“Work on an app that you feel passionate about…You’ll be challenged every day, so you must be clear of your ultimate vision for the app and who will benefit from it.” – Marc Zimmerman, USA
In 2003, Marc Zimmerman’s two-year-old identical twin boys, Jared and Jason, were both diagnosed with autism. “From that moment on,” says Zimmerman, “I was driven to not only make a difference in the lives of my boys, but also across the entire autism community.”
By the time the twins entered kindergarten, Zimmerman and his wife Tina had successfully transitioned them into a mainstream classroom. Yet, Zimmerman says it became painfully obvious that both boys suffered a deficit in their social-emotional skills.
But, as with so many kids, technology seemed to interest them – at least initially. “When a therapist brought a laptop to the house, I immediately observed how the computer captured our sons’ interest and attention,” says Zimmerman. “I also noticed that the therapist’s dated software program didn’t keep the boys engaged for long. That was the ‘aha’ moment that inspired The Social Express™.”
Zimmerman’s goal was to design interactive, movie-quality animated learning programs that could help children with social and emotional learning challenges to improve their social skills and – ultimately – their lives. “I created The Social Express mainly to help Jason and Jared make friends,” he says. The Social Express is based on best practices and programs that feature cognitive behavioral techniques and visual strategies. The activities presented in the software adhere to California State Board of Education Content Standards and the Common Core Standards.
However, of chief significance to Zimmerman was understanding that while many children have autism, each child is still an individual who learns in his own unique way – including his twins. “Even though my boys are identical and they look exactly the same, there is a significant difference between the two of them,” he notes. “And when it comes to the Social Express, the good thing is that it covers a variety of skills. Jared was working more on conversations and Jason needs help at times with his emotional regulation and coping strategies. So the program offers a variety of skills that these kids need to learn and then be successful in social situations.”
Here is today’s Daily Edventure with Marc Zimmerman. Enjoy!
What makes The Social Express a successful app?
I realized that engagement was the key to learning success with educational applications. I determined that high-quality graphics were required to capture and retain children’s attention because they are so accustomed to Hollywood movie-quality animation, characters and music.
With help from family and friends, I self-funded the company and brought The Social Express to the market in November 2011.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to create education apps?
Work on an app that you feel passionate about. The world of being an independent app developer is much like launching a brand new product or startup company. It is a long and bumpy road. You’ll need to answer your “Why? Why am I doing this?” so many times. You’ll be challenged every day, so you must be clear of your ultimate vision for the app and who will benefit from it.
How have apps/mobile devices changed the way you view education?
The possibilities that mobile devices and educational apps open up have completely changed the way I view education. This is especially true for the Special Education K-8 students. Many of these children are visual learners. With advancements like Windows 8 and the flood of different devices now available to both schools and families, the potential is huge. Now kids can learn anywhere and anytime that they are motivated to review a lesson or start a new one. Parents can take the time to review lessons if a child needs extra time. The interactive and swiping features make mobile devices and animated learning programs indispensible for this generation of students.
For more information about The Social Express, click here.
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