Education 4 Kids - Our History
The year was 1994, I was working at Electronic Data Systems with new technologies for our client Northrop (I had been working with "Internet technologies" since 1984 when I was an employee of Northrop, but in a different division). One day one of my clients, a Northrop employee, came and asked if I could talk to the PTA of his childs school about the benefits of the Internet.
To put things in perspective. In 1993 NCSA had just released their server and browser called Netscape. While there was a great potential for what was to be called the World Wide Web, at the time most people only knew the Internet as a way to trasfer documents via FTP, access documents via Gopher, communicate via threaded newsgroups across Usenet and the most common application, e-mail.
After having given many presentations at DECUS (The Digital Computer Users Society) I knew that being able to show something that would benefit the kids would be much better than attempting to explain how the children would benefit from the coming future. Thus began a three week search for something that I could "show and tell". The best word for those three weeks of effort would be futile. The sad fact was that there was nothing in 1994 that showed the potential benefits of using a browser to access information on the WWW. It was like looking for America before anyone had ever sailed out of sight from land.
As time was closing in, I knew that something would be needed so I wrote a simple Math Flashcards application in TCL (Tool Command Language) gave it a nice easy web-based front end and loaded it up on a domain I had. It was very simple and far from complete, but it showed the potential of user interaction at a student level with an application that could help the student.
I made the presentation to the PTA and was well recieved. And then I forgot about the application and left Math Flashcards 4 Kids sitting around with no thought about it. Six month later I got an e-mail from some college students who had found the application and wanted to make some suggestions on how to make it better. Thus began the formal process of creating a math flashcards program that finally came together in late 1995 and was rechristend and launched with addition, subtraction, mutiplication and division, and a way to set up the application with some ability to control the difficulty.
From 1995-1996 Education 4 Kids was Math Flashcards 4 Kids and it lived on the wwinfo.com domain (long since gone). At the time I noticed that the site was getting more traffic, and since things were going a tad slow in "real life" I decided to expand on the drill games concept and add a few more games. This meant that wwinfo wouldn't be the best place to host the site as it was meaningless, so I built the drill games (again in TCL), redeveloped the site amd relaunced it in July 1997 at edu4kids.com under the name Education 4 Kids on low cost shared servers from ICD in Hong Kong.
From 1997-2001 I continued to add and refine the drill games, and in 2001 we added the ability to "register for membership" and get access to more advanced drill games, while leaving some version of each drill game available for free. By this time I was a CTO at and Internet startup and Education 4 Kids wasn't doing much feature development. It was about this time that I started to hear from educators that they needed help finding items for their classrooms at competitive prices. But, as a CTO of what was then a struggling startup I didn't have the bandwidth to really investigate what I could do to help.
In December 2001 life told me to stop stressing as I had some minor chest pain that became an angioplasti. It seems that the treadmill of life in a stressful startup had finally pushed me to a point where I had to either take time out, or I was going to face the prospect of not seeing my kids grow up. Given the opportunity to re-evaluate my life choices before they killed me, I elected to get off the wheel and slow down. This led to me having enough time on my hands to investigate what educators had been asking for, a low cost way of getting the products they wanted and needed.
In 2002 I started investigating and by the end of the year I had found a way to get products to educators inexpensivly. Then I had to find the software that would let me do it on-line. By June 2003 all the pieces were in place and Education 4 Kids launched the store to join the 24 drill games. The drill games stayed on www.edu4kids.com, the store was relegated to the subdomain edushop.edu4kids.com. In August 2003 Education 4 Kids, Inc was incorporated in Nevada.
In late 2004 the traffic at both sites was getting heavier and there was no way that my inexpensive hosting could contain and manage what was becoming a large site. So, in January 2005 both sites were moved over to a server where they were the primary site. During this move the educational drill games were rewritten from TCL to PHP. The most popular games were rewritten, and the less popular were left with "coming soon" pages.
With the site move completed we decided to increase the number of items in the store from about 2,000 to about 7,000. Managing the increase meant less time writting drill games, so those "coming soons" stayed up and most of the focus went into generating a better store experience. In mid 2006 the drill game site stood at about the same place it was when the move was made, but the store had a more complete catalog, and was requiring more time to operate.
The reality was that the software that worked for the store when it was 2000 items just wasn't developed enough on the back end to allow it to grow to 7000 items without an exponential increase in management time. The only solution was to develop a better store application. Being a programmer by trade and a technologist by desire I knew that I wanted to make the entire process of buying easier and cleaner, but I also knew from the work I had taken on in managing the retail backend that the software would have to be more robust. The initial store was created with an open source code project called OSCommerce, but for the new store I would need much more. So, starting with a base of OSCommerce called OSCMax the new store software was developed.
In the process of redevloping the new store we added features that reduced back-end processing by almost 80%. We developed a new way and method to provide accurate shipping quotes for multiple carriers (one of the biggest headaches related to operating an on-line store). Better ways to associate common products (for example, when you look for one Quizmo game the product detail page lists all the rest and give yo the ability to add them directly to the store without having to jump to each product description page to do so) we added as well as bringing some new technologies like AJAX to the operation.
That brings us to today. July 2007. After a year of development based on actually having to use the store application the new store is launching with over 25,000 products. At the same time the structure of Education 4 Kids has been changed with the drill games moving to drill.edu4kids.com, the store staying on edushop.edu4kids.com and www.edu4kids.com becoming the gateway to both.
The current plan is to get the new store operating and flowing smoothly and complete the PHP application development of the missing drill games by December 2007. During this year we will also be growing the company adding our first non-family member employee to help support the growing store and also allow me to get back to the stuff I love to do, writing code and building drill games. In addition we hope to add a new application that will allow educators to build on-line quizes for kids (under a new subdomain) and we are working closly with EduCAD Learning Solutions to help get the EduCAD-ST product out the door so we can offer it to our membership base.
Through all of this I want to make sure that I thank the majority stockholders of Education 4 Kids, Inc. who have been patient while we have grown slowly (over 50% of the company stock is woman owned). I would also like to thank our users, members, consumers and the kids, who continue to make doing this a pure joy. I want to thank Dr. Frank Litvack, the doctor who saved my life and helped me refocus my priorities. But most of all I want to thank my great kids (and my wife), for they make every day a joy, a reason to live for, and a reason to be alive. Common wisdom says that parents are the teachers to their children, but I want to thank Brooke and Matt for being my teacher. For teaching me how to love the moments when we are together and for making those moments all so very special. When I was developing and adding drill games for the kids, I was doing so because I was adding drills that helped my daughter as she worked her way through elementary school. Her patience with me as I forced her to test these drills was endless and her suggestions were the stuff that helped make the drills better for others. But the really great part was throughout this I was "working" with my child, and after talking to many parents I have found that I was the real person to benefit as we have a fantastic close relationship and I can't think of a better way to spend my time than to spend it with her and her brother. While Dr. Litvack gave me the opportunity, my children gave me back my life.
So that's the history of the site, the company, and me, the guy who cranks out the code, reads the e-mails, answers the phones and writes those unprofessional pieces that show up from time to time. Back in the dark ages (1976) I went to school to be a teacher, but dropped out when I saw that society didn't recompense a teacher for the value that they added. Twenty years later I was back at my first love, working with technology to teach kids. Over ten years later I am still at it, and we plan on keeping this up and going for another 20 years as a family owned and operated business. Through the Internet boom and bust, from now and into the future, we won't be spashy, we won't be the latest and greatest bleeding edge technology, but we will be here to help you, the mom and dad, the educator, the parent and the teacher help the kids. For helping our kids is what this is and always will be about.