By Sarah Carnvek
The new school term is just around the corner and that means essays, assignments and research papers are heading the way of high school and college students. But pupils in the United States need not cringe. There's a new Israeli application that helps do homework more effectively.
It's called sCoolWork
– a play on the words “cool” and “schoolwork” – and it has been labeled by opinion leaders as an app with "the potential to substantially influence how people in general, and students specifically, process information."
The app was developed in Israel by two fathers who wanted to help their children get better grades.
There are dozens of programs offering aid in writing essays and organizing homework. But Alex Dayan, a father of three boys and founder of Skills & Knowledge
– the company behind sCoolWork – says that he came up with the idea when he couldn't find one product that guides, edits, has a built-in content search engine and formats like sCoolWork does.
Screen shot from Israeli software tool that helps students write better papers.
The developers of sCoolWork intend to donate the product those who
cannot afford to buy it.
"It's like a stepping stone. A student looks at a blank MS Word document and he doesn't have a guiding tool," explains Shachar Tal, vice president of marketing at Skills & Knowledge. "We add stepping stones; we provide a prompt wizard. Learning how to write becomes a lot easier."
At the end of July, the Israeli team took its app to New York's #140edu event headed by Jeff Pulver and Chris Lehmann.
"I was amazed by the positive feedback we got," says Tal, noting that educators and school boards expressed interest in the program.
"sCoolWork is a great app for any student who is tasked with writing research papers in the MLA, APA or Chicago style format. These formats can seem overwhelming at times for newer students, and this app helps walks these students through the process of setting up their papers and not getting marked down for something as ‘irrelevant’ as a formatting issue," an AppAppeal
Not a cheating tool
Students who think sCoolWork will do the work for them are mistaken.
"It doesn't do the work for you," says the 37-year-old Tal, who is expecting his second child. "We made sure, in choosing features and designing the program, that it would be total aid."
The app "gives hope to struggling students, making the already hard work they're facing easier, and enabling them to focus on learning and developing their skills," says Dayan, 46, who also serves as the company's CEO.
That sCoolWork is made in Israel – where English is not an official language – hasn't surprised anyone. "The idea here is the technology," Tal says.
Dayan founded Skills & Knowledge – and came up with the idea for sCoolWork app – in 2010. Tal joined in the summer of 2011. The young company quickly attracted attention and the official launch of sCoolWork was scheduled for October 2012.
Registration for the free beta edition hit "four-digit numbers, and all by word of mouth," says Tal. "We're evolving as we go along. We're bettering the product all the time."
An app for all languages
Realizing their app is highly innovative, Dayan and Tal have big plans for their two-year-old startup, which is still considered a “garage” company as they and five freelancers each work from home.
Once the English-language version hits the marketplace, they plan to start work on Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Russian and Hebrew versions.
In the meantime, Tal and Dayan are hoping their Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign
will raise additional capital for the app's launch and perhaps interest investors as well. Most of sCoolWork has been funded thus far by Dayan.
The app is expected to cost $40-$80. Those who donate $100 on Indiegogo get a lifetime subscription. "If you were bold enough to support us when there's nothing but a beta version – which is about five percent of what sCoolWork will be – and give us $100, we want you with us for life," explains Tal of the unusual offer.
They're also eyeing the business arena. Skills & Knowledge recently introduced a new application called SkillWork. It's an all-in-one software tool for researching and creating scientific and business papers in a way that optimizes users' time and improves the overall quality of the document.
"SkillWork is an extension of the same technology for the business sector. It will have a lot of surprises," says Tal, a veteran business development specialist who has worked with the likes of the World Bank, Motorola, Carrier and Teva. "SkillWork has a potential of revolutionizing this massive market."