Interview | Steve Kaye Offers You Some eInstruction

eInstruction® was founded in 1980 by Dr. Darrell Ward. Under Ward’s leadership, eInstruction pioneered the use of student response systems in education with the creation of a handheld student response system called CPS™ (Classroom Performance System). In 2006, eInstruction acquired FSCreations, creators of ExamView®, and worked with educators and publishers to offer seamless integration between CPS and ExamView publishers’ content and question banks. To expand their offerings, eInstruction acquired Interwrite Learning, inventors of the Interwrite wireless tablets, in 2008. Since its inception, eInstruction has continued to collaborate with the education community to pioneer innovative solutions that help energize, engage and assess students in learning. Their technology is used by millions of students, teachers, and professors in 500,000 K-12 classrooms and more than 1,000 higher education institutions around the world. Before joining eInstruction in 2006, Steve Kaye served as President & CEO of Centice Corporation, a venture-backed optical sensor manufacturer spun out from Duke University. He previously worked at CIENA Corporation as a vice president of corporate development. Steve first joined Interwrite Learning, now part of eInstruction, as an applications engineer. He holds U.S. patents for inventions in the education, health, and computer fields, including a mobile whiteboard and collaboration system now used by over 250,000 teachers in 40 countries. As president and CEO of eInstruction, Steve talks about a college professor who inspired him (for all the wrong reasons) to build a better product; the relevance of pay phones; what more than 90 percent of educators prefer, and what’s in his DNA that might be good for you.

Victor: What’s the name mean?

Steve: eInstruction simply means “electronic instruction.”

Victor: What sort of formative experiences in your own education helped to inform your approach to guiding eInstruction’s business? 

Steve: I had a college professor who recited from a textbook in his hand, which of course, he authored. Every day, he stood at the front of the classroom, with his foot propped up to support the book. He barely moved. He rarely asked us questions or invoked any student engagement. Except for the occasional chalkboard scribble, he rarely used any other teaching materials, and he was oblivious to the fact that we were all totally lost.  My classmates and I had to learn the materials outside of class, through our own efforts, which involved lots of pain and suffering.

This model of instruction is exactly what eInstruction tries to avoid. As we develop new products and classroom solutions, I never forget that professor and the disconnect between the teacher and students in that class. We strive to ensure eInstruction products foster a collaborative and interactive learning environment.

Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days? 

Steve: It is more important than ever. The most educated work forces will win in the global economy. We’ve been saying it for years, and it’s still true.  

Victor: How does eInstruction address some of your concerns about education?

Steve: Our mission is to help educators drive academic progress every day. As we succeed in our mission, we help students and teachers succeed. We improve the connection between student and teacher. That’s where the rubber meets the road. We improve that connection by providing a technology solution that enables teachers to easily “check for understanding” during instruction. This is otherwise referred to as formative instruction. eInstruction is a pioneer in applying technology to this well-accepted pedagogy.

Victor: What types of products comprise your portfolio?

Steve: eInstruction offers educators a family of hardware, software, content and support designed to help teachers teach and raise student achievement through interactive engagement, collaboration and real-time formative assessment. Our product line is comprised of the CPS family of formative assessment and student response systems, Mobi mobile interactive whiteboards, fixed interactive whiteboards and ExamView Assessment software and content.

Victor: Which product(s) are you focusing on most prominently today?

Steve: We continue to develop ways that our product suite can work together in a collaborative system. Our CPS student response system aids in formative assessment. Our Mobi mobile interactive whiteboard encourages mobility and collaboration. Our ExamView provides standards-aligned assessments. These three products provide content, instruction and assessment, and when used together they create a very powerful system.  

Victor: What does it do? What are the benefits?

Steve: Our CPS system is a student response system that students use to respond to both in-class and exam questions. The most important thing that it does is make it easy for teachers to check for understanding [conduct in class assessments during instruction] without losing instructional time or having to do extra work. The feedback gained can be immediately used to guide the teacher’s instruction, identify struggling students and pin-point where help is most needed.

