An Educational Paradigm Shift

Suppose you are looking for a tutor for your child. Maybe you need a remote online school alternative, a home school program, or a math tutor. Is finding music lessons, a STEM after-school program, a chess club, or a summer camp on your to-do list? Ever thought a gap year opportunity would be an excellent experience for your child but just never had the time to spend researching the options? Then, iSPY Education is for you. It’s where everything you could possibly need related to education is just waiting to be found.

My Story

My name is Karen, and I am part of the founding team at iSPY Education. For years, I have worked with creative small business owners. I help them communicate who they are and what drives them to want to improve the lives of their customers. When I work with a new client, I always start with the same question. What’s your story? 

Here’s my story. I was a motivated kid who had big dreams, so I, like many, moved to New York City and made a career for myself. I knew what I was good at. I loved to work; I loved it so much that it didn’t feel like work. I’d “made” it, and life was good. And for the record, my aspirations didn’t involve working in education. 

We have two boys. We’re the kind of parents who have embraced learning toys. We’ve fed their little minds just as we did their bellies. We showed our kids how important learning is, and they both became good students because of it. We moved from Brooklyn to Maine just as our oldest completed 2nd grade. At that time, our youngest was a kindergarten graduate from our blue ribbon school, and I was already working primarily from home. We were not the adventurous NYers we used to be. We yearned for a simpler life – a life where our kids could be kids a little longer. So we packed up and left our city life.

It is here where my passion for education grew. Though we’ve had some exceptional teachers, our new school’s goal seemed very different from what we had known and remembered when we went to school. The more I spoke to friends around the country, the more I realized that many parents were experiencing what we were. 

Watching our boys sit in a classroom full of kids performing below or well below the grade average stirred a calling in me. I repeatedly asked what the school (the district, the school board) would do about below grade-level performance. I was told, along with academics, our schools are also keeping the kids safe, feeding the kids, teaching the kids to be kind, and making sure the kids stay healthy. I get it. School is complicated. For them, school was not just about academics. But, where did that leave us? 

We’ve all read those articles about how 1/3 of our jobs will disappear by 2030 due to automation. I was wondering how our kids were going to prepare for this future? Yes, we could have put our kids in a private school. However, adequately preparing my child for a promising future shouldn’t be a problem in our nation’s public schools. So if my kids were not being challenged in school, I wanted to figure out what I could do as a parent?

Then came the Pandemic.

We all did our best to get through those late winter/spring months of school. When we returned to a hybrid school model in September of 2020, we were disappointed with the solution our school had found for replacing the 6th grade advanced math teacher. We had no other choice than to step in to find a better solution.  

I was relentless – researching on the internet for days, calling online education providers, looking into homeschool options, and asking just about everyone we knew for advice. Exhausted, we finally found a recently retired, middle school math teacher who agreed to be our Zoom math teacher.

Our problem was not finding online education programming. There was no bottom to the well of educational programming, tools, apps, services, self-paced classes, instructional videos, and educational products. But, unfortunately, what didn’t exist was one place where I could simply search for what we needed and where we could easily make sense of the options. 

iSPY Education

Remember how much time it took to find the best flight to France before Travelocity and Expedia? We have become so accustomed to aggregated search. Suppose you are a magazine photo editor looking for a photo of a student sitting in a math class. You could spend days looking through the millions of images available to license from hundreds of websites. Enter iSPY Visuals. In 2018, we launched a one search site – endless images to choose from in seconds – solution. You enter a keyword, then set your search parameters specific to your needs and include the vendors of your choice. We built iSPY Visuals, the first aggregated search and work system that matches your needs to the images available. Why wasn’t there a site like this for education? And with that, iSPY Education was born.

Now that our 6th grader was in good hands with our Zoom math teacher, I couldn’t stop looking at the education options online. By winter 2021, our 8th grader was enrolled in The Art Of Problem Solving — a supplemental program known for teaching math at an advanced pace. Our 6th grader began taking engineering classes through OutSchool. In addition, we took virtual museum tours, joined a virtual music community, and participated in webinars about Greek Gods and Percy Jackson. It was endless — Johns Hopkins Center For Talented Youth classes, one-on-one music lessons with Berkeley School of Music, writing assignments from The New York Times educational section, Youtube videos making multiplying fractions fun. And the crazy part, all of this existed before the Pandemic. Who knew?

I then started reading about Micro Schools, Learning Pods, daycares opening their doors to older kids with online school options only. Employers began buying digital education subscriptions for their employees’ kids. These kids were coming into the office to do their schoolwork. And the teachers were early adopters – embracing the idea of multi-media enriched curriculums filled with links and assignments, embracing these fantastic educational resources. So many people were disrupting traditional education.

 iSPY Education was born with a bold mission: to make the world of education accessible to all.

Where am I now? Past the Pandemic and frustrations from the shutdown, the dust is starting to settle. Instead of just complaining about academics at school, I find myself using this analogy. If your kid is really good at soccer, you as a parent, support that talent by finding a more suitable team. You find a travel team or club soccer program, so your kid can play to their potential. It’s time for parents to apply this same idea to school. We, at iSPY Education, are going to make it really easy for you to find what your child needs. 

The normal paradigm of education has shifted and will continue to change. From today on, if your child needs more. You will find it on iSPY Education with one click, one search and the world of education at your fingertips. 

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Karen D’Silva, VP Marketing & CX, specializes in shaping the overall customer experience and marketing communications. She has more than 20 years experience leading creative and marketing teams for companies like Getty Images. She has been a Creative Director and Senior Marketing Consultant, was Co-Founder of Spark Visual Research and is the owner of DSilva Creative Services.