Showbie Launches iPad App, Bets On Tablets As Center of the Digital Classroom

Showbie, the Edmonton-based startup that’s providing a built-for-purpose Dropbox-style app for educators and students, today officially launched its iPad app. The app brings much of Showbie’s web functionality, including the ability to assign, collect and submit assignments for students and teachers to the iPad in a native app. The app features plenty of integration with other outside apps like Pages, GoodReader and Keynote to make it easy for students to hand in assignments, and is free for students and teachers.

“The initial product was really a website, as well as the capability to save your student work into an online folder that we host from a variety of iPad apps like Pages and Keynote,” CEO Colin Bramm said in an interview. “The missing piece that we found out about from our initial users that signed up was we found that where the product really resonated was in schools that are implementing the iPad with students.” Initially, the idea was to create a product with broad appeal, which is why the Showbie team focused on the web and the Dropbox-like approach, but Bramm said that that market was already decently covered, and the missing piece people were really looking for was an iPad-native solution.

“What we’ve realized is that our strategy was pretty good in that we released a minimum viable product, but by getting the feedback from our users right away, we realized we’ve got to change this right away,” he said. “We didn’t change the product so much, but we extended it so that we’re gaining speed into the iPad realm, and I think a lot of our updates going forward which are going to be really exciting for schools are going to be really centered on that type of school that’s implementing the iPad.”

Bramm believes that because of the changing nature of education right now, especially in the U.S. where major school districts are moving towards significant iPad adoption, like San Diego Unified, which just announced that within a year every student in its system will have an iPad. While iPads may appear expensive at first glance for that kind of wide-scale rollout, in fact they can represent a significant savings vs. other types of materials and computing technology investment.

It’s early yet for Showbie, which launched in June, but already the startup has seen promising early traction. Already, through word-of-mouth marketing only, there are about 2,500 teachers using the product in over 500 schools worldwide, with Australia leading the pack, which Bramm expects will mean that Showbie will be used by around 40,000 students by the time fall rolls around. Showbie also has about 50 paid clients (it’s available either free or on a paid plan depending on organization needs), making for a respectable 10 percent conversion rate so far.

Bramm also believes that increasingly, students will use the iPad as a creation tool, tightening the loop for assignment fulfillment. “The immediate use for an iPad was to consume, that was the most obvious use, but more and more I just see that there’s awesome, new abilities to create different types of content,” he said. “A good example of this is in Showbie, you can record voice notes.” That’s useful for language teachers, Bramm says, and other features like access to the iPad camera will also make it easier for students to work directly in the Showbie app for a significant number of assignments.

Showbie started on the web, but early feedback has shown that more and more, users are looking at the iPad as the focal point of tomorrow’s digital classroom, and Bramm and team have responded accordingly. It’ll be interesting to watch as the product develops, with special attention paid to how various apps can work together to provide a comprehensive educational solution for both teachers and students.

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