The following is a guest post from Gerald Haigh.
In November 2013, Jade Mulders blogged here about developer Jamie Clarke and his ‘My Study Life’ app. A little later, at BETT 2014, I met Jamie for myself. We had a brief conversation while I was perched on something that I was uncomfortably aware was not a chair, and I attempted to tune my vintage hearing into our conversation against the background roar of that huge Excel Centre main exhibition hall.
It was something of a relief, then, to talk to him on the phone the other day, several months after that meeting, and let him update me.
Many people who talk and write about Jamie mention how young he is. I’m not sure that’s the main thing about him. For one thing, to me everybody else is young, so it’s no big deal, and in any case, since the arrival of apps, and tools such as Microsoft’s ‘TouchDevelop’, coders are getting younger all the time. Earlier this year in fact, Tim Bush blogged here about thirteen year old developer Ross Lowe.
No, the remarkable thing about Jamie is the way he saw a problem, converted it into an opportunity, and then set about developing a solution, using not only the skills he already had, but new ones that he gathered along the way. Jade’s blog describes how Jamie saw through the complexities of school life – departments using their own software solutions, paper planners used to plug gaps in functionality.
Most students and teachers, I guess, go along with the inadequacies of whatever structure they’re working within, taking it for granted, devising their own way of dealing with it, performing mental shifts and small feats of memory along the way.
Jamie wasn’t having any of that. He saw that he could provide, for students, on their phones, a single-access-point tool which would enable them to navigate their study life – at school and at home.
Jade’s blog describes, with basic technical detail, how Jamie created ‘My Study Life’ so that it can answer those basic questions such as,
‘What classes do I have today? Is it week A or B? When is that essay due? What should I be revising for that exam?’
You could actually go on at length describing the particular features of ‘My Study Life’, but the best thing is to take the online tour on the website or, better still, download the free My Study Life app and ask a student to live with it for a while. They’ll soon realise that it’s put together by someone who’s been in the real world of the classroom and understands the quirks and tricks of timetables, and the particular priorities of students, in a way that a general adult-world developer probably won’t.
As Jamie says,
“’My Study Life’ is completely aimed at the students. There are companies which try to deliver something similar, but they are targeted at the schools or the teachers. Nobody else is targeting the students and they are the ultimate customer.”
All that means, of course, that Jamie’s youth, which I glossed over at the start, probably does matter after all, but in the sense that it gives him an insider’s view of the problem. It’s the same principle as finding a nurse to develop software for running a hospital ward (have they tried that?).
In the end, the proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say, and ‘My Study Life’ has been consumed with gusto across the whole world. By early 2013, the app had 60,000 users at which point, says Jamie,
‘That’s when I knew it could be more than a hobby’.
By the time of our Bett 2014 meeting ‘My Study Life’ was updated on the web, Windows 8 and Windows Phone with a new design and new features. An Android app was also released. Growth has continued. An iOS app came in August 2014, and a version of ‘My Study Life’ for teachers is in private beta testing at the moment.
At the time of our call those 60,000 users of early 2013 had grown tenfold to 600,000. The geographical spread is global – Europe, Africa, America, Australasia, India and the Middle East which is astonishing given the variety of school systems and cultures involved, all of which Jamie’s team have worked hard to accommodate.
‘My Study Life’ will be at BETT 2015 in January as part of BETT Futures. You can find Jamie and his team on stand BFG9. Whether you’re a student, a teacher, a parent or just someone interested in a great story of development, enthusiasm and sheer entrepreneurial nous, you’ll find something there to enjoy.