certainly strong engineering skills from a foundation within computer science. But more than anything we look for those who have an eye towards open solutions and integrations with open solutions as opposed to building a closed environment. We’re very much focused on those who have experience in working with integrations with a variety of open software, whether it is an open search tool or open integrations to templates on the front end in delivering the UI. The most effective way to deliver the resources in an open solution as opposed to a closed proprietary solution.