Thursday, 17 January 2013

Team Thoughts: An interview with FrogTrade co-founder, Gareth Davies

What is FrogAsia all about? And why should you care? While we could point you to our website, we also want to tell you in our own words so you can get to know us just a little more. 

Gareth Davies, MD and co-founder at FrogTrade Ltd (UK) shares his insights and success stories of implementing Frog in schools. For more information on Frog, go to http://frogtrade.com/ 




How did Frog start out? 

When we started Frog, it wasn’t in education at all. We were building websites for small businesses through contact management software and we met a headteacher of a school through one of our resellers. They said, “If you made that work for schools, that would be very exciting.” So we spent the next 6 months modifying the software so it worked as a school Intranet, and it went on to about 5 to 6 years. We were building that up gradually, until about 2006 in the UK, people caught on to the things that we were doing.


What are the differences between the schools in the UK and in Malaysia? 

The differences between the schools in England and in Malaysia are a lot less than I thought it was going to be. It’s actually very similar. There are more devices and understanding of technology in England, but as human beings, we’ve got exactly the same opportunities and challenges. 

So in every school in England, there are a few champions that are really excited about technology and are pushing it, and then, there are some teachers who are frightened to death by the thought of getting involved in technology and are quite negative about it, and most people are in the middle. 

In Malaysia, is exactly the same. There are people who are really excited about the things that they can do in technology and there are people who are frightened of it. So is exactly the same. The 13 years we spend in England learning about this is very applicable to Malaysia because we’re all human and we’re all the same, aren’t we?


Describe an example of how Frog has made a difference in school. 

It’s been about 3 years ago now, when there was a teacher who found it really difficult to engage a class mainly of boys that were at the bottom set in science and he found out that a lot of them had an interest in rap music. So in his next lesson, he went onto Frog and he got some pictures of Eminem [and managed to tie it back to what they were learning]. 

About 4 weeks later, these guys were found in the library doing independent study because the teacher engaged them and had given them a lesson that had some kind of emotional connection to them as opposed to a sterile lesson. 

And I think that perfectly illustrates Frog. It allowed that teacher to do something creative and innovative without having to ask a technical person to do it for them. They had an idea, and the following morning, those children were in a completely different, more engaging experience.


What will Frog be focusing on moving forward? 

I guess the key thing is assessment. It’s about understanding where the children are. I spoke to headteachers in the UK and asked them, “If I could give you anything in the world, what would it be?” And they answered, “Well, I want to understand my children better.” 

There are a lot of things we’re doing in that direction; one is assessment, which is about understanding where they are academically, whether they are strong or weak and where they need help.


Describe Frog in 6 words. 

Creative control in the teacher’s hands.

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