I’ve been following the work of Mark Barnes for quite a while (I highly recommend following ‘Teachers throwing out grades’ group on Facebook) and was very happy when he got in touch with me recently to discuss a new app that he was developing.
The whole idea of ‘Hack Learning‘ was instantly appealing, and I’m happy to say that, now it has become available, Mark has agreed to answer a few questions about the app and how it came into existence.
What inspired you to create this app?
I created an education book series called The Hack Learning Series, books that solve problems with simple ideas. While working on the first book and planning others, I started looking for ways to spread the word about Hack Learning. I watched a webinar about how publishers can deliver content directly to readers, in an unconventional way, with a mobile app. I reached out to a developer, and before I knew it, the project was under way.
How easy was it to develop the app?
Anyone can do it, if you have the right people behind you. There is a ton of engineering behind any app, and you need experienced coders. The hackers behind the Hack Learning app are from a company called Papertrell. They specialize in making apps for book publishers and other content providers. I basically told them how I wanted the app to function and they made it happen. They code the app, but I add all of the content and do most of the graphic design. I can add a video or podcast to the app in about an hour, depending on how much time I spend on graphic design.
What exactly can people find on the app?
The goal is to deliver amazing content that is both educational and inspirational, and even though I’m an author, I know that not everyone wants to absorb content through books. So, Hack Learning provides multiple paths to learning. The app has feature length books, short format books, how-to videos, podcasts, and brief articles. It is rich with beautiful graphics and media. It has the best of all content delivery worlds.
What do you expect to be adding to the app in the future? How will you develop content further?
There is new content every week. I spend a great deal of time now on acquisition. I talk to authors, bloggers, podcasters, and screencasters about their projects. When I see something that is a good fit for the Hack Learning audience, I approach the producer about the possibility of adding it to the app. All of the Hack Learning Series books will be on the app—the first is coming later this summer. The second this fall. We’ve got the Join Up Dots podcast—one of the most popular inspirational shows on iTunes. We’ve got Talks with Teachers and we recently added KQED Public Radio podcasts, and I’m always looking for new podcasts to add. The site is all about variety. There are some marvelous books coming from some big names in education and inspiration later this year and early next year.
Where can we find the app?
Hack Learning is in both the Apple and Google app stores. The easiest way to find it, though, is to go to HackLearningApp.com. It contains info about the app and direct links to the store of your choice.
What advice do you have for teachers thinking about making their own apps?
Find the right people to help you do what you don’t know how to do. A legitimate, interactive, beautifully designed app like Hack Learning doesn’t happen with some do-it-yourself toolkit. It takes smart developers, graphic design expertise, plenty of time, and great content. Running an app with thousands of users is a big job. It’s exciting and fun, but it’s not easy.
Many thanks to Mark for taking the time to talk to us.