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Amazon Web Services (AWS) EdStart Members and founders—Jennifer Larson of SchoolBzz and Reva McPollom of Lessonbee—are changing the way that parents, teachers, and students interact with schools and in the classroom.
With SchoolBzz, the focus is on easing the parent-teacher load and changing the standard school communication model. With Reva, the focus is on modernizing how we approach “health” class and what it means to be healthy in the twenty-first century. For the first installment of the AWS EdStart Global Founders Series, read on to learn about how two EdTech founders are developing the next generation of education solutions in the AWS Cloud.
SchoolBzz’s cloud-based platform simplifies the school-home communication process
Jennifer Larson, founder of SchoolBzz, focuses on solving the school-to-home communication process to make it easier for parents to access the tools and resources to support their children at home. When her oldest child was in eighth grade and her youngest child was in kindergarten, Jennifer found she could not manage the many communications sent to her by teachers, principals, coaches, school nurses, after school programs, and district administrators. At one point, over 32 people contacted her on a weekly—sometimes daily—basis with communications related to her children’s care.
During this time, Jennifer began studying how parents wanted to receive information from educators. She learned that parents needed clear, concise, consistent, and synchronized information to effectively manage their children’s requirements. To respond in 2016, she launched SchoolBzz, a cloud-based company, to flip the traditional school communications model requiring parents to visit teacher websites, monitor emails, and reference messaging apps. She wanted to create a consolidated tool to enable parents to gain control over how and when they receive updates.
Without a technical cofounder or chief technology officer, it was critical for her to work with reliable technical teams along the way. So, Jennifer engaged with AWS EdStart.
“The AWS EdStart team has been extremely helpful in providing insights on our technology strategy and software architecture. We’ve worked directly with their technical program leader and solutions architects. We’ve been introduced to technical advisors and we’ve also used AWS IQ to find contractors,” she said.
ScchoolBzz currently uses AWS Lambda, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and Amazon Translate. With the help of contractors and AWS solutions architects, Jennifer integrated Amazon Translate into the build of the SchoolBzz learning management system (LMS) to enable multi-language support. This allowed parents to choose which language they want to receive classroom updates and assignment summaries. Jennifer is looking at expanding her use of machine learning-based language services with Amazon Polly, Amazon Comprehend, and Amazon Transcribe to support the accessibility needs of SchoolBzz customers. For additional information on how the SchoolBzz team is utilizing AWS technology, you can read their case study.
The SchoolBzz team is entirely remote and can find it challenging to connect with other entrepreneurs in the EdTech space. “The AWS EdStart team hosted numerous networking and educational events over the years. It’s given us an opportunity to share startup stories, challenges, and even opportunities. With COVID-19, we have some pretty big challenges to overcome to make learning accessible to everyone, everywhere, and we believe the AWS EdStart program is well positioned to serve as a catalyst for this collaboration. We feel fortunate to be part of the AWS EdStart community,” according to Jennifer.
Prior to joining AWS EdStart, two schools piloted SchoolBzz with 600 users, and the platform only offered English. Since migrating from another cloud provider to AWS, SchoolBzz provides support for 25 languages and expanded into 10 schools with over 5,000 users. Learn more about SchoolBzz.
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