This month, we spoke to Effi Baruch co-founder and CEO at Plethora. Plethora is a Edtech platform teaching computational thinking. The company is part of the Pears Program - IsraAID pilot fund. We hope to field-test Plethora's platform in IsraAID's operations in Dominica as part of the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) framework.
What is Plethora's story? A while back, a new computer science and software engineering technology was developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science, for intuitively specifying and simulating complex systems' behavior without the need for actually coding the system. They called it Play.Go. In fact, it was so easy to simulate complex systems there, the scientists felt it was like playing a children’s game, so they teamed up with MindCet to develop an environment to teach computational thinking and problem solving disciplines with it. Tell us about Plethora! Plethora is a challenge-based computer platform, which utilizes shapes and rules in order to encourage discovery, understanding and application of “Computational Thinking” skills such as solving problems by dividing them into sub-problems, making use of logical thinking, algorithmic thinking and more. While playing the game, students will assemble and complete logical sentences which constitute “rules” in order to solve given tasks. We believe that studying a complex subject effectively is achieved by gradually stimulating the learners’ natural curiosity. Accordingly, the game is composed of levels which increase in difficulty. In each level, players are presented with a challenge which includes an initial state, a goal and a group of logical rules that must be completed in order to achieve the goal. The game is suitable for children ages 8 or above. What is your motivation for doing what you do? Over the past two-three decades, we witnessed a revolution, and we are part of it. Employers shifted from searching personnel with quantifiable, certifiable and definable skills to searching for creative problem solvers, critical thinkers and communicative team workers. Those are the skills everyone refers to as 21st century skills. Asking children “what do you want to be when you grow up” does not make sense anymore. It used to be relevant many years ago, but new jobs are created and adapted everyday and people can change their careers several times during their life spans. Instead, we should be asking them “what problem do you want to solve”, and what are the knowledge and skills that will help you solve that problem. There has been very little change in our education systems over the past decades, and it is not about putting information in children's heads anymore. They can find this information themselves, it’s about what they can do with it. Plethora’s vision is to use Computational Thinking to teach & learn STEM curriculum with gamified content, generated by the community and for the community. How many users are benefiting from your platform? So far close to 13 million challenges were played by over 200,000 students, and amongst them, we can proudly say that our platform is truly gender-neutral, which is uncommon in our industry, and that students and teachers find it exciting and engaging. How did you adapt your technology in times of coronavirus? During schools shutdown, we recorded lessons for the Israeli Ministry of Education that were broadcasted in national TV to every household in Israel. With the huge rise of parents looking for online educational materials, we launched a B2C pilot, that proved to be successful, and as a result, we will soon approach this market as well with a series of international online championships. Additionally, we developed a remote online teamwork feature that allows two students to cooperate remotely in order to solve the same challenge.
Thank you Effi for this inspiring story. We wish you good luck in accomplishing your mission.