Our Mobi is a mobile interactive whiteboard. It is a handheld device that has all the capabilities of a fixed interactive whiteboard, but it allows a teacher to be 100 percent mobile in the classroom. Mobi also offers full-lesson control throughout the classroom with its one-of-a-kind touch screen. The product is fully integrated with the CPS response systems, so teachers receive student response data instantly on the Mobi’s screen.

These products create an environment where students simultaneously work together and learn from each other, teachers instantly assess and re-teach as needed, and everyone is free to interact for a higher level of learning and collaboration for greater student progress. This results in truly engaging lessons and impactful instruction. 

Victor: When was it developed? Anything interesting or relevant about its development history?

Steve: Mobi first launched in 2009, since then, we have continued to develop the product and its integrations further, based on what we hear from our customers. It all started with a vision for making instructional technology easier to use.  That’s far easier said than done.  Believe me. But we’ve achieved it.

Victor: Where did it originate and where can you get it now?

Steve: Our products have evolved over time. Initially, we offered an Interwrite tablet, which was a very basic version of what eventually became Mobi. We conduct independent studies and gather teacher and administrator feedback on an on-going basis, and in January we’ll launch something very exciting, which is also based on those premises. Our current suite of products can be purchased through an eInstruction authorized sales agent.

Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?

Steve: Currently, our most robust mobile interactive whiteboard, Mobi View, is available for $449. Our original Mobi can also be purchased for $349. Student Mobis, called Learners, can be purchased at $299. Our CPS student response systems vary by set number and model, but cost anywhere from $795 to $2895.  A building license for ExamView costs $799.

Victor: What are some examples of it in action?

Steve: Imagine a classroom where a teacher moves freely around the room, and is not restricted to the chalkboard, computer, or even keyboard. She continuously delivers lesson materials—accessing PowerPoints, websites and documents, directly from her Mobi View.  At the end of the lesson, she can show students standard-aligned questions using our ExamView Assessment Suite, and students immediately answer the questions using the CPS student response pads. The last piece of the process is that the teacher sees immediately, right on her Mobi View screen, how well each person in the class understands lesson material.

This combination of assessment, content and instruction is incredibly powerful.

Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it not for?

Steve: Ideally, our products are best for grade levels K-12, in all subject areas. We’re continuing to develop technology that is purpose built for the classroom to facilitate best teaching practices, so eInstruction isn’t best suited for the corporate setting.

Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services?

Steve: Ease of use is something eInstruction strives for with its classroom solutions.  But more than that, the teacher can capture private, actionable feedback from her students that she can use immediately during that class period to drive learning. Mobi is easy and fun to use.  And students love it because they, too, get immediate feedback on how they are learning.  They are directly engaged.

Mobi is often compared to a fixed interactive whiteboard, however, Mobi is the only product of its kind that delivers such a sophisticated level of content delivery and view into student comprehension, all from a mobile device.

Victor: Why is eInstruction putting such an emphasis on mobile technologies?

Steve: When was the last time you used a wall-hanging pay phone with the curly cord that connected the handset to the phone? Everyone prefers to be mobile. Teachers are no exception. We believe that the days of hanging an interactive whiteboard on the front wall of the classroom are numbered. With the advent of mobile interactive whiteboards, for example, there’s no reason to hang a fixed whiteboard on the wall forcing students to stare at the back of the instructor’s head during a lesson. Mobi does all of the same things (plus a lot more) for far less money… and we know budget is something every district is concerned about these days. More than 90 percent of teachers and administrators surveyed prefer to be mobile or prefer their teachers to be mobile when teaching.  Needless to say, we are passionate about providing teachers mobility.

Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of eInstruction? What makes you say that?

Steve: eInstruction pioneered the use of technology for formative instruction. It’s in our DNA. We believe this is what we do best.

——-

Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of EdTech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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