BEIRUT: Thy name is Play My Way, a parent's best friend, is a locally bred mobile application that's designed to interrupt and override any other mobile application with a splash of educational content.
The learning process takes place in the form of multiple choice questions in the subjects of math, science or English – catering to an age range of 6 to 15 years-old – where the app will lock the device after a certain period of time and force the child to answer the question correctly if they wish to resume their game or video.
What makes the app stand out is the parents' ability to tailor questions to the appropriate grade level, along with deciding on the time intervals in which each question will pop-up and the subject they wish to test their children on.
"Play My Way is considered as a middle ground between the two radical stances of kids' use of handheld devices. One is stripping it away from them in an aggressive manner, while the other is just leaving it with them," Salma Jawhar, the app's co-founder told Annahar, noting that "Our application is seen as a way to harness and make the best out of the child's addiction."
The application also gives parents the freedom to choose between two modes of testing, the first being "pop-up question mode" where questions are asked on customizable multi-time frames, while the other being "quiz mode" where questions will be given at once in a form of a test.
The team has been working on the concept since 2015, initially starting out by crowdsourcing question content. They have a bank of over 25,000 questions and say they are negotiating with several suppliers to keep growing their educational content.
"We had an online portal for authors and reviewers where we crowdsourced teachers to create questions. Each question is reviewed twice by two different reviewers. We produce 4,000 new questions each month to be added to our database," says Jawhar.
Even if the child attempts to force close the application, on Android, a siren will go off on the phone while simultaneously sending an alert email to the parent informing them of the attempt. And if on iOS, the device would be bombarded with notifications that would make any game or video insufferable for any child to handle; sending an average of 67 notifications per minute.
The only way to quit the questioning process is by entering the password assigned by the parent.
"We are currently negotiating with Samsung, HP, and Lenovo to make Play My Way a built-in feature within their products," Jawhar told Annahar
As a handy tool, Play My Way offers insights and analytics for parents to help them accurately pinpoint their child's weak spots in terms of the material given.
"Play My Way is not a child's parent, however it is a tool for the parent to empower her child and make the best out of their time on hand-held devices," Jawhar said.
The app was launched in March 2016, and has around 70,000 users so far spread out between the MENA region and the UK, and was the second most downloaded educational application in the UK for three consecutive months – since they are a part of the acceleration program of the UK Lebanon Tech Hub.
It's currently free but the intention of the team is to monetize the app via in-game purchases and a monthly subscription that offers additional questions and analytics. After launching, the team was able to pull in $1 million from two angel investors for 10 percent of the company, according to Jawhar.
"No one can imagine the level of euphoria we were showered with once we got the investment money, which later gave birth to our team's signature 'happy dance' that we do whenever we receive good news," she said with a humorous sigh.
Play My Way is looking to expand within the U.S., France, and Canada to integrate their curriculum and maximize their reach, with a hope of reaching one million active users in the future.
It's possible the app might end up encouraging children to use their mobile devices less — given they'll be forced to do regular homework and be tested every time they decide to play.
But even if they remain as addicted to their phones and tablets as ever, the overarching aim is to have parents worry less by having at least some of their gadget playtime focused on targeted learning.
Play My Way is available on the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store.
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