Technology has been advancing at such a great speed in recent years that it’s been hard to keep up. From Kindles to iPads, evidence of these advances is all around us and you can pretty much find an app for anything you need to do. As these apps and new technologies progress, the courses follow suit and can be found everywhere, from specialist digital media schools like Academy Class or Silicon Beach, to regular FE colleges where you can combine your education in technology with other related subjects like business or mathematics.
As apps (for those not in the know, these are a type of computer software) seem to be the future, we wanted to find out more about them. We chatted to new technology entrepreneur, George Burgess, who founded his company, EducationApps, when he was just 17. The company creates apps for mobile platforms to aid students with revision and learning. Now 20, George continues to take the company from strength to strength, with recent collaborations with BBC Bitesize and other education publishers.
How does an app go from idea to reality? Tell us about the process…
This depends on the size and functionality of the app. When we come up with new app ideas we normally sketch them to begin with and then produce wireframes on the computer. We'll then pass these mock-ups onto a designer so that they can provide us with their own mock-ups and we'll then pass these onto our developer with details of how we expect everything to work.
Which computer programmes do you use in the process?
Personally, I like Balsamiq for wireframes. Our designers then use Photoshop to produce mock-ups. For actually coding the app, this depends on the platform. For Apple's iOS apps, a developer must code in X-Code. Android requires the Android SDK which can be installed into Java.
What did you have to learn before you started building your first Geography GCSE app in 2009?
Actually, not a lot. I found a freelancer who did the design and coding, I just did basic wireframes and ensured we had content being written. However, I learnt a lot on the go: how to manage freelancers, how to price apps, how to market them effectively etc.
What do you think it is about apps that make them a good revision aid?
One of the main features that students find very useful is that we require a user to set their exam board and course when they first open the app. This then tailors the content they have access to so they're only revising the relevant topics. Our explanations are also quite extensive and we often include links to additional reading, in case a user wants to learn more about a topic. We also care about the entire user experience - unlike a lot of apps, we spend a lot of time on the design.
Do you have any tips for people out there who are interested in building apps?
Give it a go! If you're interested in coding, it's easy to download Apple's X-Code or Android's SDK. Download them and start playing around. Otherwise, take the initiative and find a freelancer who can build your great idea.
You’ve accomplished quite a lot, despite being relatively young – have you found your age to be a help or a hindrance in the technology industry?
Mainly a help. I often find that publishers are simply intrigued to meet with us because they know how young I am. In a way it gets us a fair bit of attention.
How difficult is it, juggling education and your business? (George is still studying full time!)
Very difficult. I don't sleep much. It all comes down to time management and efficiency. Having always run small businesses alongside school, I've gotten quite good at this.
What’s coming up in the future for EducationApps?
We'll be launching a whole load of new apps, with content for a wide variety of new qualifications. We're also going to start adding additional tools to make them more useful in the classroom.
If you’re inspired by George and want to learn more about how to build apps, we have a wide range of courses focused on building them. Plus, we also list courses in Photoshop and Java, as well as other related subjects like Dreamweaver and HTML.
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