Friday, September 19, 2014

Positioning FastFig Globally

Here at FastFig we think it’s essential to keep up with the everchanging world of edtech and reassess our value within the complex global system. We are doing our best to keep up with edtech news and align our product with the needs of math educators around the world.

In order to do that,  we are taking a step back and analyzing the relevance of FastFig in a global context. We’re asking: if the meaning of education varies so vastly throughout the world, is it possible to build a universally viable edtech tool?

Let’s forget about computers, ipads, and smartphones, and go back to educational technology in the stone ages. The most simple stone tools responded to basic human necessities.

Need to eat? Learn to hunt: stone axe, bone harpoons, wooden spears, etc.

Need to carry objects?  plant woven baskets, and clay pots came along
Need to record information? Carving tools are created

The basic idea that learning tools respond to needs is unchanging.

Fast forward to 2014. Within the sphere of education it seems that human needs are changing with incredible speed. When we focus on needs in math education (like we tend to do at FastFig) these needs get even more complex. In some countries, access to graphing calculators is a top priority. In other places, a pencil and paper  is considered the most necessary tool for learning math. Here’s our assessment of universal needs within math education:

-People need to understand math using numbers and symbols
-People need to communicate math using a computer

We continue to work on sharing FastFig globally because it bridges these two universal needs. We’re currently working with students in 120+ countries and continue to expand our reach.

Read more about our global initiatives in our recent press release here.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What We're up to Lately..

Summer is in full swing and here at FastFig we are staying true to our name and movin’ on forward… fast! Here’s a little peek into what we’re working on...

Building our Staff: Welcome to our two new interns Sharon and Evan! Sharon, our Communications and Growth intern is working to amp up both our online and offline presence in the edtech community. Evan, our development intern is coding up a storm, working on everything from mobile device optimization to future products!

IMG_2366 - Version 3.jpg

FigPad, coming soon: Get ready, get set, FigPad is almost here! Our dev team has been working hard to release FigPad. ‘scratch paper’ for online math and engineering exams. So what’s the big deal? Currently in the online math testing industry there is no efficient way to capture math students’ thought processes.  Many students are asked to literally rip up their scratch paper in front of a webcam to assure that there are no stray copies of a test. FigPad creates a new level of security for math testing. Student work is captured, saved, and locked/hidden for later review. 

Connecting with Teachers: This summer we are talking to educators to learn more about how FastFig is used, and how it can be used more effectively.  Have you used FastFig? Let us know how you think it’s best used in the classroom. 

and as always, follow us on Twitter @fastfig - we love connecting to the edtech community via Twitter!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Power of Learning Tools for Girls in STEM

July 3rd marks the start of the International Math Olympiad. As math fanatics around the world amp up for the so-called World Cup of Mathematics, a looming concern exists: Less than 10 percent of IMO participants are female.  How can we bridge the gender gap in STEM fields?

For the past several years, this concern has surfaced over and over again in international dialogue regarding education, international development, and women’s rights. While it has become obvious that employment in STEM fields is essential for global economic development, girls and women are increasingly underrepresented. In a US study on women in STEM, researchers found that in the past 29 years the percentage of young women earning computer science degrees has dropped from 37% to 18%. This is a small but telling anecdote of the issue.

Edudemic, a maven in online edtech know-how puts it well: “how do we get more girls interested in STEM subjects and get them feeling confident that they can rock out in awesome, fun, high-paying, important and interesting careers that are still largely dominated by men?” Innovative leaders around the world are tackling this issue from many angles. Many organizations aim to create female focused events and competitions. For example, on June 23, 2014 Chelsea Clinton hosted From STEM to Success, an event focused on encouraging girls to enter STEM fields. Others promote solutions like STEM mentorships and STEM camps. Here at FastFig, we are passionate about embracing STEM learning tools!

