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Firefly in conversation with BESA

Co-founders of Firefly, Joe Mathewson and Simon Hay, reveal how they support the education sector with their school learning tool

Posted by Lucinda Reid | March 27, 2018 | Technology

What challenges have you had to face when founding the company, seeing that you were two GCSE students at the time?

We built Firefly to solve a problem, it wasn’t intended as a business at first. However, we received a lot of encouragement and support from our teachers. We built a tool that our fellow students and teachers found genuinely useful. Soon word spread and we were in neighbouring schools talking about and selling Firefly.

It became increasingly challenging as we were juggling university and jobs, with an ever-growing Firefly user base. Eventually we couldn’t manage Firefly on the side anymore, so we quit our jobs in the city. In the beginning we had to be jack of all trades, but also started the exciting process of building a Firefly team - most of our early members are still with us today!

Why is parental engagement an integral part of the Firefly offer?

It’s well understood that establishing a strong home-school partnership enabling parents to be involved in their child’s education is a key part to improving learning outcomes. We recognise the benefits and enthusiasm that both schools and parents have to be involved in the learning journey, such as a go-to place for them to see their child’s tasks or homework, learning resources, as well as to be kept up to date with school news.

Also bringing together teachers, students and parents makes learning more transparent, keeping everyone on the same page, this is certainly in part a reason for the popularity of our Firefly for Parents app.

You are organising the Firefly Expo on 2nd May, to gather education experts but also artists. Why is it important to you to bring together people coming to the education question from various angles? What are you expecting to come out of the discussions?

We want to champion today’s educators, and give them a forum to talk and explore and be inspired, while also getting lots of practical value from trying out the latest educational technology. Our speakers have been carefully chosen as people who have had impact or unique and compelling experiences within the education landscape.

Ed Balls, former Shadow Education Secretary will be reflecting on his time in office, changes he was directly involved in, as well as his view on how politics and education will intersect moving forward. Dame Kelly Holmes has been an advocate for education with her sports education programme. She will be discussing the tangible side of her work in education and her experience in supporting children to get into sports.

We also have Suli Breaks, a spoken word artist who has drawn in millions of views on social media with his content looking at how he feels looking back on school - given our audience, some of his views will be controversial, and we hope to stir up debate. Moreover, we think it will be a fun, inspiring day, in a great location with some really exciting people.

The Firefly Expo will also be particularly looking at the future of edtech; why is this important?

It’s no secret that education and technology are evolving fast. At the Expo, we will have a bunch of new technology, such as 3D pens, interactive smart-tables and AR and VR, with the purpose of demonstrating what they are currently offering or could offer education.

We know that ultimately what’s adopted and what’s rejected will be up to the teachers and school leaders, and so our aim is to let all our attendees play and learn, and leave what they decide to do next up to them.

How does Firefly ensure its product gets used in schools, and helps improve educational outcomes?

At Firefly, we think it comes back to the basics - have an intuitive and genuinely useful product. This means our team works hard to evolve Firefly in line with school needs, and ensuring that teachers have easy access to what they want and need.

Once a school is part of the Firefly family, you’ll be well supported - we offer training courses both online and in school, and we have the Firefly Learning Community where you can discuss topics with other teachers using Firefly.

For more information, visit:

Academy Today is an approved member of British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).  

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