Hillel's Tech Corner: TinyTap’s innovative way to limit children’s screen time

Time will tell how COVID-19 impacted our children’s education and whether those effects are reversible.

Children playing on TinyTap (photo credit: Courtesy)
Children playing on TinyTap
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Historians will analyze the year 2020 for generations to come, and if our current situation is any indication, they will label this year “The year that everything changed.”
Think about it. What has not changed in 2020? Work has fundamentally been transformed. Social interactions look nothing like they used to. Really, you can pretty much take any part of our 2019 routine and realize that in 2020, it is no longer the same. Education, of course, is no different.
Time will tell how COVID-19 impacted our children’s education and whether those effects are reversible. But one thing is for sure: Our kids are dependent on mobile and tablet devices now more than ever.
The amount of time children are spending on their devices in 2020 is unprecedented, which creates somewhat of a conflict. On the one hand, with no regular classes, this is how they learn. On the other, we know the effects of these screens on our brains when we spend too much time staring at them.
One way of handling this challenge is limiting the child’s screen time. A Tel Aviv-based start-up called TinyTap is taking a different approach to make the most of your kids’ screen time. Understanding that these devices are the means by which children communicate, learn and play, the company offers a way to leverage the time they spend on their devices to maximize independent home learning. TinyTap offers kids the opportunity to learn by playing games created by local teachers worldwide.
With this approach in mind, TinyTap takes the “school system” out of the learning experience and enables kids to learn directly from teachers worldwide, while teachers split the revenue and get paid for the games they create on the TinyTap platform.
On May 19, 2013, I had a very unique start-up experience. Two founders, Yogev Shelly and Oren Elbaz, came to my home town of Beit Shemesh. This wasn’t the first or last time a start-up founder came to meet me outside of Tel Aviv or Herzliya. This time, though, it was different. They weren’t coming to meet me. They came to meet my kids and have them try the TinyTap product to provide feedback.
My kids were eight and six years old then, and they did some fantastic due diligence. Fast forward seven years and TinyTap has grown significantly, pivoted their model a few times, and secured funding from some of the country’s top investors.
TinyTap was founded back in 2012, has raised over $9.5 million in venture funding, and won first place in the million-dollar Most Powerful Answers in Education Award from Verizon in 2014. The company has tens of employees in its Tel Aviv office. The latest round of funding was led by Israeli venture fund Aleph, with previous investors Radiant, Inimiti and ReInvent also participating.
WHAT IS TinyTap exactly?
It is a platform, available on both iOS and Android, that is used by teachers worldwide to create interactive educational games on their own, easily and for free without knowing how to code.
These games are shared in TinyTap’s Marketplace, and then accessed by learners or their parents through a monthly or yearly subscription. It currently has over 180,000 games in 24 languages.
“TinyTap was created out of my own personal needs. I wanted to help my dad, who was diagnosed with dementia, hold on to his memories by turning his family photos into interactive, personalized activities,” said TinyTap CEO Yogev Shelly.
“We quickly realized that TinyTap could offer a personalized learning experience for everyone. As a marketplace, we’re cutting out the dependency on a local education system. TinyTap gives parents the tools to teach their kids any subject at home and enables teachers, as content creators, to get paid for doing what they love the most.”
How big is this market? The United States education market was valued at around $1.35 trillion in 2017, and is expected to reach approximately $2 trillion by 2026. K-12 dominates that market, in which spending was over $700 billion in 2017.
According to TinyTap’s latest investor, Aleph, in a piece they wrote explaining the decision to invest, “TinyTap pivoted from selling to schools and teachers to selling teachers’ content directly to parents. The company added subscriptions in order to move faster and charge those who get direct value: the parents. In short, it flipped to a SaaS-based B2C company and succeeded.”
What is fascinating about this pivot is that the company transformed teachers from customers into partners. The company distributed over $300,000 to teachers in 2019 but its big opportunity arrived during Covid19 quarantine. While the education system was challenged and parents searched for other sources for home schooling, the company shared more than $50,000 with their teachers in less than two months.
There are stories of TinyTap’s partners, those teachers who are able to generate serious monthly income as a result of the learning games they created on the platform. One Israeli teacher who started creating on TinyTap less than a year ago, is now one of the top teachers on the platform and earns more than $1,000 a month for games created months ago.
Some of the subjects on the TinyTap platform include math, vocabulary, social skills, nature, and up-to-date subjects such as hygiene that are relevant anytime, but especially during the current pandemic. And games being added daily.
As I mentioned, TinyTap is also accessible on desktops so kids can learn using a desktop or laptop. Teachers can create games on an iPad. Soon, TinyTap will launch the ability to create games on the web as well.
According to the company, more than 12 million families worldwide have benefited from the platform, and the coronavirus has only accelerated its growth, for obvious reasons.
The bottom line here is, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Instead of trying to limit their time on devices, TinyTap ensures that children’s screen time is put to good use instead of it becoming an obstacle to their cognitive development.
The company’s mission is to change current educational method with the close cooperation of teachers, in order to help teach kids in their most common surroundings.