In the spirit of inspiring learning tools, here are 4 tools that are rocking the STEM game for girls:

1. Roominate:  “Buildable Dollhouses for Girls” What a genius rethinking of dollhouses!

2. Engineer Girl  an easy way for girls to connect directly to professionals in STEM fields

3. Sci Girls social network for girls with STEM interests

4. Design Squad a lively series of STEM games and how-tos

In the coming months our team at FastFig plans to continue our efforts to promote and encourage girls in STEM! Ideas? Let us know:

Follow us on Twitter for updates on these efforts!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Fresh FastFig for the New Year

Today we're very excited to release a brand new version of FastFig with some great new features for you to enjoy.
  1. A Fresh New Interface — You'll immediately notice FastFig looks completely different. We listened to your feedback and switched the notebook interface to a traditional file tree system.  Don't worry, all of your documents are still there, they are now in a folder under the name of the notebook.  Plus, making new documents and adding folders has never been easier.
  2. Photo Editing — We integrated the  Aviary  photo editor into FastFig so that you can edit pictures right in FastFig.  You can add effects, create borders, crop, resize, rotate, adjust brightness and contrast and much, much more!
  3. Videos — We heard from many of your that videos would be a great addition to a FastFig document and we agree!  By clicking the video button in the toolbar, you can add YouTube, Vimeo, and TeacherTube videos! You can use this for lesson videos, instructional videos or just plain fun videos.
  4. Greek Letters — We added a full set of greek letters to the keyboard, just click the Σ button in the upper left of the keyboard header or swipe all the way to the right on mobile.   Pro-tip:  You can type the names of greek letters into an equation and they will automatically convert to their symbol.  If you capitalize the first letter it will be uppercase, if you don't it will be lower case. i.e. "Delta" becomes Δ and "delta" becomes δ.
  5. FastFig Web Embedding — You can now easily embed FastFig document in your own website, blog or anything that supports HTML embeds.  All you have to do is hit the share button in the top right of the toolbar and click "Embed" and copy and paste the HTML code into your webpage or blogging software.
Thanks so much to all of our users for providing the feedback that made this possible!

Take a look:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Software as a Product: Behind the Switch to FastFig Notebooks

The end of summer has been one of change for FastFig's interface. We've revamped not just the look and feel of the program, but the way our customers buy it and what they own when they buy.

On the consumer side, FastFig moved away from the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, and allows users to buy notebooks of pages on which to take notes and do assignments. Given how just about every software revenue model in the world has moved toward getting some type of recurring monthly fees, we understand this might come as a surprise. Here's why we zagged rather than zigged:
  • Customers - We follow the customer development practice of listening. A lot. What we heard from customers was that individuals use FastFig in a number of ways, but they preferred to pay for what they used, rather than a monthly fee. The more we thought about it, the more sense this made. People have been buying notebooks for a very long time, and the one-time purchase is a model with which they're comfortable.
  • Access - We wanted to make sure that everyone had access to FastFig functionality on every device, no matter the level of usage. Restricting that based on payment tier seemed against our greater mission of becoming the standard way math communication is handled. So now everyone can get all of our individual functionality for free to use, and can buy more as they need.
  • It didn't reflect our value or our values - It's great for a business to have recurring monthly income, regardless of whether the customer is using the product or not (just ask my Netflix account). And, if the business is mostly providing storage (like iCloud or Dropbox), that makes sense, since the customer is almost always using it. But FastFig is a primarily a tool, and so pricing it like a service felt a little off. This way, customers only pay for what they use.
Of course, those were some of the more philosophical reasons. As with all things, there were some practical considerations as well that had to do with our business.
    • Virality - By treating the pages in the notebooks as the purchased item, we give ourselves the flexibility to drive behavior by rewarding customers with more pages. The same way Dropbox can give you a few extra megs for tweeting about them, we can reward sharing and payment with concrete things that have a real value to users.
    • Separating markets - Schools and firms that use FastFig in more structured settings can still get licenses for expanded use that incorporates student information systems, teacher dashboards, and unlimited usage; for them, the monthly/annual license structure makes sense.
    • Retail - As retailers look to move more into the digital realm, hybrid products that can be sold online or in stores are becoming more sought after. By selling notebooks, we can create packaging that works on store shelves, helping increase our brand awareness and develop relationships with strategic channel partners (and saving customers from having to buy a calculator!).

    Some concept work for FastFig retail packaging
    As we charge forward into the school year, we're excited to have a more robust and customer-friendly product for both individuals and organizations. It's been a summer filled with lots of work, but we think it's been well worth it, and we can't wait to get more students and teachers involved in using FastFig.