Wizer is a fantastic free tool for creating simple digital worksheets that enable learners and teachers to do some pretty complex things. When I first discovered the tool a few months back I was really impressed by how easy it was to create really engaging blended learning content for class or homework, so it’s great to be able to publish this Q & A with Nira Mayorchik Sheleg the Co-founder & CEO.
When and why did you start Wizer?
I founded Wizer two and a half years ago. I have dual passions: education and technology, but I noticed teachers were not being well served by the technology industry. Most of the edtech solutions are clunky, rigid and uninspiring. I wanted to build something that would delight and inspire, something that would make teachers’ job easier and more effective. So I went back to my academic research on teacher cognition and found that all learning content can be broken down into a set of core elements. We set out to build a tool that would let teachers build their own digital learning content in a familiar and intuitive way.
What’s your elevator pitch?
Wizer is every teacher’s bridge to edtech; an easy way to update teaching materials and strategies to maximize the use of technology in teaching. The open platform lets teachers create and share their own original digital teaching resources.
Who is your ideal customer?
Any teacher, school, district or organization that wants to embrace technology in teaching.
You have a great collection of interactions that teachers can embed into their worksheets including fill the gaps, matching exercises, open questions and even audio recording, so what are you planning for the future?
In the near future we will be releasing: matching questions, partial points for questions and feedback for each individual question. We release updates and new features on an ongoing basis.
As a former language teacher, the audio recording activity sound really interesting to me. Could you explain how that works and how teachers can use it?
We originally designed the feature for students requiring text be read out loud to accommodate their learning needs. We wanted teachers to be able to easily record themselves reading a text out loud and have it available on-demand for any student. Then we discovered language, music and teachers of very young learners were also using the feature in interesting ways, for example:
- Listening comprehension: Recite audio text, then ask students to answer questions.
- Improving reading: Add audio file so students can listen to text as they read.
- Vocabulary and pronunciation: Pronounce new vocabulary words and recite examples of how they are used in sentences
- Spelling: Recite words and ask students to spell them in the answer box. Great way to prepare for spelling assessments.
- Accommodating auditory learners: Recite written texts, questions, answer choices.
- Music instruction and practice: Teacher can record notes, scales or phrases of music to help teach and assess, For example, record a chord and ask student to write the name of the chord.
- Keyboarding: Add audio recordings of spoken passages and ask students to keyboard the text.You can make a series of Wizer that gradually present longer, more difficult passages and increasing speeds.
What LMS features does Wizer have?
Wizer currently tracks time spent on worksheet, score and date of completion.
Are there any tutorials that can help teachers get started using Wizer?
Yes we have a range of blog posts and there are also some video tutorials on YouTube.
Do you attempt to control the quality of the materials which are shared communally through Wizer?
We believe in teachers and want Wizer to be a platform for teacher generated content. In the future, we may add more community quality control mechanisms. Just as Wikipedia has produced quality open-source information and replaced the old published encyclopedias, an open source platform for teaching content can reach the same level. We want to be the platform that makes that happen.
With any kind of community created content there is the potential for abuse. How do you monitor for this and is there any way user can report content or behaviour they feel may be abusive?
Any Wizer teacher can notify us of inappropriate content via the website or email. So far, we haven’t had any problems. As we continue to grow, we will develop reporting and controls as needed.
What’s the most important milestone you have achieved so far as a company?
Reaching over 45K users is obviously a huge milestone. The fact that we have already grown this big, without any marketing is particularly meaningful because it means teachers and technology experts are spreading the word themselves. For us, that is a strong validation that we are providing a valuable service that teachers need.
Can you share one point at which you feel you got something wrong and learned a valuable lesson from it?
As a Montessori teacher, I wasn’t focused on grades so we envisioned Wizer only as worksheets for practice time. But, many teachers also use our platform to prepare students for tests, so we added features for easy grading.
At the moment it looks like everything on wizer.me is free. Is that right and at what point and how do you intend to start making money to support the service?
Our current builder is completely free for teachers and students. Any teacher can create, assign and share as many Wizers as they wish. In the future more advanced features will be released and offered as premium paid services to the school or district. We intend to keeping our builder free.
Nira is an education and technology entrepreneur. Before founding Wizer, she founded and directed ‘Children’s Way” a Montessori school and ‘ShellEgg’ a tech startup and discovery platform for architects and interior designers. Nira’s research in Teacher Cognition inspired her to found Wizer, the first education technology company that starts with understanding how teachers think and work, then makes intuitive tools to enhance their skills.