Gal Wertman is redesigning education
Gal Wertman is redesigning education
Here’s a classic dilemma: sequential or hyperlinked? I’m talking about educational content – should it be presented sequentially (i.e., chapter by chapter, page by page), or hyper-textually – like the thought process of many first-graders before the world was introduced to Ritalin? Should we set free the student’s spirit of curiosity, and let it boldly but randomly explore content, or should we restrict it to a predefined path? Gal Wertmans’ application provides a third, unusual answer: why not both?
Most entrepreneurs have a technological or marketing background, but Gal Wertman’s main expertise is design, and specifically functional design. As chief editorial designer of Israeli newspapers/websites Ha’aretz and The Marker over some years, Gal has designed many print pages which I leafed through, and – more recently – Gal was the UX designer behind the publishing group’s content applications, released as part of a strategic move to the digital domain. Ha’aretz international iPad app designed by Gal was selected by Apple as a ”featured app” in the iTunes App Store. Ha’aretz applications tackled the elusive challenge of monetizing – to the point where they are now marketed as a premium subscription independent from, and unavailable to print subscribers. I follow such details because I keep an eye on the online strategy of news media in Israel, especially Ha’aretz which I worked for (but not concurrently with Gal).
From here, the expected narrative could be this: shortly after leaving Ha’aretz, Gal became a tech entrepreneur and launched his first product. But with a twist or two – first, Gal is focused not on general “tech” but specifically on Ed-Tech, and that’s why his first product is an educational app titled “The Cell Story”. Secondly, Gal’s project is not an application but an app-generating authoring platform intended for the creation of educational apps. Textrayz, as Gal’s Ed-Tech platform is called, gives content owners and creators templates and layouts to semi-automatically produce unique educational apps from text, Illustrations, videos, hyperlinks, timelines, and supplementary materials. “The Cell Story”, an educational app, is a demo of what could be done with the platform. Once created, such apps can be marketed by content owners/creators under their own branding in the available app stores. The company’s future vision includes opening their own marketplace of “Textrayz Classes”.
What is different in these educational apps? To begin with, they offer students a quality content navigation experience, with smoothness on par with gaming standards and designed according to guidelines of national curriculums. This is achieved with little effort on the side of the teacher or content owner. I also liked that Textrayz builds its apps as a sequence of interactive “cards”, a bit like the mythological Apple app Hypercard (see a previous post – Hebrew only). Hypercard was unique in that one could navigate the cards through hyperlinks, card after card, or alternatively jump to “remote” cards using hyperlinks. In that sense, the product is a hybrid between an e-book and an interactive presentation. A student chooses how deep he or she wants to “jump in”, by either diving into the educational content or just hovering over the first layer of info.
Now, mostly, when I hear developers talk about personalizing their apps to different personality types, ages, etc. – it makes me groan. “Personalization, again?! It’s so 1995!”. I’ve seen personalization heralded as a paradigm shift more than once, and it never quite delivered or wasn’t as exciting as it was expected to be. Textrayz seems to tackle the problem professionally, and the name of that profession is UX. If I was Gal (and his partner Yonatan Elimelech de-Wolff), I would consider registering some patents. Who knows? With a bit of luck, this might be another Hypercard – a simple software, almost too simple, but one which contributed to a huge change – it introduced us to the idea of “navigating” content.