Ibbleobble’s quest to help children in the classroom has seen our educational apps sold far and wide. On our journey, we have made friends with like-minded peers from all over the world. What makes our friendships that much stronger is that we all share the same outlook when it comes to education… – we simply want to make a difference.
What is Belouga?
Belouga is a web based platform connecting classes throughout the world. Our mission is to build a global ecosystem of students and teachers and instill emotional equity in each user by identifying similarities and embracing differences through everyday communication. One of the main features of the platform is social impact. We do this by providing supplies for schools in need through all student engagement on the platform. These items are then gifted to schools that desperately need supplies, and we set a goal number of points needed to trigger these supplies. The platform is 100% FREE for all teachers and students.
Where did the name Belouga come from?
Great question! We wanted the name and overall brand to be fun, and what better way to relate that than naming it after an animal! After a bit of research, we found that Beluga whales have very similar behaviors as children. They travel in groups called pods and are one of the most communicative animals…very similar to classrooms and student chatter. We switched up the spelling a bit to avoid SEO issues and Belouga was officially born.
What is your aims for your platform?
Our number one goal is creating a platform that allows students around the world to become global citizens by connecting and collaborating with other students their age. Our team uses the term “emotional equity” constantly, which basically means having an investment in another culture, religion, race or ideology. We feel as though a simple connection can make a tremendous difference in understanding and accepting other cultures around the world.
“We feel as though a simple connection can make a tremendous difference in understanding and accepting other cultures around the world.”
Additionally, we are always looking at ways to support schools in need. This is done throughout our Impact campaigns, and to date we have supported schools in Kenya, Ghana, Haiti, Fiji, United States, India and Pakistan, and have sent items from notebooks and textbooks to solar power lanterns and tablets.
How many schools are involved and how many do you hope to get involved?
We launched the platform in October of 2016 so we are a relatively new company, but have seen extremely positive feedback and support from classes around the worldwide. To date, we are active in approximately 400 classrooms in 44 countries and growing by the day. Teachers involved have been very influential in our growth, getting their co-workers and PLN involved, which our team is so grateful for. We have some major expansion plans in the works for 2017 and can’t wait to share them with our community.
Was there a niche in the market for Belouga?
Absolutely. There are some great tools in the market that give teachers the ability to connect but very few, if any, that really spend the time to identify what is beneficial to teachers and students long term. Time in the classroom is such a precious resource and we wanted to ensure we were giving teachers a tool that they can use as they please, with the ability to connect to classes around the world at the drop of a hat.
Evin, tell us a bit about your background?
I’m based in New York and have been involved in the startup/tech scene for about 10 years now, but have really spent the past few years focusing on social impact. I become extremely fascinated with the “Triple Bottom” theory of putting a value on People, Planet and Profit instead of just solely Profit, and have devoted my career to this concept ever since. I feel corporations have a responsibility to their customers to do everything they can to help improve our daily life and the life of generations to come. When our team launched Belouga this was at the forefront of our thinking and is woven into the fabric of Belouga’s corporate identity.
Who is in your team and what roles do they play?
Team is everything to us. We have been able to build a core group of team members that truly believe in the mission and impact Belouga can achieve. Our team is currently made up of six full time members based in the U.S., along with a Board of Educators made up of twelve individuals from ten different countries who have all devoted their life to education. At the moment, we are focused on the technical side of the business, as we want to ensure the platform is always improving and giving teachers and students the tools they need to connect and collaborate with other classes worldwide.
Whats your long term ambition?
Our long term ambition is to bring this to every country in the world and engage students from all sorts of backgrounds and communities. Regardless of economic status, age or location in world, each student has a story to tell and we want to give them the platform to share it. It’s pretty amazing what happens when you listen to children and empower them to share their own thoughts. We see a great opportunity to not only have students collaborate but build long term relationships. Through technology, we are able to create tools for these students to stay connected and learn together over the course of their K-12 experience.
How can people get involved?
With safety and security in mind, we only allow teachers to register for the site. Any teacher interested can go to www.belouga.org and select “Sign Up”. Once their info is submitted, our system will send them a unique registration code that creates a profile for the teacher and his or her classroom. From there, teachers can invite their students to the platform using their classroom registration code. No email is required for students to sign up and the platform is 100% free for teachers and students.
What challenges have you had?
I would say the biggest challenge is time. There are always a ton of exciting opportunities at the start of a new venture, but you have to make sure to stick to your guns and focus on what is going to take the company to the next level. Our team has been great with this so far, and have built a strong foundation with the goal of adding new features and collaborating with new partners throughout 2017. Lucky enough for us we work on a world clock, as we have classes on Belouga at all times throughout a 24 hour day. This makes for a very interesting sleep schedule but our team wouldn’t have it any other way.
How will it improve a child’s education?
We live in a day and age when information is readily available to anyone who is connected. This can be a blessing and curse, as it’s easy for news stories to get spun out of control and paint a region or group of people in a bad light. By creating a direct connection between classrooms, we feel as though we are able to facilitate accurate information about everyday life throughout the world and most importantly, friendships. This is actually how the idea of Belouga came about through my own conversations with friends overseas, so we have seen first-hand the impact a simple connection can make.
Which countries are the most represented?
Our team is based in the U.S, so it gave us a great opportunity to get many classes in the states involved from the start. However, we were able to build a fantastic network of educators around the world that really believe in our mission and have continued to support us by introducing the platform to teachers in their own countries. One target region for us in early 2017 is definitely the U.K. While we currently have active classes there, we really want to get integrated into the culture and community and begin working with schools in each region.
If you’re looking to get your classroom involved with Belouga, head over to www.belouga.org. We are huge fans and we can guarantee, this platform will make a difference to any classroom around the world.
Author: Paul Jamie Kidd
Director of KidDotCo and Co-Creator of Ibbleobble’s educational games for kids.